Hackathon for blind charity produces dating app that puts personalities before looks

RLSBA new dating app that focuses on personalities, not selfies was one of the outcomes of a recent hackathon to tackle common challenges faced by blind young people.

The hackathon, hosted by the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) and supported by Rewired State, challenged 20 developers to investigate how technology could improve dating opportunities for blind people, and increase social interaction with their sighted peers.

A second challenge sought to find tech solutions to break down the barriers to employment for blind young people.

The dating app was the winner of four innovative ideas that came out of the two-day hackathon. The format of the dating app allows people to send out 6-second voice messages until they find a match. Once you match you can talk in 6-second memos and the more you talk the more time you unlock for chatting and developing a relationship.

The winning team talked about the inspiration behind the app:

“We were inspired by RLSB’s Kevin Satizabal who is blind and talked to us about his dating experiences – he said you fall in love with the voice first, there’s so much richness and intonation within a voice that gives clues to a person’s personality. For us this seemed like a great way to connect all people, not just those with vision impairment.”

The challenges set by RLSB were based on real life problems faced by blind people; at present, the majority of vision impaired people fail to develop a positive nurturing relationship and nine out of 10 people who lose their sight in youth will not work for more than six months of their lives.

Tom Pey, Chief Executive of the Royal London Society for Blind People, speaks about the importance of the event:

“We know from experience that with technological advances and developments comes increased independence and confidence for vision-impaired people. Our recent involvement in the development of an app called Wayfindr inspired us to look at what technology could achieve in other areas, in this case dating and employment.

“We are incredibly pleased with this weekend’s outcomes and can’t wait to get started on doing even more to improve the lives of blind young people.”

Kevin Lewis at Rewired State, speaks about the event:

“I thought it was great to see so many amazing designers and developers in the room for two days giving up their time for such a great cause. I organise a lot of different hacks but this was definitely one where I could see real social good coming from it.”

Other ideas that came out of the hackathon included;

  • A community-led website/app that allows disabled people to share their stories of getting and having a job and provides other disabled peers with advice on job hunting and opportunities.
  • An app that allows a user to retrace the steps of another, just using mobile devices.
  • An app to help blind people arrive at a very specific destination in a safe and accessible way.

RLSB will now present all four ideas to young blind people, including their Youth Forum and explore opportunities for developing the apps further.

The hackathon was part of RLSB’s month long ‘London without Limits’ festival – a series of sensory events, which aims to raise awareness of some of the challenges blind young people face on a daily basis.

To raise awareness of the challenges blind young Londoners face on a daily basis, festival partners will hold unique blindfolded events until 30th July. From a blindfolded dating event with Match.com, blindfolded wine tastings at Vinoteca and blindfolded tours of Vauxhall City Farm, visitors will experience London pastimes like never before.

London without Limits started at the end of June. All the events happening during the festival can be found here.

To find out more about ‘London without Limits’ and find out how you can take part, visit www.rlsb.org.uk/londonwithoutlimits or follow #ldnwithoutlimits on Twitter.

RLSB – (Royal London Society for Blind People) exists to empower blind and partially sighted young people to live life without limits. Through an expert blend of education, sports, creative and developmental services, we help the people we work with live and learn for the life they want. www.rlsb.org.uk

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