Innovators with Disabilities to Pitch to Major Corporations

UCP’s Life Labs Holds Innovation Lab at USBLN National Conference

 

Washington, D.C. (September, 21, 2015) – United Cerebral Palsy has partnered with USBLN, a national nonprofit that helps businesses drive performance by leveraging disability inclusion, to host an Innovation Lab during USBLN’s 18th Annual National Conference & Biz2Biz Expo in Austin, TX at the end of September.

Innovation Lab, part of UCP’s Life Labs initiative. brings together innovators from all walks of life to compete on teams to dream up the next big idea for people with disabilities. Using human-centered principles of Universal Design, the teams work with mentors and facilitators to tackle problems ranging from mobility to communication in an effort to help improve the every day lives of people with disabilities.

At the conference, Innovation Lab teams will consist of participants of the Career Link Mentoring Program. The program is a collaboration of USBLN and Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute, which provides a 6-month career mentoring opportunity to college students and recent graduates with disabilities through linkages to business professionals from USBLN member companies.

“Rather than continuing to retrofit our world to accommodate people with disabilities, there’s no reason why we can’t encourage future designs to work for people of all abilities,” said Gabriel Forsythe Y Korzeniewicz, Life Labs Program Manager. “Past Innovation Lab events have included people with and without disabilities – from students to engineers, to physical therapists and people from a variety of backgrounds. We’re excited that this will be our first Lab in which all of the competitors have disabilities. We’re interested to see what kinds of unique ideas will come from this group.”

From September 27-29 the Innovation Lab teams will compete for one of two opportunities to pitch their ideas “Shark Tank”-style to major corporate players such as IBM, Sprint, Verizon, 3M and Mitsubishi – all part of USBLN’s membership of 5000 of the top companies in America. On September 30, each team’s idea will on display at the Bizt2iz Expo so conference attendees can vote on which two ideas to elevate to the level of a pitch to potential investors.

UCP Receives Motorola Solutions Foundation Innovation Generation Grant

United Cerebral Palsy has received a grant for $20,000 as part of the “Innovation Generation Grant” program from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions, Inc. Through the grant, UCP’s Life Labs initiative will distribute universal design curriculum modules through iTunes U and offer an immersive two-day design challenge, called an Innovation Lab, to engage students across disciplines in human centered design concepts.

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The Innovation Generation program awards organizations such as UCP that foster and support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives for teachers and U.S. preschool through university students – especially girls and underrepresented minorities, such as people with disabilities.

“It’s amazing to watch people who participate in an Innovation Lab leave with a greater understanding of the challenges that people with disabilities face and a new confidence that they can participate in solving some of those challenges,” said Josef Scarantino, Acting Director of UCP’s Life Labs. “This program has the power to change career trajectories and open up a new worlds of creativity and innovation.”

Innovation Lab HeaderAfter several successful Innovation Lab events in 2014 and 2015, UCP’s Life Labs shaped the Innovation Lab into a curriculum, which can easily be adapted to any school degree program. Utilizing Apple’s iTunes U education content platform, UCP’s Life Labs plans to build a large national presence of students and open the curriculum to outside academic and industry collaboration. The curriculum and Innovation Lab events will be made available to UCP’s network of eighty affiliates through a toolkit that combines all the necessary resources.

The Motorola Solutions Foundation grant program overall will impact about 900,000 students and teachers, each receiving an average of 100 programming hours from our partner non-profit organizations and institutions. Programs will support special populations including girls and women, underrepresented minorities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, people with disabilities and the military.

“The Motorola Solutions Foundation created the Innovation Generation Grant program eight years ago to support educational experiences that spark students to turn their dreams into the innovations that will shape our society’s future,” said Matt Blakely, director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation. “Organizations like UCP are teaching tomorrow’s leaders that careers in engineering and technology are not only fun, but also within their reach.”

For additional information on the Motorola Solutions Foundation grants programs, visit: http://responsibility.motorolasolutions.com/index.php/solutions-for-community/ and for more information on UCP please visit www.ucp.org

 

About Motorola Solutions Foundation

The Motorola Solutions Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola Solutions. With employees located around the globe, Motorola Solutions seeks to benefit the communities where it operates. The company achieves this by making strategic grants, forging strong community partnerships and fostering innovation. The Motorola Solutions Foundation focuses its funding on public safety, disaster relief, employee programs and education, especially science, technology, engineering and math programming. For more information on Motorola Solutions Corporate and Foundation giving, visit our website: www.motorolasolutions.com/giving.

 

 

Making Technology Accessible for Everyone

The following post from Microsoft Chicago’s director and community advocate Shelley Stern Grach first appeared on www.microsoft-chicago.com on April 23. United Cerebral Palsy’s Life Labs initiative is hosting it’s first Innovation Lab at Microsoft‘s Technology Center in Chicago May 19-20. Find out more about the event and how you can be a part of this intense two-day design challenge at www.ucpinnovationlab.org

 

How many of you are aware that 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the American Disabilities Act?

I wasn’t until a few months ago, when I received  a call from United Cerebral Palsy. They were interested in hosting a hackathon for 100 people in May, and were looking for space to hold the hackathon. Fortunately, the Microsoft Technology & Innovation Center is ADA-compliant, and we are now thrilled to be hosting this wonderful program on May 19-20, when developers will be creating apps to help people with disabilities. At about the same time, I received a call from Chicago Public Schools to see if we could host a job shadow day for CPS students with disabilities. Those two calls sparked my interest, and  I also started to pay more attention to ADA 25 and to how meaningful technology can be to those who have a disability. To recognize and celebrate the important strides for people with disabilities, 2015 will be celebrating ADA 25 all year long and Chicago will be celebrating ADA 25 Chicago. This blog is the first in a series recognizing ADA 25 and its impact.

Our mission and social responsibility at Microsoft is to enable people throughout the world to realize their full potential with technology. To that end, we invested in creating an environment that capitalizes on the diversity of our people, and the inclusion of ideas and solutions, that meets the needs of our increasingly global and diverse customer base.

And that means developing technology that is accessible to anyone – regardless of age or ability. Technology has the potential to become our sixth sense.

People with disabilities are among the most marginalized groups in the world. People with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

Microsoft has a long history and commitment to accessibility. For more than 25 years, Microsoft has focused on creating technologies that make devices easier to use for individuals with a wide array of difficulties and impairments. Microsoft has listened, gained insights, and applied what it’s learned. The result is an increasing momentum toward the goal of making devices accessible and useful to all people. Today we empower hundreds of millions of people of all abilities around the world to use technology to enter the workforce, stay connected with friends and family, get things done and take full advantage of a digital lifestyle. We’ll spend more time in May looking at how apps can positively impact the lives of people with disabilities.

Today, I want to share with you how impressed I am with the teachers and students at CPS who visited us last week.

Making Technology Accessible for EveryoneLet’s start with CPS teachers like James Taylor. First, you just have to love his name! But more importantly, James spends his time focusing on all the students with disabilities at CPS, and one small part of his day is putting together field trips for the students to businesses, so the students can experience the corporate world. Originally, James thought we would have 2 or 3 students sign up. We had 27! Everyone arrived early and we began our day with a wonderful presentation by Paul Edlund, Chief Technology Officer – Microsoft Midwest, about the future of technology. It was a highly interactive session, with lots of questions and student engagement.

We then had a full tour of the Microsoft Technology & Innovation Center, led by Beth Malloy, Director, Microsoft Technology Center – Chicago and Bradley Trovillion, Technical Solutions Architect. The students examined our Internet of Things Fishtank, played Xbox and used the Kinect to understand motion capture of movement and worked real time on our PPI.

Making Technology Accessible for Everyone

After lunch, we had a terrific presentation via Skype by Patrick Maher, Director of Civic Engagement, SPR Consulting. SPR is a Microsoft Partner and Pat suffered a spinal cord injury during college. In addition to his very motivational personal story, Pat emphasized the great opportunities for careers in technology for people with disabilities. Pat runs a meet up group called ITKAN, which supports people with disabilities in the Technology field.

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He also showed an amazing video which I highly recommend:

The entire staff of the Microsoft Technology and Innovation Center were honored to support these wonderful teachers and students at CPS. It’s most rewarding when we received the following thank you note from James, which told us that our message hit home and that we have helped to fill the pipeline of students who are interested in careers in technology:

“Pat and Shelley I want to say thank for participating and hosting the students.  Overall the students enjoyed the experience and I’m hoping to get a few involved with ITKAN in the next few months.  A majority of the students are gearing up to graduate and after this job shadow day, some are being swayed over to the computer field.  Pat I want to say thank again for sharing your experience with us, and giving motivation to the students.  And again, thank you and the rest of the team for being great hosts.  Hopefully we can do this again later this year or next year and open some doors for upcoming graduates.  I will share these videos and get some feedback, hopefully this will generate some questions for opportunities and get the students more involved with the IT world.” 

To learn more about Microsoft’s investment in accessibility, see how our products have built-in accessibility features.

Innovation Lab Design Challenge Debuts

Intensive Two-Day Event from UCP’s Life Labs Coming to Chicago 

 

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Life Labs initiative will bring an intensive, two-day design challenge called an Innovation Lab to Chicago May 19-20, 2015. Following successful events in London, Washington DC, and Sydney, Australia, the Innovation Lab (formerly called Enabled by Design-athon) brings together people from all walks of life under the principles of Universal Design to dream up the next big idea for people with and without disabilities.

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At each Innovation Lab, this diversity of talent from a variety of fields is coached to use human-centered Universal Design concepts to solve every day problems as part of a competitive yet collaborative design challenge for team prizes. Designers, engineers, inventors, makers and hackers as well as professionals and caregivers in the disability field are all encouraged to contribute their unique perspectives to the process.

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Innovation Lab Featured Speaker Paul Edlund – Microsoft Core Technologies Chief Technologist

The inaugural Innovation Lab scheduled for Chicago will take place at the Microsoft Technology Center and will be co-hosted by Smart Chicago. Smart Chicago is a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology by increasing access to the Internet, improving skills for using Internet, and developing meaningful products from data that measurably contribute to the quality of life of residents in the region and beyond.

“Here at Microsoft we are focused on improving the lives of citizens through technology,” said Shelley Stern Grach, Director of Civic Engagement at Microsoft. “The Innovation Lab focuses on the principles of design to provide opportunity and access to technology for diverse communities, and we’re excited to sMicrosoft Technology Center 2ee what the teams come up with.”

Teams will design and build prototypes or present plans that demonstrate how products can rapidly be created to better fit with people’s lives and needs, no matter what those need may be. UCP’s Life Labs is intent on creating a movement of accessibility for the masses so that mainstream products work for as many people as possible, including those with disabilities and older people. The Innovation Lab events are meant to challenge preconceptions of assistive equipment, showing how products can be personalized, purposeful and beautifully designed too.

“Rather than continuing to retrofit our world to accommodate people with disabilities, there’s no reason why we can’t design our world to work for people of all abilities,” said Marc Irlandez, Director of UCP’s Life Labs.

Registration is now open at http://ucpinnovationlab.org/ Space is limited.

 

Co-hosted by:

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Thanks to our sponsors:

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Young Inventor Focuses on People with Disabilities

Srijay KatsuriAt 14 years old, Srijay Kasturi was the youngest person ever to compete in the Enabled by Design-athon innovation challenge held last November by UCP’s Life Labs program. Along with his mother Sudhita, Srijay was on the winning team which came up with an idea for an app for people with autism. UCP was thrilled to discover that Sirjay was an inventor with another concept, called STRIDE, already in progress. Although he has no personal connection to disability, his creations have centered on the concept of helping people with disabilities better navigate, and as a result, participate in the world. In this interview, Srijay describes his motivations and the evolution of STRIDE for people with visual impairment.

 

UCP: When did you first realize you had an interest in innovating with technology?
SRIJAY:
I have no idea when I realized I had an interest in innovating. My parents say that I have been thinking of creative solutions for day-to-day problems from a young age. One of my first innovations was around the age of 12, so about 2 years ago, and I’ve just been going since then!

UCP: What was your inspiration for STRIDE? Do you know someone with vision impairment?
SRIJAY:
No, unfortunately (or fortunately!) I don’t know anyone with vision impairment. STRIDE is really the evolution of one of my old(er) inventions, the Camera Centering Tripod Mount (CCTM). Once I finished my proof of concept for the CCTM, I submitted it to the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge where I, and the CCTM, were selected to be finalists in the competition. Once selected, I worked with a mentor from 3M, Dr. James Jonza, to develop the CCTM further. However, once I started working, my mentor and I discussed if there was a way for the CCTM to help more people… and from there, STRIDE (stepwithstride.com) was born. STRIDE eventually went on to win 3rd place in the competition, and well, the rest is history.

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UCP: Tell us how it came to be and how you envision it working for people.

SRIJAY: I envision people using STRIDE in their everyday lives, 24/7. They put it on when they put on their shoes, and walk around all day using it. STRIDE alerts the user to any objects in their path. The closer the object the stronger the alert. One of the advantages of STRIDE is that if the user changes shoes they can move the device from one pair of shoes to another. STRIDE involved a lot of hard work, and a bunch of trial and error. They say to do anything, it takes 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration! This is definitely the case for STRIDE

UCP: Is this your first invention?

SRIJAY: Nope! STRIDE is based on an older invention of mine and shares a lot of the same ideas with said older invention. Since childhood my dad has encouraged me to think creatively and outside the box which has led to innovation and inventions.

UCP: What other areas of design and technology interest you? 

SRIJAY: Hmm… that’s a tough one. I love programming software, to the point that I used programming to finish an English class project – an innovative approach to English class! I love web-design, and I have created various dynamic websites using the Flask framework for the backend, and the Bootstrap framework for the frontend.

UCP: How did you hear about the November 2014 Enabled by Design-athon event?

SRIJAY:In March of 2014, there was a Mini Makers Faire, in Northern Virginia, near where I live. I was one of the Young Makers at the Faire and Mr. Patrick Timony from the D.C. Public Library stopped by my table to learn about STRIDE. Mr. Timony is their Adaptive Technology Librarian. He told me about the Design-athon and encouraged me to register.

2014 DesignathonUCP: What motivated you to want to attend?
SRIJAY:
When I realized that the aim of the Design-athon was to help people with disabilities, I realized that it would be a great event to go to, not only to help me understand what I needed to do with regards to STRIDE, but to meet other like-minded people, including the great people here at UCP! The event gave me a better understanding of the challenges faced by people who have disabilities and how many things we take for granted.

UCP: Tell us about your team, idea and experience at the event.
SRIJAY:
My team, called Stars at War, consisted of 8 people. We all came from various viewpoints, and different perspectives, so we each brought something unique to the table. Our idea was a product called Simplyfi. We learned that people with autism sometimes take take idioms literally. Simplyfi helps translate hard-to-understand idioms into simpler easy-to-understand straightforward English.

For example, if you say that the Design-athon was “a piece of cake”, a person with autism may think quite literally that the event was a piece of cake, while we’d understand that by a “piece of cake,” you really meant it was very easy. To help alleviate this problem, we built an app that defines these idioms, so that they can better understand the figurative language.

UCP: Are you interested in developing this idea further – possibly bringing it to market?

SRIJAY:Yes I am! There still is a lot of work that needs to be done for the programming of Simplyfi. However, I have been so busy developing STRIDE that I really have not had much time to focus on Simplyfi and finish programming it – but I do intend on finishing it sometime in the near future!

There is also a competition called DECA. For this event we have to write a marketing plan for a product and my partner and I decided to write a plan for Simplyfi. Here’s to hoping we move on to ICDC (International Career Development Conference)!

UCP: What is the status of your current project?
SRIJAY:
I decided to revamp STRIDE so it would better fit the needs and wants of the visually impaired. I would like it to be Bluetooth-enabled so access to building maps etc. via an app are available to users. For STRIDE to be more sleek, I am working on a hardware redesign using smaller components. I’m looking for advice in the fields of case-design and software to make the device more accurate and usable. I would also like to consult with a patent attorney and look into funding sources so I can take STRIDE to production. My goal is to have STRIDE ready for market by the end of the year. This of course, will mean getting some help in the area of marketing, if anyone wants to collaborate with me.

UCP: Do you collaborate with anyone on your ideas?
SRIJAY:
Yes! There are two amazing Facebook groups that I just love. The first is Hackathon Hackers (HH), a group of over 1000 people dedicated to helping others write programs and compete at hackathons. Also, I am a part of a Facebook group called High School Hackers (HSH). HSH was created for the sole purpose of getting high schoolers interested in programming, and attending hackathons. Aside from Facebook groups I am also heavily involved with a makers space in Reston called Nova Labs. Nova Labs is a great place full of people who are extremely knowledgeable about all kinds of things. In fact, I owe most of the success of STRIDE to Nova Labs, since I have learned so much from the mentors there!

UCP: Tell us more about your thoughts on open-source and why you would want to keep a part of this invention proprietary?
SRIJAY:
I believe that open-source is the future. Open-source projects basically allow for improved sharing of ideas, and allows for these ideas to help the most number of people. I decided to release enough of STRIDE for anyone to create it, but I am keeping enough of STRIDE proprietary so that I can still sell a unique product and have control over it’s pricing and future development.

UCP: What are your plans for the immediate future? Your career?
SRIJAY:
I am a freshman in highschool so a lot of my efforts are dedicated towards learning and doing well in school. I am also studying Sanskrit, an Indian language, learning to play the Mridangam, an Indian classical instrument, and I am a 2nd degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. In the immediate future I would love to take STRIDE to market. Making Simplyfi available as an easy to use Google chrome extension is another goal. I also want to pursue a career in filmmaking, so we’ll see how that goes…

Enabled by Design-athon from an OT’s Perspective

Guest post contributed by Clarice Torrey, occupational therapist and winner of UCP Life Lab’s recent Design-athon People’s Choice Award. 

 

Clarice Torrey

I nerded out a bit when I first saw @UCPLifeLabs tweet about the Enabled-by Design-athon in DC. I had already become familiar with Enabled by Design and UCP Life Labs through the wonderful world of Twitter, but this event was exactly what I’d been looking for. I’m an occupational therapist who works primarily with children who have cerebral palsy, and I want to blend my knowledge of disability with my passion for designing and making. Over the past 10+ years as an occupational therapist, I have designed and fabricated many adaptive aids and splints. The Design-athon felt like it was made for me.

Even so, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. Thursday morning I walked into the event at Google’s DC headquarters and was assigned to a team consisting of Jessica Bonness, an interior designer, educator and our team facilitator; Jessica Denson, an interior design student; Emily Flax, an industrial designer; Patricia Torres, a universal design student; and Reem Bagais, an interior design student. We started with empathy exercises to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to have a disability. For instance, we put on gloves to search for items in our purse and used earplugs/headphones to simulate a hearing impairment. The exercise that resonated the most with us was doing activities with limited dexterity and only having the use of one upper extremity.

Our question became this: How can we facilitate increased independence for people with limited to no use of one upper extremity? There are so many daily activities most people take for granted that are made possible or easier with two hands. We wanted a tool that could be worn or at least easily accessible to provide the stabilization that so many two-handed tasks require. For instance when zipping up a jacket, you can complete the task with only one hand, but it will probably take you longer and you might have to use your teeth or another awkward adaptation.Empathy Exercise

As an occupational therapist, I do activity analysis so often it’s become second nature. One thing I frequently tell families is that the two hands don’t have to have equal skills in order to be functional. Almost all of us have a dominant hand that does most of the work, I usually call the other hand the “helper hand.” It’s the stabilizer. We used this information to brainstorm: How do we stabilize or grip objects? How do we attach things to our bodies?

The wall and sticky notes quickly became our friends.

As the word wearable was written on the wall, Emily saw it as “we are able” and we quickly decided that was our team name. We continued brainstorming.

Emily took the lead and we began adding to our lists and calling out some really random things. At one point, I became extremely interested in the idea of electromagnetics. I excused myself from the group for a bit to consult with some engineering/tech friends: Philip Lindsay and Darian Ahler. One of the original team ideas was a bracelet with an attachment to stabilize something. In the case of zipping up a jacket, you would reach over to one side of the jacket and activate an electromagnet to stabilize the jacket, as your unaffected hand managed the zipper and pulled it up. My friends talked me through solenoids and balloon/coffee grounds grippers. As I tried to do some research on the feasibility of something higher tech, the rest of the team continued working on other ideas.

It was a real shuffle to present to the crowd and update them on our progress. It was also a good way to keep us moving forward. It was fun to hear what the other seven teams at the event were working on. There was clearly some amazing minds coming together to come up with beautiful, functional designs to benefit all.

Our design continued to develop that first day. We had the opportunity to consult with Brett Heising of brettapproved.com. He has limited dexterity in his right hand. He told us the most difficult tasks for him were tying a tie and buttoning the top button and sleeves of a dress shirt. I simulated our design theory by using my hand to form a “clip” and stabilize the material of his shirt sleeve held together. He still wasn’t able to button the button.

I asked Brett if he had ever used a button hook, which is a common buttoning aid. He said he had, but challenged us to come up with a better design. We realized that our stabilizer had the potential to develop by adding different attachments based on the individual needs. I continued problem-solving a tool for this specific task, but it is still in development.We Are Able Prototypes

The stabilizing gripper we had designed would facilitate tying a tie though and we began to list all of the activities it would help with. It could help zip up jackets, open ziplock baggies, open other packages, hold a fork for cutting with a knife, hold paper while cutting with scissors, and hold a smartphone for the other hand to easily access.

As our first day came to an end, we felt that the palm of the hand would provide more stability than the wrist and that a low tech attachment would be more feasible. The next day we would bring various materials and clips to problem-solve what would work best. We consulted with representatives from PSC Engineering who were on hand with 3-D printers to print out a modified version of a slide clip pants hanger clip, which is the type of attachment piece we were leaning towards.

As I left the first day, I was exhausted and exhilarated. Now that we had a basic concept, I needed some hands-on inspiration. I needed to touch and feel materials and process. I walked up and down every aisle of a local Wal-Mart letting my brain work through the possibilities. I bought ribbon, chain and leather bracelets, yarn, a crochet hook, metal picnic tablecloth clips, and various other supplies we could possibly use tomorrow to put together a prototype. I knew it wouldn’t be as pretty as I would like, but I knew it might help us make a functioning tool.

Friday morning was crunch time. Patricia set to work on the computer animated design. Jessica worked on the slides for the presentation. With everyone’s “supply” contribution in the middle of the table some of us began playing with materials. We ended up using the tablecloth hooks and reformed them into a universal cuff. We covered the metal in leather and attached a slide-lock hanger clip. We covered the clip in Sugru for aesthetics and for greater stability at the latch.

Winning DesignWe were still making changes it was time to present to the judges, but we were proud of what we made in just a short time. This small tool had the ability to assist people with cerebral palsy, stroke, arthritis and other disabilities be more functional and independent. Our presentation went well, and I really felt that the judges and the people in the room appreciated and valued our hard work and what we had done in such a short time. We were awarded the People’s Choice Award and a Google Chromecast each! Brett talked to us about a friend in Arizona that could help with bringing our design to market.

For me, the Design-athon was an opportunity to collaborate with like-minded people passionate about design and disability. It allowed me to blend my knowledge, creativity, and passion. Designing and making adaptive aides has been one of my life pursuits, and with this experience, I feel confident that I am moving in the right direction.

 

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Design-athon Draws Innovators

Enabled by Design-athon: DC Edition drew a diverse crowd of creative innovators excited by the potential to solve everyday challenges faced by people with disabilities. More than 160 people from as far away as India, Boston, Atlanta and San Francisco registered to attend the kick off event held Wednesday evening at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library. Lightning talks aimed to introduce attendees to some of the unique challenges faced by people with disabilities and some of the inspirations that led to innovation, while a social hour hosted by Design Thinking DC introduceDay 1 Team Meetingd participants to each other in anticipation of the workshop ahead.

Adrienne Biddings, Policy Council for Google talked about Google’s cadre of developers and engineers, many of whom had little knowledge of disability but who are always trained in accessible design within a month of joining Google’s team.

Brett Heising, the CEO & Founder of BrettApproved, related his own personal experiences as a person who uses a wheelchair in finding accessible travel accommodations – experiences which let to his start-up of a website offering reviews of destinations for travelers with disabilities.

Maria Town, founder of the blog CP Shoes, read aloud her “love letter” to shoe brand Converse and creatively brought home the love/hate relationship people with cerebral palsy sometimes have with their shoes and how an item others take for granted can play an outsized role in the life of a person with a disability.

Diego Marsical, founder of 2Gether International and a paralympian gave the crowd of 150 at the library a sense of the international disability community and the importance of the diversity of people with disabilities.

Phillip Reeves of DC Department of Small Business Development encouraged ambitious innovators to go for government funding, reminding them that the “Roomba” was once considered a weapon  to prove  a point about how government agencies such as the Department of Defense a are ready and able to fund high risk/high reward projects.

The talks ended with John Salmen, President of Universal Designers & Consultants, Inc. with an enlightening outline of the concept of universal design, or design for all.

Early the next morning 10 teams of eight participants each gathered at Google to start the Deisgn-athon workshop which would end with workable ideas to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The teams were greeted by Bob Gootzit from PCS Engineering 3D PrinterPSC Engineering 3D Printers3_D Printers

 

 

 

 

 

 

With access to a Cube Pro Duo and Cube Gen Three from PCS Engineering and the assistance of two experienced 3-D printer operators, the teams would have the latest technology to help bring their ideas to life.

Working in the hallsBut before they were able to take advantage of the printers, they first had come together as a team and come up with an idea. Mentors with disabilities and team facilitators kept teams on track, leading the teams through empathy exercises designed to simulate some aspects of certain disabilities. Often the empathy exercises led to brainstorms about how to tackle the very challenges the teams had just experienced.

By Friday afternoon, a  judge’s panel including UCP Chief Operating Officer Chris Thomson, Google’s Policy Council Adrienne Biddings, and Brett Heising, founder of  www.brettapproved.com, was evaluating 10 minute pitches from each team, who tried to convince the panel their product idea should win.

Judged on their idea’s innovation, feasibility, marketability and other factors, the teams sweated under the lights on a small stage at Google’s state-of-the-art D.C. offices. They were peppered with questions about how the products might work, who they might serve and how they might go about bringing them to market.Sketching 2

“If you plan on keeping your profit margins low, then what’s in it for an investor?”

“Have you researched the cost of raw materials?”

“How often would this software be updated?”

Tough questions for a skilled entrepreneur, much less a team of diverse participants who only met each other Wednesday night and had less than 36-hours to dream, develop and dig in to the nitty-gritty of creating their prototype and their pitch.

In the end, three teams walked away with praise and prizes from Google and TechShop.

The Judges’ Choice Award was presented for the concept of a browser plugin for Chrome to add on-demand definitions for idioms designed for people with autism and/or English-language learner. (created by Sirjay Kasturi, Sudhita Kasturi, Sun Chee Blair, David MacPherson, Amnah Azizi, Susan Herngenrather, Lindsay Schultz and Celene Moore). Each team member was awarded a Google Chromebook.

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The People’s Choice Award was presented to the team who came up with clip bracelet designed to provide stability for a hand with low-dexterity (created by Emily Flax, Clarice Torrey, Benjamin VanSelous, Jessica Bonness, Jessica Denson, Mike Ellis and John Levy). Each team member was awarded a membership to TechShop.

People's Choice

Best Prototype was awarded to the 3-D printed design for a relatch tool for keeping public bathroom doors with broken latches closed (created by Bita Salehi, Ken Ward, Mully Zacharia, Bagais Reem, Michelle Bendit, Jacob Johnson, Mallory Anderson, and R J Heller). Each team member was awarded a Google Chromecast.

Best Prototype

Other ideas included an ATV-style modular customized wheelchair, a compression sock using biometals, a shoe key, a magnetic opener, a “smart” pill dispenser, a commuter app to aggregate data for people with disabilities and an app to help caregivers record instructions for later review.

Design-athon is an initiative of United Cerebral Palsy’s Life Labs, which fosters innovation in design and technology for people with disabilities and is held each fall. Find out more about UCP, Life Labs and Design-athon online.

 

Special Thanks to our Sponsors and Partners:
Google, CareerBuilder, TechShop, Sprint Relay, CEA Foundation, Sugru, PCS Engineering, Design Thinking DC, George Washington University’s Corcorcan School of the Arts, Marymount University, Mt. Ida College, and Coroflot

 

 

 

Enabled by Design-athon Happening This Fall

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United Cerebral Palsy is bringing you another great event this fall! Sign up now to attend Enabled by Design-athon: D.C. Edition November 5-7. UCP’s Life Labs initiative is hosting this dynamic event to encourage innovation by designers, inventors, hackers and makers for the benefit of people with disabilities.

Spread the word to those you know who have the big ideas and perspective that have made three previous events in London, D.C. and, recently, Sydney, Australia, such a success. We’re looking to bring together teams of dreamers, including people with disabilities, to design and prototype accessible products which provide innovative solutions for the everyday challenges faced by people with various disabilities.

We’ll kick things off Wednesday evening, November 5 at the Great Hall at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, where the public is invited to network and hear from keynote speaker Adrienne Biddings, Policy Counsel for Google. Adrienne will bring her expertise in making communications media accessible, diverse and responsive to the needs of all segments of the community. Other speakers include Brett Heising of www.brettapproved.com and Maria Town, the influential blogger who created http://cpshoes.tumblr.com/ and representatives from iStrategy Labs. Also participating is the Corcoran/GWU School of Arts + Design.

Thursday, November 7, begins the two-day design workshop at Google’s D.C. offices where team will compete to come up with the best design. A $25 registration fee is required for the workshop, however, the Wednesday evening event is free and you do not have to participate in the full workshop to attend (registration is required and space is limited)

“This is an opportunity for designers, technologists, engineers, students, caregivers and people with disabilities to collaborate and learn from each other how to use human-centered universal design concepts to solve every day challenges,” said Marc Irlandez, Director of Information, Technology and Life Labs at UCP. “We believe good design goes a long way towards helping people live as independently as possible by making day-to-day tasks just a little easier.”

The event is sponsored by Google, Sprint Relay, PCS Engineering, Sugru and the CEA Foundation.

Registration opens today! Get more information at http://ucpdesignathon.org/.

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