Technology plays an increasingly important role in all our daily lives and the theme of this year’s International Day of Disabled People – the promise of technology – highlights that. For disabled people, the right tools and adaptations can be a fantastic enabler, promoting inclusion and opening up opportunity.
The government is committed to working with disabled people and others to remove barriers so that they can fulfil their potential and participate fully in society. That includes getting businesses to focus on the needs of disabled people – both as employees and customers – and for local communities to be accessible and inclusive.
One in five people in the UK has a disability and disabled people and their households have a spending power of over £200 billion. So thinking about accessibility and inclusion makes good sense for any business and community.
Projects like Hearing Link’s ‘Lets Loop the UK’ are working hard to promote inclusion. This ambitious campaign is designed to increase the quality and availability of hearing loop systems in businesses, shops and public buildings – initially in pilot areas, with the aim of rolling out nationally.
Our work with partners on the Disability Confident campaign is showing how simple solutions, such as improving accessibility, can support the recruitment and retention of disabled people.
Fujitsu’s Disability Passport scheme is a great example of this. It ensures that a record of an employee’s agreed adjustments and other relevant information is held centrally. This means that whenever an employee moves roles or changes line manager, this information is readily available, ensuring that new managers are aware from the outset and that support can be put in place seamlessly.
In addition, DWP is working with Community Service Volunteers to develop and pilot National Job Shadowing Day today. I’m delighted that the Department is part of this initiative to support young disabled people, to showcase talent and raise aspirations, and I’m looking forward to being shadowed today.
The development of aids and products for disabled people has not kept pace with evolving technologies, such as smartphones, GPS, Kindles and the Internet. There is a real opportunity for businesses to be creative and to develop new products.
That’s why we have launched the Inclusive Technology Prize to generate greater excitement about accessible technologies and their potential to make life easier for disabled people, their families, friends and carers.
The prize offers a significant opportunity for disabled people to take the lead in devising and developing innovative solutions and creative adaptions to help Britain’s 12.2m disabled people and their families to lead more independent lives.
International Day of Disabled People is a day for and about disabled people. Technology developed with disabled people offers a great opportunity and I know that across the country there are projects and innovations already in place that are helping to make a practical difference. I would be interested to hear more about these, so please contact the Office for Disability Issues at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Harper MP
Minister for Disabled People