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Leveraging the unique talents of people with Autism to help re-launch elsie

News story

Bentley based students are enjoying the return of elsie, the mobile app that provides access to their units, assessments and timetable information at the tap of a button.

AASQA students testing elsie

Ahead of the elsie re-launch, Curtin’s Digital Student Engagement team took part in a hackathon with the Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA), a Curtin social initiative, where 12 students from year 10 to undergraduates with autism spent two days rigorously testing elsie.

“It was an opportunity to get current students and prospective students involved in the development of the app – prospective students especially as it’s harder for us to recruit them for user testing,” said April Pott, Development Team Leader.

“The Autism Academy [AASQA] leverages the talents of people with Autism that are ideally suited to testing software so they are an ideal source of talent.”

During the hackathon, the students discovered issues like user interface inconsistencies and problems with some accessibility settings. “The type of issues identified and discovered were quite different from the type generally identified by our business areas or developers,” explained senior developer Mitchell Sullivan.

Ahead of the hackathon, the team undertook Autism awareness training run by Therapy Focus, a provider of professional therapy services, supporting children and adults with a range of disabilities throughout Western Australia.

This training highlighted the need for understanding and patience when working with people with Autism, and how being adaptable to their needs can lead to very earnest and hard-working employees.

Mitchell found that interacting and socialising with the students was easier than expected, “The training made me aware that outward social cues may not be reliable or accurate for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder to quite a significant degree.”

Like many people in society, those living with Autism have similar aspirations and goals to gain fulfilling employment, however their challenges in areas such as communication and creating social bond can sometimes be a barrier to achieving these goals. It is through initiatives like AASQA and involving people with Autism in programs like the elsie hackathon that steps can be taken towards better inclusivity in the workplace.

*Dell Australia generously donated gift cards and a top prize of a Dell laptop valued at $1500 for the best performing testers. Curtin University donated gift cards for all other testers as appreciation for their participation.