Accessing all areas – hacking for a good cause

Saturday 3 December is International Day of People with Disability, a good time to consider how accessible our environment is for people with disability.

A bright group of Department of Human Services employees, James Horsey, Pari Gandhi, Nathan Lindorff, Calum Moir-Mattox and Scott Curline-Wandl are helping make the world more accessible, recently winning the Hack4Good competition run by Microsoft, the Australian Network on Disability and Social Ventures.

Hack4Good set teams the challenge to focus on finding solutions to real word problems for people with a disability. The team representing our department created an app called Utopia.

“Utopia will be a path routing navigation app designed to help mobility impaired users avoid inaccessible obstacles as they travel from place to place,” Scott explained.

“As users encounter things such as stairs or wheelchair ramps, they are encouraged to upload the location of these obstacles or accessibility features.”

Utopia users can then enter their accessibility requirements, for example avoiding stairs, and plan a route that takes their needs into account.

In creating the Utopia app, the team will be empowering people with accessibility needs to navigate more efficiently, or as they say ‘we show you the path, you help us reshape the world’.

The 14 teams were judged on their project’s impact and innovation, feasibility and collaboration, and execution of the solution.

The department’s team won the Hack4Good competition, but all teams delivered solutions that could make a significant difference to the lives of people living with disability.

For Scott, the experience has changed the way he sees environments and whether they are accessible or not.

“I don’t think most people think about it all that much, but going through and comparing standard routes generated by Google Maps to the accessible friendly routes, showed us that there’s some significant barriers facing people as they move around from day to day.

“I definitely think this event has demonstrated to me the importance of supporting a highly innovative culture.”

James agreed, and said it was also a valuable lesson in team work.

“It was a great experience and I’ve loved working so closely with the rest of the guys in the team – seeing what they could do and how we could work together,” he said.

“I’m still in shock that we won!”

More information