A hack of accessibility ideas

Imagine that one day, having a disability will no longer be seen as a problem. This is one of the ideas that came out from The Lab’s accessibility hackathon last week.

A couple of weeks ago nearly 60 participants from O2 and other organisations came together for an intensive day of collaboration and problem-solving at a hackathon focusing on accessibility.

Organised by The Lab, O2’s innovation engine, the hackathon was an opportunity for O2 colleagues and partners to come up with innovative solutions and prototypes for various disabilities including vision, communication, mobility, and cognitive impairments.

Our charity partners, RNIB and Leonard Cheshire Disability, alongside some of our colleagues with their own personal experience of impairments, gave us insights into the challenges that people with disabilities face every day. Digital Accessibility Centre, GiveVision (a Wayra start-up), and Transport Systems Catapult, were also on hand to provide guidance.

Brendan O’Rourke, CIO of Telefónica UK, said: “Accessibility matters to all of us, whether it’s in our personal or working lives.  By understanding that people have different needs, we can deliver better products and services for them.

He added: “It has been absolutely fantastic to see so many organisations and our own staff sharing their vision, energy, and skills at the hackathon.”

In the spirit of collaboration and sharing knowledge, all ideas generated at the hackathon are free for anyone to pursue and take forward.

For handy tips about making your products and services accessible to everyone, check out this blog on the O2 Business blog.

Winner: Best Overall Idea

Team: NoLabel (RBS, NatWest and O2)

The team’s vision is that one day, no one would be labelled as ‘disabled’. Their idea was a smart, connected system of technologies that responds to the access needs of everyone. Users could choose to indicate their needs on wearable devices. Using near-field communications technologies, the smart system would detect these requirements when the users are near, and prompt the surroundings to respond appropriately.

For example, when approaching a pelican crossing, a person with mobility difficulties would, via their wearable device, automatically instruct the traffic lights to allow him more time to cross safely.

Winner: Best Implementation

 Team: Every Little Hacks (Tesco)

You’re in a shop, and you need help with something. Meanwhile, someone in another shop nearby has what you need.  How can we put the two of you together?

With this team’s app, you can ask for assistance and people nearby will be notified.  And if you help others you can get rewarded for it.  Helpers could, for example, get an O2 data top-up or other giveaways. Every little helps.

Other ideas:

Team: Phame (O2 apprentices and career returners)

With a single app, shopping will become a seamless experience. Users with accessibility issues would use this app to rate the accessibility of shops and book help with sign language, mobility, and other issues.

Team: Helping Hands (O2 apprentices and an Oxford University student)

This team has come up with an app that aims to create a community of helpers. With the app you can locate people with the expertise to help you in certain situations, and call for their help when you need it.  It could have additional features, such as approving members before they get in, and filtering people by their skills or expertise.

Team: Travelmate (O2 store leaders)

The team says its creation could make going outside “just that little bit better and safer” by helping people with visual impairments to get around on their own.  The app would be powered by geolocation, navigation, visual recognition, and voice recognition technologies and can also tell users about weather and travel options.

Team: Sauga  (Oxford University students)

People with Asperger’s and autism may suffer from a condition called Alexithymia, an inability to recognise other people’s and their own emotions. This condition hinders their ability to form social attachments and could impact on their emotion wellbeing.

The team has come up with an app and a website to help people with Alexithymia learn how to recognise emotions. Applying facial recognition technology, the app uses gamification and online training to help users recognise features of the face to work out what emotions they may be seeing.