ATHack: A Promising Practice in Promoting Accessibility Among Engineering Students

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A hackathon is a one-day event where teams of people collaborate to solve a problem. ATHack is a multidisciplinary hackathon with a focus on helping people with disabilities as it increases awareness regarding the need to develop assistive technologies.  It was conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

ATHack teams were matched with people in the Boston area who have disabilities and a desire for assistive technology. The teams, which were composed of MIT undergraduates, graduate students, and other members of the MIT community,  designed and developed prototype solutions for their clients. At the end of the ATHack the solutions were judged. Winning designs included a mouth-operated mouse and a head-controlled device to turn sheet music pages.

ATHack is a promising practice in promoting accessibility understanding among engineering students because it exposes them to real-life engineering problems involving accessibility challenges for people with disabilities. This kind of outreach can attract students to engineering fields and ensure that future engineers enter their careers with knowledge of disabilities and accessibility.