Earlier this year, Sound Advice was invited to mentor hackers at the first #HackAccessDublin hackathon (November 2016) to find solutions to make Dublin more accessible to everyone.
With Transport the 2016 theme, the engineers, designers and makers got insights from diverse Solution Enablers (the mentors), to ensure a universal design for all the solutions.
Engagement and enthusiasm from the teams was high, between the Immersion Evening at DogPatch Labs in Dublin and the actual hackathon at Google (Dublin), November 25 to 27.
The Specific Access Challenges
Varied teams addressed the challenges raised at the Immersion Evening:
- Wheelchair users giving Irish Rail 24 hours’ notice for access to/from trains.
- Limited number of parking spaces for users of wheelchairs, buggies or strollers.
- Mapping wheelchair accessibility within Dublin (transit, toilet facilities, gradients).
- Improving bus stop accessibility for people with sight issues and wheelchairs.
- Optimising visual information on trains, for passengers with sight issues.
- Making audible announcements visible to people with hearing difficulties.
— Caroline Carswell (@soundadvice_pro) November 30, 2016
How Accessible Is Dublin With Hearing Issues?
From a hearing perspective, Dublin’s transport is fairly accessible, with voice announcements one area of difficulty – when information screens lag behind any changes to schedule or incidental transit updates are not visible to passengers as they board a train or bus.
Route maps in each train carriage (or from an app) are a major help, with many using Google maps or similar, to plan their journeys upfront. And wifi in buses and trains is a godsend.
HackAccessDublin’s entrepreneurial approach challenged Dublin’s startup community for solutions by incentivising the teams with access to mentors and hot-desk space from the entities backing the event. Looking at the diversity and talent of the teams, Dublin is not just a capital city, it is a hotbed of creativity where multi-national teams quickly meld together.
The Resulting Solutions
Some solution names include Semo, SeaPrk, Access4Ireland, Parking Avengers, TravelTalk, SmartScoot and nClusive, many using big data and IoT approaches – and remembering names can change with pivots and/or solution maturity. Well done, @JaniceValentine!
Today’s decision-makers may be unfamiliar with people who have access challenges, given the lack of inclusive education policies and co-educational schooling in their formative years. Again, policy-making for diversity, access and inclusion can be impeded by these factors, whereas more of today’s students as problem-solvers are educated together in settings that build open thinking and remove self-consciousness around people from diverse backgrounds.