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Journey to Independence: Assistive Technology & Skills

Journey to Independence: Assistive Technology & Skills

2nd August 2017

In this first meeting of the Parliamentary year, the Assistive Technology Group and the APPG on Skills & Employment joined together to examine the skills challenge facing the assistive technology sector and it’s users.

The Groups discussed just some of the key barriers for users of AT and why addressing these skills challenges are so crucial in answering larger questions regarding inclusivity for those with various disabilities and impairments in the workplace and wider society. Although important work is already taking place across the globe to develop solutions, it is critical to ensure that the two worlds of AT and skills in the UK are working together to deliver effectively for people with assistive technology needs, aiding them on their “journey to independence”.

The Group's heard from leading sector experts:

  • Lord Chris Holmes, Member of the House of Lords and Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer
  • Anna Reeves DL, Centre Manager, ACE Centr
  • Lucy Proctor, Chief Executive, Royal National College for the Blind 
  • Paul Doyle, Head of Access, Research and Development, Hereward College

The conversation was dominated by the increasing need in the world of skills and education, to ensure that AT responses meet the needs of all users across the UK.The meeting called for: 

  • Skills: There is a large need for an increase in skills, which leads to a need for training across professions about AT, accessibility and usability. This should take place both through official routes i.e. standardised qualifications, but should also be integrated into current forms of skills training across various professions. At the heart should be emphasis on understanding the context of the user;
  • Education: Children should be taught usability and accessibility as part of the national curriculum to allow the next generation to be inclusive from the outset;
  • Design: Inclusive design of products, programmes and software should be more widely rolled out, perhaps supported by legislation, encouraging developers to work with end-users at the design stage;
  • Funding: Improved mechanisms for funding are necessary to ensure appropriate procurement and encourage collaborative working across different institutions, organisations and individuals;
  • Data: In order for all organisations to more widely understand the needs of users, data needs to be opened up, research on abandonment should be pursued, patient/user organisations should be more widely included so that the information they gain directly from user can be used most effectively.