Hackers and Do-Gooders

What do hackers and do-gooders have in common? Well the other day when I was looking for detail on some hacking incidents, I ran across this little tidbit – Join me in Hacking Autism. I was intrigued and went to the site Hacking Autism.

What an excellent idea. Instead of hacking for fun (white-hats) or profit (black-hats) here’s developers putting their talent into helping others. Hackers as do-gooders if you will, but not in a pejorative sense. In the actual meaning of the phrase to, namely to do good.

The site has an idea gallery where people can post things they think they needs. Developers can lend a hand by helping to create apps, tools, and utilities to help out autistic people. Obviously many skills are needed, more than just writing code. People who are really experienced in techniques for dealing with autism can be paired with developers to create simple reusable software to cause real improvement in peoples lives. This affects the autistic as well as their families.

This wonderful organization reminded me of my old friend Don Dalton who I haven’t seen in years. Way back in the pre-internet days I met Don when he was running the Micro Overflow BBS. I was doing sysop work for him and was surprised to find out that he’s a quadriplegic. His typing was doing with a small stick in his mouth. More surprising however was his occupation. He was dedicated to finding the right tools, training, and technology to help handicapped individual lead happy productive lives.

In some cases a proper powered wheelchair and battery would allow a young adult to go to college. In other cases training or software might allow someone to have a job and let them not only be stimulated and fulfilled, but even to some cash in their pocket. Don doesn’t see people as problems to be tucked away and ignored. He evaluates their needs and capabilities and helps them improve their lives.

Micro Overflow has since morphed into Assistive Technologies and is still helping people lead better lives.

Next time you’re thinking about another round of Angry Birds or Madden NFL, why not think about giving back, surely there is somewhere you can help.

[Update 2011-09-11]
Interesting article in USA Today about using the iPad to educate special needs children. It notes that there are about40,000 educational apps for the iPad. Not sure how many are targeted towards special needs.
[/Update]

[Update 2011-02-22]
Another interesting article in Time about using Asperger’s Syndrome skills to do software testing.
[/Update]

Leave a Reply