Accessible tech hackathon for people with disabilities in the workplace

This Accessible Tech Hackathon was aimed at making the workplace more accessible for those with disabilities. It’s a prime example of using technology to make the world a better place. It’s tech for good.

It was held on 18-19 March and was a two-day hackathon at Google Campus. Hackathon groups partnered with specific social enterprises to solve accessibility issues they’re facing.

The Accessible Tech Hackathon was for both professionals and students/recent graduates passionate about accessible design, assistive technologies, IoT, and employment. It focused on Internet of Things, mobile, Web, UX/UI/AI, Service Design or desktop solutions, or something in between, and hardware.

Over the course of the hackathon, participants brainstormed, designed, and created prototype solutions for their social enterprise. Participants had to submit their pitches to a jury and then the judges selected a winner.

Here is a list of the participating teams.

Team Beacon

Their idea makes office environments more accessible with a phone app.

New environments pose a challenge to anyone. But for those with visual impairments, the challenges are even greater, often requiring individuals to rely on the help of others until they learn the layouts. Environments also change all the time, often offering visual only cues such as signs to indicate changes.

iBeacons could be used to broadcast new layouts, rooms, objects and even hazards to those with the app installed on their phone. The beacons can alert you that you are within certain distances of where you need to go, tell you what is nearby, and highlighting any obstacles along the way.

Team S.O.C.K.s

Speech Operated Communication Kit. It can be installed on any team communication channel such as Slack or Skype for Business.

It makes office-based communication more accessible for those who may be unable to type into these systems and can be operated using voice only.

Team Independence_VR

They are helping people with learning disabilities to get to work more safely and become more independent using VR technology.

They will be travel trained to get to work using a computer-based game to help them learn the hazards and issues along the way in the real world.

Team Swedish Mafia

Workplaces are a nightmare if you can’t see. Team Swedish Mafia aim to solve this problem by using the latest technology to map the environment for people with disabilities.

Their product helps visually-impaired or blind people access visual data using a Gopro. The Gopro can stream the images to the user’s iPhone and translate it to audio format.

Team MatchedForGood

Most recruitment agencies are only accessible to candidates who are 100% able.

They came up with an idea for a recruitment agency for candidates with disabilities using task-matching system.

The winners

There were three main competition judges at the end, who were Graham Race, Chris Cusack and Piotr Imielski.

Team Beacon included Elizabeth Chesters, Lora, Funmi Adewodu, Eddie Jaoude, Erika Pheby and HJ, who won the overall competition for their idea. They came up with a really simple concept that can be applied to many other situations to support all workers.

It has good potential for public spaces and institutions, giving the product an instant global market to tap into. It would be easy to deploy within a small budget.

Team Independence_VR was made up of Mark Gilbert, Dean Kostov, Marios Georgiou, Marek Keram and Vsemcheva. Independence_VR ended up the Intel Edison Winner for their use of the Intel Edison, a solution designed to lower the barriers to entry for quick prototyping and productizing the connected computing devices (Internet of Things).

They won because they centred their solution so clearly on this particular part of the work journey, which is applicable to other work environments. It has potential for use in the treatment of mental illness, such as desensitising agoraphobics. On the other hand, VR can never be used as a substitute for experience in the real world.

Runners up

Team S.O.C.K.s included Yash Todar, Alcinda Lee, Samy Geronymos and Andy Howell. Their idea for making team communication tools more user-friendly was praised as a great concept, but seen as competing with software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which can already be used on both Slack and Skype.

Team MatchedForGood was made up of Bybreen Samuels, Aga Gajownik, Cristian Nica, Samantha Burke and Tan Zhenhui. Their idea was commended for offering training to employers who have had personal experience of ignorance and prejudice whilst job hunting.

They came up with another idea called MatchMaker using the Intel Edison which matched jobseekers with employers, called the ‘Tinder for employment’.

Johan Gustafson, Jason Davis, Mikael Holmgren and Olle Lundin from Team Swedish Mafia came up with an idea for a job-matching app in the non-Intel Edison category called WordMatch.

Feedback from the event

"It’s been awesome to see the environment turned digital with beacons, falls buzzed into oblivion, matched employers and employees, navigated hazards on the way to week, recognised colleagues’ faces, matched CVs to jobs via one button, and matching people at networking events!""

About Accessible Tech

Accessible Tech is a voluntary initiative that generates bold solutions to enhance the quality of life for disabled people through the use of accessible technologies. They hold conferences, seminars, webinars and intensive 24hour and 48hour idea prototyping hackathons focused around a specific challenge.

For Accessible Tech Network events, they bring together a community of passionate people with relevant experience, ideas and skill sets. After evidence proves them successful, insights and solutions generated through events will be recorded into a policy, product, device, service or environment.

Follow Accessible Tech on Twitter for news about future hackathons, and check out the tweets from the event using the hashtag #ATEHACK.

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.