Policy Connect

Ian Karten Charitable Trust Supports Commission on AT & Transitions into Employment

In 2020 the Ian Karten Charitable Trust joined forces with Policy Connect and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology to launch a Commission to explore how government and employers can better support disabled people to benefit from the opportunities presented by technology as they move into the workplace.  Co-chaired by Lilian Greenwood MP and Lord Shinkwin, the Commission is examining the ways in which assistive technologies and digital (in)accessibility can influence disabled people’s ability to secure employment.

Lilian Greenwood MP and Lord Shinkwin
Lilian Greenwood MP  & Lord Shinkwin

Despite significant advances in disability rights in recent decades, disabled people remain under-represented in the workplace and in the upper echelons of organisations.  This contrasts with the growth in the rates of disabled people of working age.  Medical advances are resulting in more disabled children living into adulthood, and better identification of invisible disabilities such as dyslexia, autism, and mental illnesses is increasing the rates of adults who are aware of and seeking accommodation for their needs.  Another key factor is our ageing population and our ageing workforce- as more people stay in work for longer, we are likely to see increased rates of visual, hearing, and motor impairments.

Meanwhile, the past 20 years has witnessed a period of rapid technological innovation and growth, presenting a multitude of opportunities and challenges for disabled job seekers.  On a positive note, there are more technology-enabled tools than ever to support disabled employees, from mainstreamed accessibility features to specialist devices that can be used in a variety of settings, rather than just being available for desk-based work.  On the other hand, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) research notes the ‘near-universal requirement’ of digital skills for securing employment, and there is a significant gap in digital skills between disabled and non-disabled people.  The on-going Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many technologically-enabled changes to working and training practices, and as the government prepares to ‘build back better,’ it must take into consideration how technology can be harnessed to ensure disabled employees are an integral part of the plan.

The Commission will analyse disabled job-seekers’ experiences, employer practices, and government programmes in relation to assistive technologies and is expected to publish in early 2021.  For more information, sign up to the APPG for Assistive Technology newsletter or follow us on Twitter at @AT_APPG.