Minister on "transforming awareness of ATech across society."
On 14 June at London Tech Week 2023, the Minister for Disabled People Tom Pursglove MP spoke at the launch of the ATech Policy Lab's report on Frontline Accessibility. The Minister's full speech can be read below.
"I’m sorry, I’m not able to join you live, but I’m pleased to be able to address such a diverse group of representatives from the ATech sector today.
At the outset, I’d like to thank London Tech Advocates for Disability, and the ATech Policy Lab, for holding this session as part of London Tech Week.
We will publish the Disability Action Plan by the end of this year, which will set out the practical action that ministers across the Government will take over the remaining term of this Parliament to improve disabled people’s lives.
As everyone here today will be aware, ATech has the power to transform lives – allowing disabled people to break down barriers in education, employment and independent living. This can be someone with a visual impairment who uses an AI-powered app to turn their phone camera into a sighted assistant, describing the world around them; or someone with arthritis, who uses a built-in voice-typing feature to take breaks from typing.
In fact, accessible design benefits all of us – as we’ve seen with the way captions have become part of how many of us consume video, whether we’re disabled or not. Indeed, it has recently been reported that 85% of Netflix customers in the UK use captions. We have a vibrant ATech sector in the UK – including globally-leading ATech developers, world-class ATech research in our universities, and many extraordinary charities that directly support disabled people to use ATech.
This is why I don’t think it’s too ambitious to say that we should aim to make the UK the most accessible place in the world to live and work with technology. This isn’t something the Government can do alone, but it is achievable when we work in partnership.
I’m delighted that Policy Connect are publishing this report today on ‘Frontline Accessibility’. The team at the Disability Unit have engaged closely with the ATech Policy Lab as well as the APPG for Assistive Technology, which Policy Connect also supports. The ATech Policy Lab is a great example of policymakers (a think tank), charities (the Ace Centre) and academia (Bournemouth University) working collaboratively, and with the wider ATech sector.
I know as well that the work of this report was made possible by a donation from the Ian Karten Charitable Trust, and I believe we’re all grateful for their contribution. I’ve had the opportunity to review an advanced copy of the executive summary of the ‘Frontline Accessibility’ report, which I found incredibly valuable.
I welcome the report’s focus on transforming awareness of ATech across society. Lack of awareness is something that has been emphasised consistently to me and my team, as I’ve met with people in the ATech and wider disability sector. There are so many fantastic tools that schools, care settings and workplaces can use to help drive inclusion – but too many simply don’t know what they don’t know. But I know also, that the ATech sector is making strides to increase awareness, and I’m proud that the Government has already begun to partner on several of these efforts: from the pilot of ATech training for teachers in 150 schools, to training for over 20,000 work coaches in Job Centres, to new initiatives, such as the British Association for Supported Employment’s project to upskill job coaches, and many others, which I know are detailed in the report.
I’m looking forward to considering the report’s recommendations in full, to see what role the Government can play, working with the tech sector and disability sectors, to deliver access to ATech for all who need it."