Accessible Tech in Employment Hackathon and Talk: Hacking Disability

#ATEHack, picture courtesy of Accessible Tech Network

Last month (18–19 March, 2017), Accessible Tech Network and MakeSense invited participants to the Accessible Tech in Employment Hackathon and Talk (#ATEHack) to discuss issues associated with disability, accessibility and employment, and generate bold solutions that enhance the quality of employment for disabled people through the use of accessible technologies.

Accessible Tech Network is a voluntary grassroot initiative creating innovative events and intensive prototyping hackathons around a specific challenge related to accessibility. The first event was about employment and focused on Open Source and using Internet of Things technologies.

The “ATEHack” event was sponsored by Hackathon.com and Intel, who provided the hackers with Intel Edison kits and other prizes, and co-hosted by Google Campus London in partnership with the Imperial College Advanced Hackspace (ICAH) — the best “maker” facilities, labs and expert manpower that Imperial College has to offer.

Photo courtesy of Aga Gajownik

Other sponsors and partners included Filanthropy (a crowdfunding platform cultivating collaboration for social change), FareShare (a brilliant charity fighting hunger and food waste in the UK; Accessible Tech Network partnered with FareShare who supplied our Accessible Tech in Employment Hackathon event with ethical food - Give them a shout if you’d like to support FareShare as a volunteer food waste superhero!; More info here: http://www.fareshare.org.uk/regional-centres/london/), MyClearText (live, verbatim speech-to-text subtitling), and HackerEarth (a tech startup providing recruitment and hackathon support solutions and a community of tech developers — sponsored access to Sprint — a hackathon management app).

In addition to the hackathon itself, the event included keynote presentations and speaker panel by:

  • Molly Watt (inclusive technology evangelist, keynote speaker, usability and accessibility consultant specialising in assistive technology and design for those with sensory impairments: Deaf, hard of hearing, blind and deaf blind; co-founder of Molly Watt Trust);
  • Jane Hatton of Evenbreak (A social enterprise that helps inclusive employers attract more disabled applicants, and helps disabled job seekers find work with employers who will value them);
  • Chris Lewis of Chris Lewis Insight (Chris is a registered blind person and Telecoms Analyst, as well as a leading user of assistive technology, who brings his knowledge to help the charitable organisations, the healthcare sector and the ICT industry);
(From left: Chris Lewis, Helen Cherry, Molly Watt, and Jane Hatton, photo courtesy of Ankoor Patel)
  • Artur Ortega (Accessibility Evangelist and Software Architect at the Economist);
  • Elodie Draperi of Give Vision (an award winning startup working on different applications powered by smart glasses to assist visually impaired people in their everyday lives translating visual information into audio in real time and enhancing remaining vision), and Accessible Tech Network; and
  • Magdalena Slowinska Janowitz of Includeon (an award winning startup working on a software-based virtual employment platform accessible to Deaf and disabled people, bringing together the best online freelance, HR and Occupational Health practices, digital inclusion, and artificial intelligence to create both safe and easy-to-use virtual workplace ecosystem), and Accessible Tech Network.
(From left: Artur Ortega with his guide dog, Jane Hatton, Magdalena Slowinska Janowitz, Helen Cherry, and Elodie Draperi, photo courtesy of Ankoor Patel)

At the end of the hack, there were 23 active participants, four judges, four mentors and eight facilitators. The five teams included representation from software development professionals, engineering professionals, coders, designers, psychologists, business and marketing experts, students, and individuals with disabilities. The participants were mainly based in the UK, but one team came from Sweden and worked on two different solutions.

The hackathon mentors were:

Till Hackler — MPhys Physics, University of Oxford, Previous Research and Development Engineer at BBC, now involved in Imperial College Advanced Hackathon Space — ICAH. ICAH kindly provided 3D printers for the hackers to use during the #ATEHack.

Hsin-Hua Yu (Sheana) — Design Engineer, CEO at Aergo — the world’s first dynamic seating for young wheelchair users suffering from postural difficulties. It uses smart air cells to detect slumping and automatically corrects it, providing discrete postural management throughout the day. Eliminating the frequent need of being manhandled by a therapist, while enhancing the independence of a child living with disability.

Sarah Barrington — an Engineering graduate working in the Analytics & Data Science team at McLaren Applied Technologies

Arinta Budiyanto — a Master’s student at UCL studying Human-Computer Interaction.

ATEHack Mentors and Facilitators (Hsin-Hua Yu — Sheana— on stage, photo courtesy of Ankoor Patel)
Imperial College Advanced Hackathon Space — ICAH Mentor Till Hackler 3D printing during the ATEHack (photo courtesy of Ankoor Patel)

The hackathon judges were:

  • Chris Cusack of Accomable (Chris is a Head of property recruitment at Accomable — an Airbnb-like website which lists disability-accessible properties around the world).
  • Piotr Imielski of Give Vision
  • Graham Race of Queen Elizabeth Foundation (QEF) — Mobility Services (Graham is a Disability Researcher and Designer, Project Lead for Bugzi Loan Scheme and Tryb4uFly — improving aviation access for disabled people at QEF — a registered national disability charity based in Surrey with more than 80 years’ experience of developing innovative services which enable and support disabled people to increase independence and improve opportunities for life);
  • Artem Kiselev — CEO & Founder of MinglVision— a B2B platform that allows each vierter of Sport Broadcasts to switch between multiple camera angles and receive personalized video notifications about interesting moment of the event. This helps broadcaster to make watching sport much more exiting and engaging.
  • MakeSense London
Graham Race (mentor and judge) providing “half-way” feedback on the prototypes — here MatchedForGood (photo courtesy of Ankoor Patel)

Volunteering was the key strength of the ATEHack and most of the volunteers were recruited from the MakeSense London community. The “keynote talk” part was supported by Helen Cherry — an accessibility officer — who co-chaired the speaker panel and shared her inspirational story and lived experiences as Deaf person passionate about accessibility.

Moreover, some of the ATEHack participants i.e. Eddie Jaoude (FullStack polyglot and OpenSource advocate — @eddiejaoude, @WeRockTech) acted as the event ambassadors and extra volunteers showing their dedication to accessibility and volunteer-run initiatives focused on diversity and open-source.

In addition to building their prototypes the hacking teams also had to develop their pitches for the judging panel. Three teams used Intel Edison kits and other 2 focused on software development. One team worked “outside” the competition providing a lot of inspiration and entertainment whilst developing their unique technology to support blind and visually impaired people.

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 work, recognised colleagues’ faces, matched CVs to jobs via one button, and matching people at networking events! — Vicky Clayton (MakeSense London volunteer)

There were two categories for the Awards — Intel Edison and MakeSense Choice (Social Impact).

The winning ideas were:

Intel Edison Award

“Team Independence_VR was made up of Mark Gilbert, Dean Kostov, Marios Georgiou, Marek Keram and Vera Ognyanova Semcheva. They created a VR-based game solution to support people with learning disabilities to get to work more safely and become more independent using VR technology.”

Video: courtesy of WeRockTech

MakeSense Choice (Social Impact) Award

Team Beacon included Elizabeth Chesters, Lora, Funmi Adewodu, Eddie Jaoude, Erika Pheby and HJ. “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.”

Video: courtesy of WeRockTech

And the runners up were:

Team S.O.C.K.s — Intel Edison category — (Yash Todar, Alcinda Lee, Samy Geronymos, Andy Howell)— “Speech Operated Communication Kit. It can be installed on any team communication channel such as Slack or Skype for Business. The solution makes office-based communication more accessible for those who may be unable to type into these systems and can be operated using voice.”

Video: courtesy of WeRockTech

Team MatchedForGood (Bybreen Samuels, Aga Gajownik, Cristian Nica, Samantha Burke, Tan Zhenhui) — “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.”

Video: courtesy of WeRockTech

MatchMaker — Intel Edison category — (MatchedForGood, Florian Rathgeber and Bratt Neumayer) — “They came up with another idea called MatchMaker using the Intel Edison which matched jobseekers with employers, working as a ‘Tinder for inclusive employment’.”

(From left: Florian, Aga and Bratt presenting MatchMaker)

Team Swedish Mafia (Jason Davis, Mikael Holmgren, Johan Gustafson and Olle Lundin)

WordMatch — “Olle Lundin and Johan Gustafson came up with an idea for a job-matching app using Word.doc in the non-Intel Edison category”.

Video: courtesy of WeRockTech

SNAPP — Outside the competition project:

Team Swedish Mafia (Jason, Mikael, Johan and Olle) are trying to solve the problem of an unaccessible workplace by utilising the latest technology to map the environment for blind and visually impaired people. “Their product helps access visual data using a Gopro camera. The Gopro can stream the images to the user’s iPhone and translate it to an audio format.”

Video: courtesy of WeRockTech

(From left: Mikael and Jason teaching their SNAPP app to recognise faces, photo courtesy of Ankoor Patel)

PTS Innovation Competition 2017

Swedish Mafia Team has also invited everyone to take part in the PTS Innovation Competition 2017— “an innovation contest with a digital solution that make it easier to employ or to find a job that matches people´s different capacity for work”. It’s run as a collaboration between the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency and the Swedish Public Employment Agency but is open for international collaborations as long as the main applicant has a Swedish corporate identity number (or a Swedish partner). It opens April 20th and closes June 15th — 2 million Swedish kronas isn’t a bad incentive to top off the improvement in accessibility! If you want more information please send an e-mail to innovation@pts.se, contact number for the innovation competition, telephone: +46 8 678 55 52.

#ATEHack What Next?

The #ATEHack prototypes looked great but need further development and testing to make a real difference. Accessible Tech Network and MakeSense London will continue to support the teams, helping put them in touch with the right people and hopefully maximising the likelihood that the winning ideas are successful.

Moreover, if you are interested in helping social entreprises, you can just go on the MakeSense’s platform (www.makesense.org) to see the challenges of many inspirational entrepreneurs including those tackling accessibility problems.

Also, MakeSense is an open project so if you’d like to get involved, just send a request to join their Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/londonmakesense/.

MakeSense London Facilitators

As the work on the projects continue you can keep up to date at www.accessibletech.co.uk – any funders out there can also contact the teams by emailing the Accessible Tech Network at accessibletechnetwork@gmail.com.

The next hackathon event will focus on Mental Health — if you have a great idea for a topic we could run a hackathon around, please do let us know in the comments below.

If you would like to hear about future events from Accessible Tech Network, as well as relevant news and information about our work, you can register to receive our email newsletter via our website — http://accessibletech.co.uk/.
 
 #ATEHack Team
*Empowering disabled people through accessible technology & design*

Author: Magdalena Slowinska Janowitz — MagdaJanowitz — Passionate about accessibility and social innovation; Accessible Tech Network Co-Founder @ATN_Events, SenseMaker @MakeSense & Founder @Bepartofithub& @Includeon