Maynooth University students win Microsoft tech prize for accessibility app

Friday, August 15, 2014 - 00:00

A team of students from  Maynooth University  have been recognised at the global finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup in Seattle for the accessibility app they designed.

Matthew McCann, KC Grant and Jack Gallagher won third place in the World Citizenship category of the event, and a $5,000 prize. They represented Ireland with their AccessEarth app, which provides up-to-date, reliable data on the accessibility of buildings all over the world for those with impaired mobility.

Imagine Cup allows third level students from across the globe to showcase how technology can improve the lives of others and McCann, who has cerebral palsy and uses a rollator, believes the app will help those with limited mobility.
Accessibility is key
The genesis for the project was a frustrating trip to London by team members McCann and Grant in 2012. A hotel that advertised itself as accessible to disabled people proved to be anything but for McCann.

“Joining teams from 34 countries around the world for the final was a heady experience that has stimulated us to think about how we can further develop and enhance AccessEarth for our users,” said team member KC Grant. “We are thrilled with the result we achieved in Seattle and the platform it has given us to reach out to a worldwide community of people with mobility impairment who could benefit from the app.”

Microsoft Ireland developer lead Claire Dillon congratulated the team on their work.

“Not only is the concept underpinning the app a fundamentally important one, but its execution is particularly noteworthy as well, with immense thought clearly given to creating a design that the user can operate intuitively,” she said.

Team Access Earth wants to make the world a more accessible place for everyone. The app that provides information on a buildings accessibility for those with mobility impairments.

It allows user to inspect a place's ramps, toilets, counters, and more, and also provides a rating of that places accessibility. Using the app and volunteer network, the team hope to bring this information to anyone who needs it, from elderly people to wheelchair users, and to their friends and family.