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Breaking down the dream that Hack Access Dublin represents: A society that’s inclusive to people of all abilities.

The Hack Access Dublin machine has refueled and is ready to solve more challenges to make Dublin inclusive to people of all abilities. Hack Access Dublin is not just a hackathon; it is a sum of parts that keep functioning throughout the year. A machine fueled by purpose, operated by highly and diversely skilled professionals, determined to find ways to use technology and startup spirit to solve a societal challenge like the exclusion of people with a disability from society.

That was (and remains) the dream which powered us through those early days about this time last year when we had no venue and no money, before we had partners like Google, Nissan Ireland and Dogpatch Labs to help make the dream a reality.

Let’s dissect it a little.

 

Who are we looking to include?


Well, people whose needs are not homogenized; who don’t fit into ‘normal’; who cannot get around in the way most of us can; whose senses do not work the same as most people’s. When I say most people I mean those who can easily engage with the rest of society, whose needs, apparently are the same. Who are, for the most part, independently mobile.

The world, in the main, has been designed with the needs of this particular group in mind. But, the thing is, this group’s members may appear to be the same on the outside. But, on the inside, they are, and every one of us is – irrespective of our abilities – unique. It is our prerogative and our right to express our uniqueness as we see fit. We all have this right but because of differences in ability, some of us, are denied expressing it.

Let’s return to the dream.

‘A society inclusive to people of all abilities’; it remained a beacon through the days darkened by a lack of sleep and a frantic pulling together of as many parts as we could grasp in the final weeks leading up to the hackathon in November, when key stakeholder support had yet to be secured. It was simply a matter of time and not having enough of it!

Finally, enough parts were hooked to the dream and in the end Hack Access Dublin earned much praise from our stakeholder groups, mentors, judges and the participants.

In the end, we proved it could work. People participated; people cared. Quality mentors came to support them. Friends pitched in and students volunteered to spread the message.

Hack Access Dublin is not a supernova. Not something that happens with a bang over a weekend then disappears. It’s an ongoing framework that supports startup enthusiasts, innovators, designers, engineers – anyone with the skills, creativity and motivation – to work together with stakeholder groups to solve the accessibility challenges which obstruct our city from being inclusive to people of all abilities. Which obstruct it from being as great as it possibly can be.

How are the Winners doing?

Semo’s idea to develop an application network of volunteers who can assist users in need of assistance using the transport system in Dublin earned them first place in the pitch in Google last November. The team is focused on building a prototype by the end of their 3 months residence in Dogpatch Labs, who, as true champions and supporters of the Irish startup community, gifted the hot-desks to the winners of Hack Access Dublin as a prize.

Seapark, whose idea to provide real-time information on the availability of disabled parking spaces in Dublin, earned them third place, have taken up residence in DCU Alpha to develop their solution. They’ve been busy sussing out various pilot partnerships and pilot funding!

Looking forward to November 2017

In terms of the hackathon, which is the main cog in the Hack Access Dublin machine, we did good first year.

But we want to do better. We want to get closer to making that dream a reality.

There’s two ladies without whose support the Hack Access Dublin hackathon would’ve crashed and burned before it took off: Google’s Antonia Caraveteanu and Dogpatch Lab’s own Liz McCarthy. I feel that these ladies are on the same mission as me; to find ways to leverage the knowledge, skills and resources of their employers for the benefit of society. To lobby the troops when it comes time to recruit volunteers for all the sub missions that are part of the big one. I am very grateful to them for their support and look forward to joining forces again for Hack Access Dublin the sequel which is happening next November with Google providing the venue for the hackathon and Dogpatch Labs providing the venue for the launch event in October.

Thankfully, with the venue (Google) and main sponsor (Nissan Ireland) already secured, time is on our hands. Now the question is, what do we do with it? How can we make Hack Access Dublin even bigger and better than last year?

How do we get closer to making that dream a reality?

I’m working on the answer to those questions with various stakeholder groups who represent the disabled community over the next few months. Various tweaks and adjustments will be made; a team of volunteers will be assembled (some of last year’s participants have already raised their hand) and goals expanded and cemented.

No doubt, it’ll prove to be another interesting year! Follow this blog to hear how the plans for 2017’s event are shaping up. If you are interested in joining the volunteer team or taking part as a mentor or adviser, please email me directly on janice@greatlifedistillery.com.

The Author

Janice Valentine

Janice Valentine Janice is the founder of the Great Life Distillery and HackAccess Dublin. She’s passionate about Intrapreneurship, startups and #Tech4Good.

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