Hackessible 2019 image
Credit: Research & Impact at Sheffield

Almost 50 students from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University have collaborated with individuals with disabilities to help them overcome day-to-day challenges using assistive technology at the annual Hackcessible event.

Tasks set for the university students were to: make a puzzle for people with vision impairments, create a solution for a wheelchair user to go out in the rain with ease, find a way for an individual to control an iPad using just his eyes, and create an assistive solution to help someone with age-related memory difficulties with everyday tasks.

Hackcessible gives university students the chance to gain manufacturing experience whilst simultaneously providing enabling solutions for disabled people.

Individuals directly affected by disabilities presented four thematic challenges for the students relating to visual impairment, communication, wheelchair use and ageing-related memory loss.

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Each team’s project will be judged by an expert panel which includes representatives from the Academic Health Science Network, the NHS, Dyson, Devices 4 Dignity and both universities.

Students and co-designers with disabilities attended weekly workshops, supported by a team of mentors in healthcare, technology and academia, including Dyson Engineer Kieran Riley, to help them develop their technical and collaboration skills.

Simon Wheatcroft, a computer scientist and ultra-distance athlete who is blind, set the task of creating puzzles and games for people with vision impairments to keep the mind active and provide bonding opportunities.

He said: “The team brought ideas to life that I’d never have thought of. Blending our concepts through co-design has created something truly special.

“The team has put in an astounding amount of design work and time and they made huge progress in a range of different materials. The game the team designed not only functions well, but looks and feels beautiful.”

Hackcessible is a collaboration between the University of Sheffield’s iForge, the Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare (CATCH) and Assistronix.

Aejaz Zahid, the event organiser and Programme Director (Innovation) at South Yorkshire & Bassetlaw Integrated Care Systems, said: “We live in a world where accessibility challenges are everywhere and in every walk of life, from day to day tasks to pursuing hobbies. Hackcessible provides a unique innovation platform that brings together and empowers teams that include individuals with disabilities and students from various disciplines to find new ways to address these accessibility challenges.

“This year we have a highly talented and enthusiastic group of students and mentors representing a diverse range of disciplines including design, engineering and healthcare. The ideas and prototypes developed during Hackcessible could have immense impact on the lives of the individuals who brought us these challenges but also on the wider community and the care sector.”

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