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Lack of tech shuts disabled people out of job opportunities

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology calls for an empowered National Assistive Technology Champion to develop and deliver a framework guaranteeing access to digital that works for all.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology (APPGAT) welcomes the Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Stephen Timms MP to the launch of their new report, Talent & Technology: Building bridges to employment for disabled people. Business Disability Forum CEO Diane Lightfoot was also at the launch.

Assistive technology at a desk

The report, co-chaired by Lilian Greenwood MP and Lord Shinkwin and produced by Policy Connect, recognises the enormous potential of assistive technology to ensure access to work for disabled people. The inquiry has seen first-hand its powerful benefits, with examples including a visually-impaired person using a screen reader to access a recruiting site, a person with Muscular Dystrophy using a mouth stick to navigate an application form, and an autistic person using a specialised app to help them travel to an interview.

Unfortunately, it has also heard difficult stories of disabled people unable to look for and obtain work, due to inaccessible technologies, poor digital practices by organisations, and a lack of skills. Disabled people are repeatedly shut out of the very schemes designed to offer a starting point in careers, such as apprenticeships or employment support through the job centre.

The pandemic has changed the way we work and thereby shone an even brighter light on existing digital inequalities. Urgent action is required to ensure the future world of work is accessible to all.

It is against this background that this report makes recommendations to government, education providers and employers – on how to ensure the world of work is accessible to everyone.

The government should appoint and empower a National Assistive Technology Champion

The Champion will lead on developing and delivering, in collaboration with disabled people, a framework on disabled peoples’ life transitions that guarantees access to digital technology which does meet the needs of the individual at all stages of life.

Proactively removing digital barriers to employment

The government should take advantage of existing JobCentre Plus (JCP) structures to identify and remove digital barriers to employment for JCP customers, and the DWP should recognise digital access as a key enabler of employment for all customers.

The government should improve targeting of disability support schemes to employers and employees who need them most and take advantage of existing networks to skill up employers on digital accessibility and inclusive recruitment practices. Employers should ensure their recruitment and on-boarding practices are digitally accessible and inclusive by following guidance produced by Disability Confident Leaders.

Kaki Mungai, AT user: “Assistive technology has saved my life and made me who I am today. Life has become manageable and I would recommend it to everyone who struggles.”

Geena Vabulas, report author: “Digital access and digital skills are no longer optional for finding work, even in non-tech industries. The reality is that many ‘standard’ technologies, websites, and applications are inaccessible to disabled and older people. However, recent advances in technology mean that AT can now remove barriers in a wider variety of settings than ever before.”

Lilian Greenwood MP, co-chair of the inquiry: “The Government must take the lead on ensuring that disabled people have equal access to work and training opportunities. The UK is already a world-leader in the development of assistive technologies and Government should harness the power of these tools to make the world of work accessible to all.”

Business Disability Forum’s Head of Policy Angela Matthews fed into the report which you can read here

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