Vodafone and BIMA Digital Day students create shopping experience for people with autism

Vodafone and students at the Abbot's Lea School in Liverpool, a school for young people with autism, recently created an in-store shopping experience for people with autism in partnership with BIMA for its Digital Day initiative.

BIMA Digital Day is an annual national day of action in November that connects digital and tech companies with students in schools across the UK. Over 5000 students took part in 2018, with that figure expected to jump this year.

This year, Vodafone UK was one of three Challenge Partners, along with BBC Studios and The FA.

The student team from Abbot's Lea was selected from over 1700 entries into the BIMA Digital Day Vodafone UK Challenge 2018.

On 27 June the students claimed their prize to work with Vodafone UK product managers, UX experts and front-end developers to design a VR experience that would make shopping more fun and less overwhelming for people with autism.

Vodafone's head of digital experience at Vodafone UK said he was impressed by the students and their ideas, saying that during one session the students came up with 45 ideas in five minutes.

“We were blown away by the unfiltered nature of the ideas, and the creativity,” said Adam Butt.

“Being part of the community they were designing this product for really allowed them to understand the finer detail and bring that to life with a lot of humour, and a great deal of creativity.”

You can see more of what Vodafone UK got up to at Abbot's Lea in the video above, which was produced by Amoveo.

Having a winning team come from a specialist school sends an important message to the industry, as the digital and tech sector already has twice the UK average of neurodivergent people working in it.

However, as Paul Davenport, Key Stage leader at Abbot’s Lea School said, the contribution that could be made by autistic people is too often overlooked.

“Sometimes people with neurodiversity will look at things in a completely different way, which results in completely different ideas.” Davenport went on to say,

“BIMA Digital Day is important to my students, as they have autism and special educational needs. The chances for them to find different types of career is quite difficult.”

As well as barriers to people with special needs within the industry, BIMA has also found that over one third (34%) of students feel they don't get the breadth of digital learning they need.

Computing and ICT courses only offer access to a specific and limited area of digital skills, like coding, leading BIMA to warn that limiting digital education to the computer room is a blinkered approach that will damage the economy long term.

Digital Day 2019 takes place on 12 November across the UK, and is part of the range of initiatives run by the BIMA Young Talent Council. Almost 200 schools around the UK participated in BIMA Digital Day last year. Schools and agencies can sign up to take part now.