Enabled by Design-athon 24-25 July 2014, Sydney

The benefits of Universal Design are well known – providing better design solutions for everyone, but guest speaker Cain Beckett, Director at Pricewaterhouse Cooper, encouraged participants at the inaugural Australia Enabled by Design-athon to also consider the business opportunities of the rapidly expanding $50b a year market for products, technologies and services for people with a disability.

The Australian-first Enabled by Design-athon was hosted by Cerebral Palsy Alliance in partnership with the University of Technology, Sydney and sponsored by Family and Community Services. The two-day ‘making’ event was facilitated by UK-based social enterprises – Enabled by Design and FutureGov and the Australian project followed similar successful events in London 2012 (with IDEO) and Washington DC 2013 (with Google).

Over two days, more than 140 passionate and enthusiastic people came together to gain insights about life with a disability and to design and rapidly prototype a product, technology or service for people with a disability that also had mainstream appeal.

This unique and diverse mix included product designers, technologists, makers, UTS students, people with a disability and clinicians/disability professionals.  After a series of Lightning Talks on the first morning from industry professionals, including Steven Pozel from Object and Vanessa Wolfe-Coote from BCG Digital Ventures, participants formed mixed teams for a 24 hour challenge.  After a frenetic count-down, each of the 12 teams pitched their concept and demonstrated their prototype to an expert panel.

1 in 5 Australians have some form of disability and yet product design that is inclusive of people with a disability is still more of an exception, rather than the rule. Even the rapid evolution in technology over the last 30 years has not provided universal access to people with a disability.

“We were excited to see the possibilities of practitioners in the mainstream product design and technology sectors becoming aware of the needs of people with a disability, and of the market potential for considering these needs.” said Robyn Cummins, Enabled by Design-athon Project Manager.

Prototypes of designs ranged from the elegant and sensitive design of a purse that allows people with limited fine motor skills to easily access cards and cash, to a “follow me” trolley cart for people who use a walker, wheelchair or crutches. Clever use of technology in design was very evident, with a customisable sound excluder for people with autism, and an online skills-trader for university students with and without a disability.

With a significant disability and ageing population, this kind of thinking about design, will not just become necessary, for those smart few, it may provide unparalleled opportunity for business.

For more information – go to http://enabledbydesignathon.org.au

Enabled by Design-athon Project Manager: Robyn Cummins, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, T: 02 9975 9712, E: rcummins@cerebralpalsy.org.au

Article by Peter Horsley.

  • Enabled by Design-athon  24-25 July 2014, Sydney