Minister for Disabled People Sarah Newton, MP speaks to Able Magazine on how the development of assistive technology is helping more disabled people stay in work:
“Business can be a strong driver of change in our society. The development of assistive technology is helping more disabled people stay in work, and inclusive design is increasingly seen as essential, not just nice to have. Since taking up my role as Disabilities Minister, I’ve been inspired by the growing number of businesses that are making disabled customers a priority, rather than an afterthought.
While I’ve seen lots of good practice, there is clearly still more work to be done. When businesses aren’t fully accessible, disabled people are often excluded from the experiences and opportunities that everyone else takes for granted.
“For most businesses, it is not a deliberate policy of exclusion, but a lack of awareness. That’s why we’ve appointed 14 sector champions who are helping to remove barriers across a range of industries, from music to ﬁnancial services and retail to gaming. Last month I announced three new champions for the rail, insurance and arts and culture sectors.
“In the rail industry, for example, it can be particularly difﬁcult for disabled passengers. Problems range from no available spaces in the designated wheelchair area, to the accessible toilet not working. Interestingly, the Papworth Trust found that seven in 10 disabled people would use trains more often if they didn’t have to book in advance.
“Meanwhile, research from Scope found that 26% of disabled adults feel they have been charged more for insurance or denied cover altogether because of their impairment or condition.
“Another area where disabled people are much less likely to participate is cultural activities. Arts Council England has reported that negative attitudes and prejudice, exclusion from education and lack of transport are all contributing to underrepresentation in this sector. Accessibility isn’t just about buildings being laid out properly, it’s also about ensuring products are designed to be inclusive and that staff are trained to understand disabilities that aren’t always visible. The new champions are full of passion and enthusiasm, and I look forward to seeing their ideas for tackling these issues come to life.
“We know that the spending power of disabled people and their families is almost £250 billion a year. By showing other businesses the importance of making disabled customers a priority, I’m conﬁdent that the sector champions will continue to help improve access and inclusion for disabled people in every area of their lives.
“Accessibility isn’t just about buildings being laid out properly, it’s also about ensuring products are designed to be inclusive and that staff are trained to understand disabilities that aren’t always visible.”