Inclusive Design

Accessible Innovation at Barclays Hackathon

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Late last year, Barclays hosted the Superheroes vs. Master Hackers Hackathon in New York City.

Organized and run by AngelHack, the event attracted a diverse group of more than 110 men and women from across the U.S. who competed for cash prizes and a chance to grow their ideas in the Barclays Accelerator Fast Track program.Barclays Heroes vs. Hackers logo. Diamond shaped logo cut in half with a cartoon woman super hero on the left and a man on the right with a red shield over his eyes.

As a sponsor of the event and business partner of Barclays, IBM was asked to send mentors to introduce the coders to accessibility and gamification. I was asked to represent IBM during the kickoff event and led a discussion on accessibility.

I shared some of the latest statistics regarding age and ability:

  • People with disabilities: 15 percent of the worldwide population has some form of disability[i]
  • Baby Boomers: more than 35 percent of the US will be over the age of 50 by 2020[ii] [iii] and 20 percent will be over 65 by 2030[iv]
  • Foreign language speakers: More than 61 million people in the United States speak a language other than English at home[v]

I emphasized the importance of these audiences, especially their spending power in the U.S.; persons with disabilities have a $175 billion in discretionary spending[vi] and Baby Boomers have $3 trillion in buying power[vii]. I also talked about how accessibility is becoming mainstream and how everyone is at some point “situationally disabled.” For instance, we can talk to our phones when accessing information in the bright outdoors and read captions on TVs in loud places. We all benefit from accessible solutions.

I asked them, “Who are your customers?” and encouraged them to include everyone. Shortly afterwards, I heard a member of a team say, “It should be easy enough that my grandmother can use it.”

This made me smile. They got it!

I applaud Barclays for introducing the hackers to accessibility as part of the hackathon and for attracting such a wide range of individuals with different backgrounds and talents. Bringing all these diverse ideas to the table ensures innovation that includes everyone. That’s what accessibility is all about.

Video courtesy of Noah Workman of Iris MediaWorks.


Hackabilities,”, 2015.

[i]Factsheet on Persons with Disabilities,” United Nations Enable, 2007.

[ii] “Top 10 Demographics & Interests Facts About Americans Age 50+,” American Association of Retired Persons, May, 2014.

[iii] “2014 National Population Projections,” US Census 2014.

[iv] “An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States,” US Census Bureau, 2014.

[v] “One in Five U.S. Residents Speaks Foreign Language at Home, Record 61.8 million,” Center for Immigration Studies, 2014.

[vi] “Customers with Disabilities Mean Business,” U.S. Dept. of Justice, 2013.

[vii] “What marketers should know about pitching to Baby Boomers,” The Ethical Nag, 2011.

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