Designing policy to make technology work for each and every one of us, throughout our lives – a new venture from Policy Connect, Bournemouth University and the Ace Centre.
Today, a new Assistive and Accessible Technology (ATech) Policy Lab will be announced at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology. Minister for Disabled People Chloe Smith MP and parliamentarian Paul Maynard MP will lead the launch.
Rapid digitalisation in response to the pandemic has brought more and more of our daily lives online, including our workplaces, shopping and public services.
There is now an urgent need to make sure that technology allows everyone to participate fully in our increasingly online society. Not all digital devices, hardware and software are user-friendly for each and every one of us. Accessibility needs to be designed into technology from the start
This is why cross-party think tank Policy Connect is today announcing the launch of an ATech Policy Lab, designing public policy so technology works for everyone. When done correctly, tech can be life-changing for older and disabled people, enabling people to live healthy, rewarding and independent lives.
The ATech Policy Lab is launched in partnership with Bournemouth University and the Ace Centre. Bournemouth University has made ATech one of its four Strategic Investment Areas, building on its established research specialism in the field. Bournemouth University's expertise in assistive technology spans a range of disciplines; from health and wellbeing tools, to engineering, prosthetics and psychology. Researchers are engaged in creating interventions to help people live better, for longer. Ace Centre is a national charity providing services enabling people with complex needs to communicate by using technology. The partnership with these organisations will provide academic rigour and expertise in service delivery to the Lab’s work.
The Lab will bring together disabled people, sector leaders and researchers to get into the detail of policy design, incubate new ideas, stress test the best proposals and generate the evidence and insight that moves policymakers to action. This will be done through interactive policy design workshops, targeted policy proposal papers, collaborative research projects and more.
The Lab builds on recent momentum in ATech policy. The government’s recent National Disability Strategy makes tech a clear priority. This is encapsulated by its new ambition to ‘make the UK the most accessible place in the world to live and work with technology’, and significant government funding has been set aside to scope a Centre for Assistive and Accessible Technology.
Paul Maynard MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology, said: “Technology can be made to work for everyone – by designing inclusively, and providing access and support, it can transform the lives of disabled and older people. As the incoming chair of the APPG for Assistive Technology I am proud of the role the group continues to have in raising the profile of this pressing agenda. It’s a sign of the momentum behind this agenda that Policy Connect, the cross-party think tank that provides the secretariat to the APPG, is today launching its Assistive and Accessible Technology (ATech) Policy Lab. The Lab will work closely with the APPG and wider stakeholders and policymakers to help translate our shared enthusiasm for ATech into fully designed and evidence-based policy solutions.”
Professor Tim McIntyre-Bhatty, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Bournemouth University, said “Our partnership in the ATech Policy Lab is an example of the University’s commitment to enriching society through the fusion of research, education and practice. We are excited about using our expertise in this area to contribute to the ongoing development of policies and technologies that make a real difference to people’s lives.”
Professor Christos Gatzidis, Convener for Assistive Technology at Bournemouth University, said: “We’re passionate about creating accessible technology that creates a fairer society for all and allows people to live better lives free from restriction. Our research and knowledge spans healthcare, engineering and digital and we want to use this expertise to make a difference in the policy landscape too.”
Robert McLaren, Director of the ATech Policy Lab at Policy Connect, said: “Assistive and Accessible Technology (ATech) has the attention of policymakers as never before. The government’s National Disability Strategy states a new ambition to ‘help make the UK the most accessible place in the world to live and work with technology’, and the Leader of the Opposition discussed how ATech can boost educational outcomes during his Conference Speech. We need to work with disabled people, the tech sector, third sector and academia to translate this enthusiasm and shared commitment into the well-designed, evidence-based, and funded initiatives that will transform ATech access and support for users on the ground. That’s why I am excited to lead the ATech Policy Lab along with my talented and growing team. With our supporting partners Ace Centre and Bournemouth University and wider stakeholders we can inform public policy to unlock the full potential of technology to break down barriers for disabled people and bring the benefits of accessibility to everyone.”
Anna Reeves, Ace Centre, said: “Disabled people are already using technology to break down barriers in their lives, from communication, to education, to living independently. But for too many, the support to use Assistive and Accessible Technology (ATech) still isn’t there – often because of a simple lack of awareness. The Ace Centre is a leading charity providing ATech assessment, training and information services across England, with a focus on those with complex needs. We’re proud to partner with Policy Connect on the ATech Policy Lab, bringing the expertise from our colleagues and clients, to design evidence-based policy solutions that will close the gaps in ATech provision and awareness.”