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Guest blog

How tech is helping us with life

Michael, also a Guide Dog Puppy RaiserMichael Vermeersch, Microsoft

I am excited to write some thoughts on this year’s Technology Taskforce Showcase. It seems just the best opportunity. Some would say that the pandemic has evidenced the social model of disability. We all suddenly faced new barriers that changed life as we knew it in such a way that many of us were “disabled”. You would think that would make me even more excited that Microsoft is supporting this year’s event. Because technology has been the great saviour that enabled to us overcome those barriers.

Ironically, I hasten to say that this massive enablement (and permission) to work from home was something that the disabled community had been asking for years and now for many of us this is now pretty much how we are functioning.

I know a bit on what is coming about the event and you will hear some great stories on how the pandemic and the permission to use (more) technology has empowered the disabled community in such a way that there can be little doubt that the social model is real.

On the other hand, for some of us, this working from home, really has evolved into living at work. At the best of times this can be disabling. I have thrived. Digitally I have reached more audiences than ever, yet with my cognitive disabilities this has been overwhelming… I find it hard to stop working and think very little of life outside of work. Before the pandemic I would experience this when I would be in another time-zone and sleep, food, drink, connecting with family would have to be specifically scheduled or I could easily forget. No… that is not fantastic, it does take its toll and decreases my productivity and efficiency.

So where today’s technology enables me, I also need it to shield me – more so…  We are a funny race, us humans… We know what is good for us, we know what is bad for us. That does not mean that we will do it. Just that little email, just replying to this text and then I can focus on life.

Sending this out to the team at BDF to review on International Women’s Day, and women have definitely been impacted by the pandemic, so what better quote to pick than one from Michelle Obama: “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.”

When I was young there was very little tech. Tech was going to help us with work. More work, better work. That happened. Now (finally?) I am seeing that tech – often in the shape of artificial intelligence – is helping us with life. Helping us stop and pick back up from where we left it. Telling us when we had enough; when it is time to take a break and much more… coaching us to good habits.

I used to say Microsoft’s mission statement to indicate that “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more” is a commitment to inclusion and the key word is “every”.

Today, I can see technology overcoming barriers to inclusion, but increasingly also barriers to life. And now I am really excited.

Tech for Life is on Thursday 25 March, find out how you can register and attend.

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