By @SimonCocking

1 min pitch for what you are doing now?

Gearing up for the second Hack Access Dublin in November in Google; a hackathon event bringing Dublin’s innovators from various disciplines like engineering, technology, design and public service together to tackle various challenges that exclude people with a disability from society.

How was the last 12 months, what work worked well, what didn’t move as quickly as you would have liked?

Holding the hackathon in Google worked well! Venue was perfect and we’re back again this year thanks to their support.  Apart from that the people who attended the hackathon last year were amazing. They were really engaged and keen to learn from the mentors and stakeholder groups who attended.  It was lovely to see that; most of them hadn’t been exposed to disability before. That can be daunting. But everyone gave 100% and I was incredibly grateful to them for their efforts.

The difficulty for me it is managing the big vision in the context of the reality that innovation equals change and uncertainty; so that can scare people away from participating in the hackathon or attending it.  I would have liked more people with a disability to have attended the pitch so that they can learn about the startup community; maybe start attending events and learning about tech and entrepreneurship and join the community.  Especially considering employment rate is low in the disabled community. I’d hope that the startup community would provide them with more employment options like it has done for people like @Stephen Cluskey and @Noelle Daly of Mobility Mojo.  I’m hoping we’ll have more people with a disability, especially young people with their careers ahead of them, come to see what it’s all about in November.

From the participant’s perspective, I’ve asked Alan Wheldan, member of the team who won last year, Semo, to share his experience: “We have done a lot of research and people have been very kind in giving their time and honest opinions on what we hope to implement. Sometimes it can be hard to hear that your concept is not what people feel is needed, but it is so worthwhile to get this information early in the project as it speeds up the process of figuring out what WILL work.

Janice Valentine the founder of Hack Access Dublin appears on this episode of the Irish Tech News Podcast

In October, you’re holding an event in Dogpatch Labs ahead of the hackathon in November, What will you be talking about at this event and what role is it playing in the hackathon?

Apart from thanking everyone for attending and presenting some takeaways from the Global Disability Summit in London, I won’t be doing much talking.  This is a Stakeholder and Supporter Immersion evening for guest speakers and past participants to share their insights into how innovation and entrepreneurship can be used to solve accessibility challenges. The purpose of it is to gather the various stakeholders, mentors, judges and past participants in one of Dublin’s best startup hubs, Dogpatch Labs, to explore how  Hack Access Dublin can be used as a collaboration vehicle to serve the interests of the communities they represent.  Whether it be to understand how to engage people with a disability in the hackathon to inspire them to consider entrepreneurship as a career choice or to understand how they can get involved in the organising of Hack Access Dublin as a pathway into the startup community in Dublin.

What is happening between now and then to get people engaged in what you’re doing?

This Friday evening the Hack Access Dublin team will be in Dublin spreading the message about accessibility and inclusion and spotlighting one of the challenges Hack Access Dublin will be focused on this year, which is the difficulties experienced by wheelchair users socialising in the city. If you look around you don’t see many. We’d like to change that. We are hoping people will follow our story as we share our insights around the city using #AXSDUB. Look out for our mini story boards that’ll be distributed around the city drawing people’s attention to some of the challenges we are looking to solve.


How can people follow the Hack Access Dublin story? 

To follow our journey around Dublin on Friday night and for updates about the hackathon in November, they can follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @Hackaccessdub, registration is open on Monday.

And to find out more about what Semo are working on they’d be delighted to hear from you:

[email protected]

What are your plans for the future? 

I would love to bring Hack Access Dublin to other cities; this would entail building partnerships with the cities like London to achieve that multi location approach.  Event’s like last week’s Global Disability Hub in London are so important because they connect disability disablers around the world facilitating opportunities for collaboration and partnerships. This is a global problem and shared insights and partnerships can only strengthen our efforts to tackle the various challenges that exclude people with a disability from society.  Ultimately, if there’s a network of connected hubs working to solve access challenges, I’d love to explore the possibility of creating an incubation space for teams working on the solutions, in Dublin. I recently interviewed Eoghan Ryan from Social Innovation Ireland for GLDs Purposeful Innovation podcast and he said that Ireland wants to be a centre of excellence for social innovation – perhaps a Hack Access Incubator in Ireland could be part of that goal! I know a number of people who’d jump at the chance to be part of it – myself included : )

This is a long term play and it’s about having the patience to take the small steps towards that goal.

Which influencers and websites do you follow to keep up to date with the latest developments?

I follow the work of various thought leaders in purposeful innovation and entrepreneurship, like Aaron Hurst (@PurposeEconomy) and John Mackey (@Consciouscap) and the work that @AXSChat does is amazing! Antonio Santos (@akwyz) co-founder of @AXSchat is one to watch for sharing all things innovative and enterprising in the access and inclusion space. It is people and businesses like these who inspired me to create a hackathon that would could one day turn into an incubator for startups committed to working on solutions to accessibility challenges.

What inspired past participants to attend Hack Access Dublin 2016?

“We were inspired to attend driven by a passion to explore an area we knew little about and hopefully bring our skillsets together to make a difference.” Alan Wheldan


Startup Business Showcase event : HackAccessDublin

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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