Why everyone should be interested in this accessibility hackathon - Baltimore


Mar. 29, 2016 12:17 pm

Why everyone should be interested in this accessibility hackathon

The Abilities Hackathon is set for April 22-24. Ed Slattery says there's a lot of innovation that you can help shape.

Inside the Digital Harbor Tech Center.

(Courtesy photo)

Ed Slattery is always looking for innovation that can help people with disabilities.

After an accident left his son Matthew with a traumatic brain injury, Slattery undertook a massive renovation to make his home accessible. The upgrades include a power-assist chairlift and iPad-controlled functions.

“You look at the world very differently,” he said.

So when he attended the Baltimore Hackathon in the fall and saw a wheelchair controlled by a Myo armband, he was inspired to see hackers thinking about the disabled community. Slattery was so inspired he announced that he was organizing an event that day.

Next month, it’s happening.

The armchair team at the 2015 Baltimore Hackathon.

The armchair team at the 2015 Baltimore Hackathon. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Slattery is working with several members of the Digital Harbor Foundation staff and other Baltimore tech folks to hold the Abilities Hackathon. Held April 22-24 at the tech center, the hackathon will focus on four categories:

  • Transportation/Mobility
  • Wearables
  • Leisure/Entertainment
  • Open Software/Hardware

Technologists of all abilities are encouraged to attend. After all, accessible technologies are beneficial to everyone.


There’s $15,000 in prize money available, and the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology, Betamore and Direct Dimensions are also sponsors.

Along with makers and developers, the organizers are looking to bring in experts who work with the disabled community. They have already been holding brainstorming sessions at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.


Slattery said there is no shortage of issues to dig into. As he cares for Matthew, he’s run into issues like keeping people in a wheelchair dry, the need for ramps that adapt to their environment and transportation issues.

“This is a forgotten group in the community,” he said.
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