Use open source to solve accessibility problems in the workplace

Technology often only appeals to a narrow demographic of people. Companies invest huge amounts of money and time in developing the latest technologies, but often at the cost of accessibility.

People with disabilities can struggle to use many of the technologies that now govern our lives, which significantly impacts on their quality of life and happiness. It can result in feelings of frustration, alienation and loneliness.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility in technology is the mindful design of products, devices, services and environments to include people who are living with physical or mental disabilities.

Assistive technologies are any services or products that enable individuals with disabilities or impairments to better communicate with others, to improve their learning, and ultimately to have more independent, fulfilling and productive lives.

At a simple level, accessibility can mean including the 'alt text' tag on images for those who are unable to view images in their browser, perhaps due to being partially sighted and using a screen reader. Or, it can mean providing transcripts of podcasts or videos for those who are unable to hear.

It’s about creating a great user experience for all types of people. Not just for those who are totally able.

Accessibility and the workplace

Problems in the workplace for those living with disabilities are numerous. The rate of unemployment for disabled people who are able to work is much higher than the rate for non-disabled people. Part of the reason for this is a lack of accessibility in the workplace.

If someone needs a specially-adapted workplace to perform the same work as someone else, this creates a barrier to their employment. They may be discriminated against if employers subconsciously assume they are less capable than other candidates. It may be hard for candidates with disabilities to speak up about their needs to unsympathetic employers.

Accessible and assistive technologies help stimulate the dialogue around these sensitive issues and provide practical solutions.

Accessible Tech Hackathon

The Accessible Tech Hackathon is a two-day event run by Accessible Tech Network, taking place on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 March 2017. This is the first event in a series of hackathons focusing on accessibility for disabled people. It’s aimed at anyone with a passion for accessible design, assistive technologies, and their relation to the world of employment.

Accessible Tech Network brings together a diverse community of people with relevant experience, ideas and skillsets. Hackathon groups will partner with UK-based social entrepreneurs or charities to address specific tech accessibility problems.

The focus will be on the Internet of Things, mobile, Web, UX/UI/AI, Service Design or desktop solutions and hardware. Throughout the event, participants will be able to brainstorm, design, and create prototype solutions for their partners that solve a problem relating to accessibility and assistive technology.

Private, public, and third sector organisations working in the accessibility sector will benefit substantially from Accessible Tech’s innovative solutions, and will integrate these into their operations. Any successful insights and solutions generated from this event will be recorded into a policy, product, device, service or environment.

Sign up for Accessible Tech Hackathon and help change the future of the workplace.

Written by...

Catherine Heath

​She has a thing for psychology, diversity, tech and startups​, and is l​earning to code. She gives valuable insight into the women in tech scene on her website, Away With Words, and shares tips for success and self-development. Connect with Catherine on Twitter or LinkedIn.