#WeThe15 is about breaking down barriers - assistive and accessible technology is part of that movement

There is just a week to go before the world’s elite athletes will compete in the Paralympic games. But the starting piston has already fired on something even bigger. Today marks the launch of a new global movement for disability visibility, inclusion and accessibility. 

Disabled people are 15% of the world’s population. Over the next decade, the #WeThe15 movement will put disability at the heart of an intersectional diversity and inclusion agenda. With supporters spanning the International Paralympic Committee to the International Disability Alliance to the Valuable 500 business group, #WeThe15 will campaign to break down barriers wherever they appear. 

Technology has to be part of this vision - not as a bolt-on or sub-category of concern but as a thread running through. #WeThe15 launches just over a decade since the modern smartphone made technology a part of everyday living for so many of us; today, Covid restrictions have accelerated the trend of ‘digital by default’ across private and public services. The decade of activism inaugurated on this date will also be a decade of rapid innovation with profound effects on how we live and work. 

This makes assistive and accessible technology essential so that digital truly enables everyone - rather than becoming a barrier itself. So it’s fantastic to see the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) and ATScale are already partners in the movement. As Victoria Austin, CEO of the GDI Hub CIC and Co-Director of the WHO Global Collaborating Centre on Assistive Technology at UCL said has said: 

"Through our work, the value of disability innovation and assistive technology is undeniable, without which, the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] have no hope of being achieved, trillions of pounds will be lost to the economy and most importantly, the world’s disabled people will not achieve independence and freedom. We cannot give up, and it will be hard. But together, we can do hard things and never has it been more necessary to find our strength in each other – in all of our beautiful diversity."

This evening, Parliament will be lit up in purple - joining more than 125 iconic landmarks around the world celebrating the launch of the movement. When normal parliamentary business resumes in September, I look forward to working with the APPG for Assistive Technology, GDI Hub and disabled people’s organisations, to bring the purple light of the #WeThe15 campaign into the room with policymakers.