Skip to main content

A methodological approach for designing and developing web-based inventories of mobile Assistive Technology applications


Mobile technologies provide radical opportunities in the domain of Assistive Technologies (AT) for persons with disabilities and the elderly by facilitating them to access multimedia content and improve their social interaction. The search for mobile AT applications that meet specific user needs is not an easy task for the disabled users, their facilitators, and rehabilitation professionals, as the mobile app stores do not include a category for AT or a classification by disability. In this work, we first provide an analysis of the disabled users’ needs along with the required mobile software adaptations in order to fulfill them. Then, we introduce a methodological approach for the design and development of web-based inventories which make the search and selection of AT apps simpler and efficient. This methodology has to main parts, first it is based on experts in an AT lab thoroughly testing each application, and second, the creation of a consistent and well-documented presentation of the information for each app. Finally, we present the mATHENA repository of free AT apps for mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), which has been created by following the suggested methodology for creating AT app inventories. Currently, mATHENA includes 420 free mobile AT applications, carefully selected from a total of 1100. The features of mATHENA are compared with the functionality and social interaction services of six other inventories for AT applications.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    ANED (2016) DOTCOM: the disability online tool of the Commission. Academic network of European disability experts (ANED). Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  2. 2.

    Apple (2016a) App store downloads on iTunes. Apple Inc., Cupertino Accessed 13 Feb 2016

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Apple (2016b) VoiceOver. Apple Inc. Accessed 18 Feb 2016

  4. 4.

    AppleVis (2016) Find, share and recommend iOS, Mac and Apple Watch apps which are accessible to blind and low vision users. AppleVis. Accessed 13 Feb 2016

  5. 5.

    AppsForAAC (2016) Apps for augmentative & alternative communication., Oxfordshire Accessed 13 Feb 2016

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Armstrong L, Jans D, MacDonald A (2000) Parkinson’s disease and aided AAC: some evidence from practice. Int J Lang Commun Disord 35(3):377–389

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Arsenjeva J (2014) Annotated review of European Union law and policy with reference to disability. Academic network of European disability experts (ANED), Netherlands, UK. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  8. 8.

    ATutor (2011) AChecker Web Accessibility Checker Accessed 23 June 2016

  9. 9.

    Bernstein DΚ, Tiegerman-Farber E (2008) Language and communication disorders in children, 6th edn. Pearson/Allyn and Bacon Publishers, New York

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Bestwick A, Campbell JR (2010) Mobile learning for all. Exceptional parent, vol 40. EP Global Communications Inc, Johnstown

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Beukelman D, Garrett K (1988) Augmentative and alternative communication for adults with acquired severe communication disorders. Augment Altern Commun 4(2):104–121. doi:10.1080/07434618812331274687

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Beukelman D, Mirenda P (2013) Augmentative and alternative communication: supporting children and adults with complex communication needs, 4th edn. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co, Baltimore

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Billi M, Burzagli L, Catarci T, Santucci G, Bertini E, Gabbanini F, Palchetti E (2010) A unified methodology for the evaluation of accessibility and usability of mobile applications. Univ Access Inf Soc 9(4):337–356. doi:10.1007/s10209-009-0180-1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    BridgingApps (2016) Apps for special needs., Bellaire. Accessed 13 Feb 2016

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Chopra S, Dexter S (2007) Decoding liberation: a Philosophical investigation of free software. Routledge, New York

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Circle F (2016) Special Needs Apps. Special Needs App Review, Bloomfield. Accessed 13 Feb 2016

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Citizens Information Board (2016) Assist Ireland: Apps for People with Disabilities and Older People., Dublin. _Sheets/Apps_for_People_with_Disabilities_and_Older_People.html. Accessed 13 Feb 2016

  18. 18.

    Coker W, Shook J (2006) Increasing the appeal of AAC technologies using VSD’s in preschool language intervention. In: Proceedings of the 22nd annual international technology and persons with disabilities conference, Los Angeles, LA, 19–24 2006

  19. 19.

    D’Ulizia A, Ferri F, Grifoni P, Guzzo T (2010) Smart homes to support elderly people: innovative technologies and social impacts. In: Coronato A, Pietro GD (eds) Pervasive and smart technologies for healthcare: ubiquitous methodologies and tools. IGI Global, Hershey, pp. 25–38

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Doughty K (2011) SPAs (smart phone applications) - a new form of assistive technology. J Assist Technol 5(2):88–94. doi:10.1108/17549451111149296

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Doyle M, Phillips B (2001) Trends in augmentative and alternative communication use by individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Augment Altern Commun 17(3):167–178. doi:10.1080/aac.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Emiliani PL (2006) Assistive technology (AT) versus mainstream technology (MST): the research perspective. Technol Disabil 18(1):19–29

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    European Commission (2005) Communication from the commission to the council, the European parliament and the European economic and social committee and the committee of the regions - eAccessibility. COM(2005)425 final edn. Brussels. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  24. 24.

    European Commission (2016a) Justice; Tackling discrimination; Legislation. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  25. 25.

    European Commission (2016b) Employment; Social affairs & inclusion; Policies and activities; Social protection & social inclusion; Persons with disabilities. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  26. 26.

    Fossett B, Mirenda P (2009) Augmentative and alternative communication. In: Odom SL, Horner RH, Snell ME, Blacher J (eds) Handbook of developmental disabilities. Guilford Press, New York, pp. 330–366

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    García-Peñalvo F, Conde M, Matellán-Olivera V (2014) Mobile apps for older users – The development of a mobile apps repository for older people. In: Zaphiris P, Ioannou A (eds) Learning and collaboration technologies. Technology-rich environments for learning and collaboration, LCT 2014 first international conference, Heraklion, Crete, June 2014, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 8524. Springer international publishing, Cham, pp. 117–126. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-07485-6_12

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Gavigan K, Kurtts S (2009) AT, UD, and thee: using assistive technology and universal design for learning in 21st century media centers. Libr Media Connect 27(4):54–56

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Google (2016a) Android apps on google play. Google Inc., Mountain View. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Google (2016b) TalkBack. Google Inc. Accessed 18 Feb 2016

  31. 31.

    Gross J (2010) Augmentative and alternative communication: a report on provision for children and young people in England. Office of the Communication Champion, London. Accessed 23 June 2016

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Hakobyan L, Lumsden J, O’Sullivan D, Bartlett H (2013) Mobile assistive technologies for the visually impaired. Surv Ophthalmol 58(6):513–528. doi:10.1016/j.survophthal.2012.10.004

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Higginbotham J, Jacobs S (2011) The future of the Android operating system for augmentative and alternative communication. SIG 12 Perspect Augment Altern Commun 20(2):52–56. doi:10.1044/aac20.2.52

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Hu N, Pavlou PA, Zhang J (2006) Can online reviews reveal a product’s true quality?: empirical findings and analytical modeling of Online word-of-mouth communication. In: EC ‘06 Proceedings of the 7th ACM conference on Electronic commerce, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2006. ACM, pp 324–330. doi:10.1145/1134707.1134743

  35. 35.

    Judge S, Floyd K, Jeffs T (2015) Using mobile media devices and apps to promote young children’s learning. In: Heider K, Renck-Jalongo M (eds) Young children and families in the information age. Educating the young child, vol 10. Springer, Netherlands, pp. 117–131. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9184-7_7

    Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Kaikkonen A, Kekäläinen A, Cankar M, Kallio T, Kankainen A (2005) Usability testing of mobile applications: a comparison between laboratory and field testing. J Usability Stud 1(1):4–16

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Khalid H, Shihab E, Nagappan M, Hassan AE (2014) What do mobile app users complain about? IEEE Softw 32(3):70–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Klasnja P, Consolvo S, McDonald DW, Landay JA, Pratt W (2009) Using mobile & personal sensing technologies to support health behavior change in everyday life: lessons learned. In: Proceedings of the American medical informatics association (AMIA) annual symposium, San Francisco, California, 14–18 November 2009. pp 338–342

  39. 39.

    Kouroupetroglou G (ed) (2014) Assistive technologies and computer access for motor disabilities. IGI Global, Hershey

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Kouroupetroglou G, Kousidis S, Riga P, Pino A (2015) The mATHENA inventory for free mobile assistive technology applications. In: Ciuciu et al. (eds) OTM workshops, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 9416. Springer, Berlin, pp. 519–527. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-26138-6_56

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Lindsay G, Dockrell J, Desforges M, Law J, Peacey N (2010) Meeting the needs of children and young people with speech, language and communication difficulties. Int J Lang Commun Disord 45(4):448–460. doi:10.3109/13682820903165693

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Looi C, Seow P, Zhang B, So H, Chen W, Wong L (2010) Leveraging mobile technology for sustainable seamless learning: a research agenda. Br J Educ Technol 41(2):154–169. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00912.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Low Vision Bureau (2014) 326 Accessibility apps for iPhone for the visually impaired and the blind. Accessed 13 Feb 2016

  44. 44.

    McNaughton D, Light J (2013) The iPad and mobile technology revolution: benefits and challenges for individuals who require augmentative and alternative communication. Augment Altern Commun 29(2):107–116. doi:10.3109/07434618.2013.784930

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    McNaughton D, Light J, Arnold K (2002) ‘Getting your wheel in the door’: successful full-time employment experiences of individuals with cerebral palsy who use augmentative and alternative communication. Augment Altern Commun 18(2):59–76. doi:10.1080/07434610212331281171

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Mirenda P (2003) Toward functional augmentative and alternative communication for students with autism: manual signs, graphic symbols, and voice output communication aids. Lang, Speech Hear Serv Sch 34(3):203–216. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2003/017)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Morelli R, Tucker A, Danner N, de Lanerolle TR, Ellis HJC, Izmirli O, Krizanc D, Parker G (2009) Revitalizing computing education through free and open source software for humanity. Commun ACM 52(8):67–75

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Pino A (2014) Free assistive technology software for persons with motor disabilities. In: Georgios K (ed) Assistive technologies and computer access for motor disabilities. IGI Global, Hershey, pp. 110–152. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-4438-0.ch005

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Pino A, Kouroupetroglou G, Kacorri H, Sarantidou A, Spiliotopoulos D (2010) An open source / freeware assistive technology software inventory. In: Miesenberger K, Klaus J, Zagler W, Karshmer A (eds) ICCHP 2010: computers helping people with special needs. 12th international conference, Vienna, July 2010, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 6179. Springer, Berlin, pp. 178–185. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-14097-6_29

    Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Raising the Floor (2016) Accessibility MasterList. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  51. 51.

    Riehle D (2007) The economic motivation of open source software: stakeholder perspectives. IEEE Comput 40(4):25–32

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Scherer MJ (2005) Living in the state of stuck: how technology impacts the lives of people with disabilities, 4 edn. Brookline Books, Northampton

    Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Seabrook H, Stromer J, Shevkenek C, Bharwani A, de Grood J, Ghali W (2014) Medical applications: a database and characterization of apps in Apple iOS and Android platforms. BMC Res Notes 7(1):1–8. doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-573

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Sherwin K (2015) Screen readers on touchscreen devices. Nielsen Norman Group. Accessed 18 Feb 2016

  55. 55.

    Sierra J, De Togores J (2012) Designing mobile apps for visually impaired and blind users, using touch screen based mobile devices: iPhone/iPad. In: Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Advances in Computer-Human Interactions (ACHI 2012), Valencia, Spain, 4 February 2012, pp. 47–52

  56. 56.

    Speech and Accessibility Lab (2009) ATHENA Free AT Software Inventory. Department of Informatics and Telecommunications, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  57. 57.

    Speech and Accessibility Lab (2016) mATHENA: Free AT software inventory for mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). Department of Informatics and Telecommunications, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  58. 58.

    Statista (2015) Number of apps available in leading app stores as of July 2015. Statista Inc., New York. Accessed 13 Feb 2016

    Google Scholar 

  59. 59.

    Stephanidis C (2009) The universal access handbook. Human factors and ergonomics. CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton

    Book  Google Scholar 

  60. 60.

    Strati E (2014) European semester country fiche on disability - Greece. Academic network of European disability experts (ANED), Greece. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  61. 61.

    United Nations (2015) World population prospects, the 2015 revision. Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  62. 62.

    W3C (2004a) The W3C Markup Validation Service Accessed 23 June 2016

  63. 63.

    W3C (2004b) The W3C CSS Validation Service Accessed 23 June 2016

  64. 64.

    WebAIM (2001) WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool Accessed 23 June 2016

  65. 65.

    World Health Organization (2011) World report on disability 2011. World Health Organization/World Bank World, Malta. Accessed 23 June 2016

    Google Scholar 

  66. 66.

    World Wide Web Consortium (2008) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Accessed 14 Feb 2106

  67. 67.

    World Wide Web Consortium (2015) Understanding Conformance. Accessed 14 Feb 2016

  68. 68.

    Zhang D, Adipat B (2005) Challenges, methodologies, and issues in the usability testing of mobile applications. Int J Hum Comput Interact 18(3):293–308. doi:10.1207/s15327590ijhc1803_3

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research has been partially financed by the project UDLnet: Universal Design for Learning: A Framework for Addressing Learner Variability (540659-LLP-1-2013-1-GR-COMENIUS-CNW) [], funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use, which may be made of the information contained therein.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Georgios Kouroupetroglou.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kouroupetroglou, G., Pino, A. & Riga, P. A methodological approach for designing and developing web-based inventories of mobile Assistive Technology applications. Multimed Tools Appl 76, 5347–5366 (2017).

Download citation


  • Mobile human-computer interaction
  • Multimedia accessibility
  • Mobile devices
  • Assistive technology
  • Apps
  • Disabilities