Top 5 Apps & Technology for Special Needs from SXSW2015

SXSW workshop - Inclusive AppRoomWe at BridgingApps know that statements like “good design benefits all” and “inclusion goes beyond equality to equity and access” are impactful, but do these assertions resonate outside of the disability community? Do technology companies, educators, and app developers truly understand why they are critical?

By exploring the exhibit hall and participating in a variety of sessions at SXSW, we saw glimpses of people having thoughtful conversations about inclusion of people with disabilities in an increasingly digitized world.

We collaborated with Teaching2gether and Locomotive Labs to organize a two hour workshop entitled Inclusive AppRoom: Viewing Apps Through Disability. The purpose of the event was to conduct a simulation of how someone with a disability might experience the various challenges and barriers to participating in a classroom environment. Participants came away with a greater understanding of identifying those barriers, feelings of frustration that come with access difficulties, and how technology can assist people with overcoming some of those barriers.

SXSW workshop | Apps for InclusionRead more about the workshop through the eyes of a high school student with dyslexia.

Viewing the content of SXSW through a lens of how products and services can benefit people of all abilities, our overarching question was: How can technology enhance the lives of the one billion people in the world living with disability? Here is a snapshot of what we found of particular interest:

5. CareMonster – an app developed by a family struggling to care for their 95 year old great grandmother. The app was named a winner by AARP at the Impact Pediatric Health Pitch Competition SXSW 2015. The app keeps family members on the same page by allowing families to communicate within the app about when they plan to visit and how the visit went, whether the loved one lives in a facility or is aging in place.

Special Needs Impact: Effective communication within a family to plan/coordinate visits and keep each other informed to better support a loved one. This app could also be used with an adult with special needs who lives in a group home and needs support of family and friends.

4. FOOVfitness - FOOV at the Ballpark is a well-designed fitness app developed to be used by two people or small groups to encourage kids and adults to get moving. It is engaging for people of all abilities as it provides a framework around which levels of movement according to ability can be adjusted.

Special Needs Impact: It connects participants socially to get them physically active in age neutral physically active pretend play in a fun and unique way.

3. STEMP – Smart Temperature Patch created by 3 Dads who needed sleep! The STEMP sensor, medical-grade adhesives, and smartphone apps work together seamlessly to provide immediate, accurate, continuous body temperature measurement. Think of it as the thermometer meets the band-aid. Say good-bye someone up in the middle of the night to take a temperature.

Special Needs Impact: Take accurate temperature to monitor those young and old with complex health conditions and sensory issues.

2. Beam – We were thrilled to meet Henry Evans of Robots for Humanity and learn about the Beam+ and BeamPro that allow people with disabilities to go anywhere virtually even when they cannot physically go to a place. Henry Evans, who lives with quadriplegia, was such an amazing and inspiring speaker via Beam!

Special Needs Impact: Provide interactive and travel experiences for those who are restricted in mobility to participate in activities they otherwise would not be able to access.

1. Touch Easel by Sonzia – Sonzia has developed a 32” Android powered touch table designed for those with learning, motor, and intellectual disabilities to promote engagement, collaboration, and inclusion. Working with leaders in therapeutic software and treatment, Sonzia’s Touch Easel hardware captures the attention of children and adults alike, giving therapy its best chance for success. Their mission is to deliver technology that truly improves lives.

Special Needs Impact: Deliver accessible technology to improve therapeutic and educational outcomes.

If you attended SXSW this year, we would love to know how you saw apps and technology being used to enhance the lives of people with special needs!

We would also like to thank Steve Ewell of the CEA Foundation, Rachel Zindler and Hannah Rosenthal of Teaching2gether, Anna Johnson of Locomotive Labs, and Michele Walker of Bee Visual for acting as facilitators for this workshop.


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