ATHack: Co-Design and Education in Assistive Technology Development


Copyright retained

Glen Cooper/MIT Lincoln Labs 

Narain, J., Ananthabhotla, I., Mendez, S., Taylor, C., Siu, H., Brugnaro, L., and Mallozzi, A. "ATHack: Co-Design and Education in Assistive Technology Development". Extended Abstracts of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Accepted.


ATHack, an annual assistive technologies hackathon at MIT, is unique in that community members living with disabilities (co-designers) propose projects and work with hackers to create prototypes over a two-week period. Since 2014, over 75 co-designers and 400 students have participated in ATHack. We present an overview of the program goals and implementation and share our reflections on the strengths and challenges surrounding the event as organizers, participants, and co-designers. Our reflections include that open communication between co-designers and participants is crucial, and that working on well-scoped, feasible projects is motivating for participants. From a survey (n=48) of ATHack participants from 2014-2019, 89% of respondents would recommend the event and 75% reported that they learned about disability and user-centered design. Our reflections suggest that the collaborative hackathon model can engage students spark innovations in accessible interfaces. We hope this report will inspire and guide others in implementing similar educational and design initiatives.

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