Technology is an enabler to break down barriers. So on October 17th 2015 we took our digital battering ram and smashed through some walls.
Our first-ever fully accessible Upload Live digital festival was aimed at those with a range of accessibility issues – visual, hearing, physical or mental – to learn alongside those without any impairments.
The day-long event was held in partnership with the Barclays accessibility team and charities RNIB, RSLB and the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
It saw 137 people gain new skills. We even taught two guide dogs in attendance a few new digital tricks.
To prepare for the day, all the Freeformers team went through accessibility training and we made our content, presentations and resources fully accessible. This included adjusting the contrast colours on slides, providing cheat sheets so participants could easily follow along and offering facilitators in each group. After an opening address from Matt Jeffries, of role matching platform for young people Rise To, participants were split into four groups to learn:
– Code (building an ‘About Me’ webpage from scratch)
– Social Media (how to promote their personal brand online and search for job opportunities)
– App Development (ideate an app idea and prototype it from scratch)
– Cyber Security (learn the means to protect all of their online accounts, deter hackers and understand how to detect insecure WiFi)
There was also a Selfie competition and each app idea stood a chance of reaching a grand final at the end of the day, judged by the entire audience. The winning app was called Hummin’Bird, an app that picked up surrounding noises and translated them into text explanations. One member of the team had a visual impairment, prompting the necessity of such an app.
During lunch, we also held a tech showcase of some of the latest kit including the first-ever Braille iPad, 3D Printing, Drones and virtual reality using the Oculus Rift headset.
Thanks to the event, we received 15 applications from people wanting to become a trainer at Freeformers. This led to us hiring Ayo, a 22-year-old who had recently graduated from Goldsmiths University where she studied Computer Science. She will now develop her programming skills with us and hopes to launch an app.
Ayo said: “Technology is the future and Freeformers seemed like the kind of environment I’d thrive in. Once I heard they were hiring, I just knew I had to apply. They ticked every box on my long list.”
We were also fortunate enough to have two trainers from the event Benika Brown and Cherelle Sampson (co-founders of Shaping Tomorrow’s Women) apply to be on our one_to1 mentoring programme. A member of our one_for1 alumni, Arooj, also came to volunteer. She was part of the group we trained on BBC Three programme Girls Can Code.
Twenty of the attendees also signed up to the Rise To platform, which will allow us to track their progress.
We’ll leave the final word to one attendee Rosie, 20. She said: “This has been an amazing event, everyone has been helpful and really supportive and I have learnt a lot today which will hopefully help me with future opportunities.”