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Our Social Hackathons programme ran throughout Reading Week in February. Through these events, UCL students collaborated with local charities and community organisations to help solve their most pressing issues.

2nd year Astrophysics student Dorad Hasani took part in Age UK Westminster’s Social Hackathon, helping to make their website more visually impaired-friendly. Read on to find out what he thought of the experience!

Tell us what you did!

We went to Age UK Westminster and we were tasked with revamping their website, in order to make it more accessible to people who are visually impaired. The website target users are older people, so the need for a website that allowed people to access it regardless of visual ability was really important.

We discussed ideas and researched what we could implement in order for the website to be more accessible to those who are visually impaired. We looked at how other websites were rendered in order to be more user-friendly to our target audience, including different widgets that changed the colour scheme of a website. We created a document listing the different ideas that would be useful, highlighting those which are short-term and could be implemented straight away, and solutions that are long-term and needed further permissions.

What made you decide to sign up for this Social Hackathon?

I thought that this would be an interesting opportunity, especially in terms of the website redesigning aspect. As someone who’s gravitating towards a career in coding and IT, getting some volunteering experience in this field was really insightful in showing how technology benefits anyone and everyone. It was amazing to combine my passion for technology in a beneficial and altruistic way.

I think it was amazing to see how much we accomplished in one session, considering we never worked as a group before. I think the other students and I collaborated really well and efficiently. I’m happy that we have potentially helped lots of people with this new website redevelopment.

Were there any challenges?

I think putting ourselves in the shoes of someone with a visual disability was a learning experience. It also made me more aware of issues surrounding the inaccessibility of technology for those with visual impairment, and I hope that we made a difference to the website users.

I think it’s really important to do initiatives like this Hackathon, as we are in a world that is dominated by technology and if it is not accessible to people who are visually impaired, it could further social isolation and exclusion, which is already a growing issue for older people. 

Would you recommend doing a Social Hackathon to others?

Yes, definitely! It was only a day, which shows how much time you can actually do something productive. I think it helped me practice skills that I wouldn’t utilise daily, including delegating, team work and working in a new and different environment.

If Dorad's story has got you inspired to volunteer with Age UK Westminster - check out all their current opportunities. We've also got lots of computer and IT- related roles as well, so you have lots to choose from! 

You can also find out more about our Social Hackathons and let us know if you’d like to be contacted ahead of the next events!