Seema Malhotra MP and Lord Holmes: Assistive technology can transform the lives and opportunities available to disabled people
Lord Holmes and Seema Malhotra MP explain why they are launching the new APPG for Assistive Technology, which aims to shed light on how technology could help people get into work and learn at school.
There is a huge gap in the rates of employment for disabled people which can and should be closed. Tackling the issue needs to be higher on the agenda for the government and for society – with benefits and increased prosperity that progress will inevitably bring for individuals and businesses across the country.
We need to use every possible lever to tackle the unemployment and underemployment of millions of disabled people. A key opportunity comes from creating awareness and incentives for the use and integration of assistive technology (AT).
That’s why, as the chair and co-chair of the new All Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology, we believe that Parliamentarians should understand the possibilities for how we can harness the flood of new technology to transform the lives and opportunities available to disabled people, people with learning difficulties, and their families and friends. We need a forum in which we can help build the evidence base for change and put forward ideas for reform.
At a packed event in Speaker’s House earlier this month, we launched the APPGAT, with disability groups, campaigners, research organisations, business sponsors and technology giants attending. Speaker John Bercow gave a moving speech about his long-standing interest in the issue and how in 2008, as a Conservative MP he was asked by the Labour prime minister Gordon Brown to carry out a review of support services for people with speech, language and communication difficulties. Creating transformational change needs political leadership and action by government.
We heard a further example of the transformative power of assistive technology with the contribution to the evening of Hannah Rose who became paralysed from the neck down at the age of 15. Now in her thirties she recounted how various technologies have allowed her to go to university, get a degree and secure a permanent job with Cheshire police. She has even written an inspirational book about her experiences – another amazing example of the power of AT and of how it can help close the gaps in employment and education.
Seema Malhotra is the Labour Member of Parliament for Feltham and Heston and Lord Holmes is a Conservative peer in the House of Lords