Weekly Poll – International Day of Disabled People 2022
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue and on the 3 December 2022, we asked questions related to the theme of the International Day of Disabled People 2022 which was ‘Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world’.
Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.
Question: Have you come across any innovative technology, tools, skills that have improved access and inclusion for you or someone in your community?
- Yes 58%
- No 42%
We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
Innovative technology, tools, and skills
Our first question was about what innovative technology, tools, skills etc. our members use to make the world more accessible. Respondents highlighted a range of different technology that help make life easier for them and other disabled people. Firstly, participants highlighted that innovation has improved physical accessibility for themselves and other disabled people, allowing them to work more effectively and access social life. This includes advances within wheelchairs, prosthetics, rollators and other accessibility devices, and new ways of working, such as the ability to work from home.
‘I have a folding Wheeled Walker with a seat. It allows me to go to work (2 days a week) or go on holiday with family. We can all go out together, if I’m tired, I can have a seat and they can continue with their activities.’
‘When my sister was working and had peripheral neuropathy (cancer treatment side effect) she was unable to take notes at meetings. Her employer provided an audio recorder which was in the shape of a pen and functioned as a pen.’
Many respondents highlighted the importance of access to digital items in making the physical world more accessible. Digital items can include access to internet, computers, accessible phones, online shopping, phone apps, video calling platforms etc.
‘Improvements to online banking are helpful as getting out to the bank is not easy. Simple things like the bus app having an accurate live update of the bus arrival time as I find it difficult to stand for long periods. Phone appointments with the GP are so much better for simple health things.’
Participants identified several examples of innovations that make communicating easier and more accessible. This can include screen readers, a form of assistive technology that translates text and image content into speech or braille. It can also include Speech to Text, a tool that listens, recognises what is being said and transcribes this. Similar to this is software, such as ClaroRead, which helps people to read, write, and study. Another example is Roger pens, which are wireless microphones used alongside hearing aids to help someone hear speech from a distance or within other noise. BSL was also suggested as having innovative uses for disabled people. For example, it can be helpful for those who are non-verbal or have language processing difficulties as well as helping those who are deaf or experience hearing loss.
‘Speech to text. It’s not perfect but it’s better than PEOPLE SHOUTING AT YOU’.
‘A Roger Pen for the Hearing-Impaired Community.’
‘ClaroRead Pro made reading easier and quicker for me.’
Governments, organisations and using innovation
Our second question was around how governments and organisations could use innovation to increase accessibility for disabled people. Participants identified that they were unable to access innovations and not enough organisations were using innovative technology, tool, and skills to make life easier for disabled people. This in turn means disabled people are excluded from equal rights and access to their community. This could be a result of resistance to change and reluctance to put money towards innovations, especially during COVID recovery and the cost-of-living crisis. There is also a lack of faith within governments and organisations to make changes and start using innovation to increase accessibility.
‘NONE, there aren’t any! We have a local community facility which hosts a lot of meetings, conferences, etc. This meeting room is upstairs and there is NO lift, NOT even a stair lift! Disabled people are effectively barred from any such meetings or conferences and so cannot have any involvement or say? The local community council also uses this building and so there is NO disabled representation whatsoever!’
‘My current employer has disability confident in its aims but in reality, it is…just fit in and do what we do and have always done in this office. It does chip away at confidence in my abilities, but I am hoping things improve’.
‘People don’t want to spend money on making their offices, shops, supermarkets etc. accessible cause their attitude is that there are not enough wheelchair users to cater for them and it’s not worth the money to adapt for them, that is the attitude which is all wrong.’
‘I think that both the government and other organisations need to use more of this type of technology as in doing so they will help those who are already using it and make other people aware of the different types of technology available. Unfortunately, however at this point in time it is unlikely this will happen due to the current financial situation everyone is facing.’
‘Considering they cannot provide proper toilets I don’t know where to start.’
Participants made several suggestions as to how governments and organisations could better implement innovation. Firstly, it is important that they keep researching new innovations and act quickly on using them in their work. They must also work with and listen to disabled people when implementing innovation as this will make sure it effectively addresses accessibility barriers. Working with businesses that are creating innovative technology would also help as they could provide training on how to use equipment, help with access to innovations and raise awareness of new items.
‘Act earlier and work with people to find solutions.’
‘Work more in tandem with technology firms and start-ups to showcase these advancements, provide easier access to equipment and tools to help people. More training on using advancements.’
Governments and organisations also need to destigmatise use of innovations by disabled people and increase awareness of innovations used by the government and other organisations. For example, by creating an online directory of organisations that use innovations.
‘Make sure they make it easy, natural, and less embarrassing for less abled people, starting with Government Buildings.’
‘By letting us know which agencies and organisations use innovations, we tend to be the people they design it for by the last to know about it. An online directory would be useful, on a government website.’
Respondents also suggested organisations must develop the technology they already use to keep making it more accessible. They must also expand this geographically rather than limiting innovation to urban areas.
‘Improve the services they have, often websites are not user friendly… For example, I only have a small iPhone to do all online tasks which can be difficult when my hands are painful.’
‘Governments and Local Authorities need to remember that life goes on outside the main cities and large towns and there are communities with disabled people in the more remote, rural and offshore areas of Scotland with NO such technologies.’
Additionally, they must invest more finances into innovation and break down financial barriers preventing communities and low-income disabled people from accessing or implementing innovations that can make life easier. It was also suggested that it would be beneficial for the government to subsidise the cost of innovations more often. This would make it easier for disabled people to get into employment
‘They must invest in making these things available to all.’
‘Free access to this technology for those who need it.’
‘Make it commonly available in the first instance or at least make grants available for the installation of such technologies.’
‘If new equipment was supplied to the people requiring it or grants and information given to employers, employers would be more likely to employ people requiring the equipment than when employers are left to supply the equipment themselves (which they are not going to do if another possible employee doesn’t require the equipment and the expenditure).’
In summary, most respondents have found innovative technology, tools, skills have improved access and inclusion for them or someone in their community. Innovations have improved physical access to the community, social life and working for disabled people. They have also made digital access easier which in turn has made it easier for disabled people to complete daily tasks and access the physical world. Technology has also played a vital role in making communication and language processing easier and more accessible for disabled people. The problem is many disabled people are unable to use or access innovations due to financial barriers, lack of funding/training, and inaction of the government and other organisations in making adaptations. Being unable to access/use innovations means disabled people are excluded and isolated from their communities when this does not need to be the case.
Respondents therefore suggested the government and other organisations work to address this in the following ways:
- staying updated on new innovations that could increase accessibility,
- working with technology businesses to provide training,
- listening to disabled people to ensure innovations function effectively to increase accessibility,
- destigmatising and raising awareness of innovations and where to access them,
- continue making the innovations they provide more accessible for disabled people in terms of finance, location, and access needs by increasing their investment into these.