AbilityNet tells Commons Select Committee how tech can help disabled people in the workplace

AbilityNet’s head of digital inclusion, Robin Christopherson MBE was amongst the experts called to give evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into Assistive Technology in the workplace. The inquiry is part of government’s aim to see one million more disabled people in employment in the next decade.

On 31 January, the Committee invited Robin, along with a representative from Microsoft to give evidence on the role assistive technology can play in improving disabled people's employment rates.

How technology can help disabled people in the workplace

The Committee is asking three key questions:

  • What role can assistive technology play in removing barriers to work and helping disabled people stay in work?
  • How should the Government support the development of this technology, and are there any particular innovations it should look to support?
  • Is Access to Work the most effective means of providing access to assistive technology? Should other funding models be considered?

There were two panels: the first comprised assistive technology users and Access to Work assessors. The second included AbilityNet and Hector Minto of Microsoft, representing IT manufacturers. 

Parliament TV showed the session live and the recording is online now

Both panels were played live on Parliament TV, with Robin and Hector Minto from Microsoft giving evidence from 10:24.

Mainstream tech solutions can help disabled people

Robin spoke about that fact that, as well as specialist assistive technologies, the latest mainstream technologies can now meet the needs of many disabled people often for free or at low cost. 

He also explained how emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence are bringing solutions such as voice recognition and image recognition that can be of huge value to many disabled people.

Robin also spoke about AbilityNet’s My Computer My Way website, which shows simple adjustments to computers, smartphones and other tech depending on ability. He also mentioned ClearTalents, a job application service which helps employees and employers identify adjustments they can make to create the best working environment, depending on their individual needs and circumstance.

Robin Christopherson with Tracey Johnson and Hector Minto at the House of Commons Select Committee on 31 January 2018

Speaking after the session Robin said:

“It was a huge honour to be able to give evidence and have the opportunity to contribute to this very important remit – namely to review and make recommendations to help improve the employment opportunities of disabled people in the UK through technology. With the right adjustment and often very basic support, disabled people can perform on a par with non-disabled people.

"It's important for individuals to be given a level playing field, but it's now recognised that having a diverse workforce is good for business - it makes for better products and services. If we can crack the challenge of equipping everyone to perform at their best, then that’s better for our workers of both today and tomorrow.”

Read AbilityNet's written submission

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