In today’s rapidly evolving work landscape, the emphasis on inclusion and accessibility has never been more critical. This urgency underpins the innovative hackathon convened by the University of Cambridge ThinkLab, in collaboration with Google’s REWS Team and BBC CAPE and hosted by the Intellectual Forum at Jesus College, Cambridge. Scheduled to take place in person on 11-12 December, this event aims to tackle the complexities of neurodiversity in the workplace, focusing on creating accessible and equitable hybrid work environments.
ThinkLab, neurodiversity and accessibility
The University of Cambridge ThinkLab serves as a vibrant research conduit, fostering collaborations and knowledge exchange between researchers and partner organisations to provide innovative solutions to real-world problems. With a commitment to accessibility and neurodiversity, ThinkLab strives to dismantle obstacles faced by individuals with disabilities and distinct learning differences in various realms, including education and employment.
ThinkLab’s commitment to this mission began in earnest in 2020 through a collaboration with AVIVA and notably accelerated in 2021 with a key partnership with BBC CAPE. In this significant collaboration, ThinkLab researchers collaborated closely with BBC specialists, delving into the complex aspects of neurodiversity in the workplace. Our approach was comprehensive, including literature reviews, the analysis of online testimonials, and firsthand interviews with neurodiverse employees. This methodology enabled us to enact practical and impactful workplace adjustments. These initiatives enriched the work culture at the BBC and also ignited broader discussions and initiatives across Cambridge.
The progression of our work led us to an eye-opening visit to Google ADC, a hub of innovation in accessibility and digital wellbeing at the heart of London. Witnessing first-hand the remarkable advantages of collaborative efforts between researchers, designers and accessibility practitioners in improving inclusion in workplaces, we were inspired to channel this inspiration into organising a joint hackathon with BBC CAPE and Google.
Why this hackathon, on these topics, now?
The timing of this hackathon couldn’t be more crucial. In the UK, 15% of the working-age population is neurodivergent, yet their representation in the workforce is disproportionately low. One of the key reasons behind this statistic is inadequate workplace practices and design. As remote and hybrid work models gain traction, the unique challenges they pose, particularly for neurodiverse individuals, call for immediate and innovative solutions.
ThinkLab, alongside BBC and Google, recognises the urgent need to confront these challenges directly. This hackathon is a proactive initiative to transform work environments into spaces that are inclusive and accommodating for everyone.
What is a hackathon anyway and how will it help?
The two-day hackathon will see multidisciplinary teams developing innovative solutions and presenting them to their peers and industry professionals. These solutions could range from short research reports and informative infographics to innovative games, workplace navigation tools, new business processes, software specifications, event designs, films, or animations.
The outcomes of this hackathon are set to influence future practices, policies, and research in the realms of neurodiversity and accessibility. They will not only impact the participating organisations but also set benchmarks for others. A comprehensive report, freely available, will encapsulate best practices and guidelines for developing inclusive work environments and adjustments.
While the days promise to be intense with activities, they will also be interspersed with fun, creative group work, and play activities. These will not only foster a sense of team spirit but also provide opportunities for participants to expand their professional networks and engage in meaningful exchanges.
The completion of this hackathon marks the beginning of a new chapter in addressing neurodiversity and accessibility in the workplace. Going forward, we anticipate the adoption and adaptation of the solutions and ideas generated during this event across various industries. We envision a future where the insights from this hackathon spark further innovations and collaborations, ultimately leading to workplaces that truly embody inclusivity and accessibility. The journey towards a more understanding and accommodating professional world continues, and this hackathon is a significant stride in that direction.
For more information and updates on the Hackathon, please keep an eye on this space and follow our social media channels.
The application deadline is Tuesday, December 5th.