Collaboration was the name of the game at this month’s Hack Access Dublin. The event is the brainchild of Janice Valentine and has the noble aim of making Dublin accessible to people of all abilities by hacking the obstacles in the way.
Now in its second year, the event continues to attract people from all disciplines interested in affecting social change. Janice explains: “Hack Access is essentially an event that brings together a variety of professionals from designers to engineers to technologists and innovators, who are interested in using their skills and collaborating to tackle the various challenges which exclude people with disabilities from the city.”
Getting to Grips with the Problem
This year’s event took place over a weekend. Janice says: “They come together on day one to register and separate into their various skill sets. Then they listen to panel discussions which consist of people who have disabilities sharing their insights immersing them in the problem.”
The teams were supported by design thinking experts from Accenture and Potting Shed Dublin. “Then on Sunday, they come in and they pitch to a panel of judges. We had four winners and three teams were rewarded funding from Smart Dublin,” Janice explains.
Collaboration is Key
The teams are grouped together to ensure that each team is made up of experts spanning different skill sets. Janice notes: “We structured the team forming sessions in accordance to skills. So you didn’t just have one team who were all technologists, you had a team that was mixed and I think that dynamic leant a lot of strength to the solutions.”
Technology as Facilitator
Seeing the teams collaborate was a magical moment for Janice: “It was almost emotional really, seeing everyone working together. To see that belief in it was really lovely.” As a start-up mentor, this event has been something Janice has dreamed about for a long time. And it’s a cause that’s close to her heart. She explains: “My brother was a wheelchair user, he had muscular dystrophy. He loved technology and he loved games – he was a real maker. I really saw how it enhanced the quality of his life. So technology for me has always been a facilitator.” She continues: “Unfortunately, he passed away six years ago. As a person interested in social impact, you can’t pick all causes so the cause you pick to focus on is the one that’s close to your heart.”
The Winning Idea
This year’s winners designed a simple low-tech solution to assist visually and sensory impaired people which they called “Bump’n’Be”. This clever solution enables pedestrians to position themselves correctly to cross the road safely and confidently. The winning team will spend the next three months proving their concept with help from mentors from Accenture, Smart Dublin and NCBI.