Staying connected with technology

Steve Tyler

On Friday 30 October 2020, we’re hosting an exciting online event. We’ll be discussing assistive technology, disability, and coronavirus. 

The event will bring together Charlotte Vuyiswa McClain-Nhlapo, World Bank Group’s senior disability adviser and our director of assistive technology, Steve Tyler.

As we look forward to what should be a fascinating conversation, Steve Tyler talks us through a snapshot of what could come under the spotlight.

Steve Tyler and Caroline Dinenage holding a board saying "I recognise that inclusive technology supports disabled people to live, learn and work"
Steve Tyler with Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture

Staying connected

Imagine this pandemic happening twenty years ago - the overloaded modems and fax machines. Or the despatch riders trying to cope with this unprecedented need for connectivity.

The last nine months have seen us all embrace an increased online element to our jobs. By linking remote services together, literally in the case of our services, technology is coming into its own. It’s also shown the possibilities for disabled people are endless.

At Leonard Cheshire, we’re already harnessing the opportunities technology provides. During the pandemic, we’ve been focusing on social isolation. We’ve looked at how technology best mitigates the problem.

Bringing Paris to Hill House

Recently we utilised some Clevertouch interactive display units and some virtual reality headsets. Using this technology, residents at Hill House in Sandbach were able to take in the sights of Arley Hall’s vast grounds and stunning gardens. They’ve even been on a virtual tour of Paris! 

We’ve established book clubs and these groups have meant we could bring together different residents through shared interests. It’s also created opportunities for conversation and remote interaction.

Generally, the technology that can maximise the impact for virtual assistants in a slick but straightforward way is essential right now. As are volunteering systems that replicate what social networking or dating entities have enabled in spades over the last decade or so.

Think local act global

We are an international organisation. Our education programmes, for example, are currently centring on creating connected community hubs. One area we've been working in involves the sourcing of solar-powered book readers. These are loaded from a hub like a library, school or university - anywhere with network access. The last part of this journey would be delivered to our beneficiaries. Whether their school attendance is currently affected by the pandemic or not, children with disabilities will be able to access materials. It could also help teachers to deliver lesson plans virtually.

The shortcomings of technology

The possibilities of technology are an exciting prospect. Still, the recent burst of interest and need has also brought its shortcomings. Virtual reality is on the cusp of becoming genuinely possible to deliver. But nothing can quite fulfil the human need for one-on-one interaction.

There is also the issue of choice, or denial of choice to be exact. We have had to adapt to the current situation. It’s a big ask for people to immediately embrace technology that may prove challenging to use or doesn’t fulfil their needs.

I hope my conversation with Charlotte will show the possibilities of technology. It’s only going to provide more opportunities, and it’s up to us to maximise it for the people we support.

I see this event as the kind of random conversation we’re missing at the moment. The kind that sparks ideas and brings issues into focus. 

I hope you can join us - albeit virtually!

Join our webinar

Our "Changing perceptions, challenges and opportunities around assistive technology for people with disabilities during the pandemic" event is on 2pm on 30 October.

Sign up to our free webinar