10 Minutes with… Eleanor Dewar
1. Describe Inclusive Technology in one word.
2. What does inclusive innovation mean to you?
Inclusive innovation to me is about moving beyond the very basics of accessibility. I would suggest that inclusive innovation is at a stage which works to allow people with disabilities to engage with their local communities and the world at large without having to worry about planning weeks in advance. Inclusive innovation is working towards instantaneous and real-time updated information and support, allowing those of us with disabilities to embrace the spontaneity of life.
3. Why do you think accessibility for disabled people is an important issue?
Being a disabled young woman I often sit in meetings and hear people talk about how the purple pound is a huge untapped market, and bite my tongue. Yes there is a huge economic benefit for supporting people with disabilities. However as a young woman with a hidden disability I am more than the amount of spending money in my wallet; accessibility is a critical issue to ensure that everyone in Britain with a disability is able to lead as full, varied, spontaneous and enjoyable a life as possible. It is supporting this aim of quality of life that Business, the Government and Society as a whole must strive to work towards.
4. How can inclusive technology support people with Hidden Disabilities?
Technology has huge potential to support people with hidden disabilities. This can take many forms from a coach supporting a person with anxiety and agoraphobia at a distance via instant messaging, to an app detailing quiet spaces at busy transport hubs. To many, travelling through a busy station is an annoyance, but for some of us it can cause an emotional meltdown that can destroy our whole day.
The organisation I work for, BlueAssistUK, has really helped me with asking for help and support without outing my disability to the world. Often people say just ask for help, but due to the stigmatisation of my mental health disorder by the media and society at large, asking for help out loud is often risky – I might be helped or the police might be called. As such, being able to use the BlueAssist App to ask for support, in an unobtrusive and informative way, enables me to get help and reduces the risk.
5. Where do you think the next big opportunity is for the development of inclusive technology?
I think there are a number of big opportunities, firstly the widening of what is understood when we talk about disability. Inclusive technology that embraces the wide range of neurodiversity and hidden disabilities is a huge area with more and more excellent work being done every day.
Another key area for inclusive technology is not only “nothing about us without us” but also the wide range of disabled designers who are building tools which work in their daily lives. It is this body of developers and designers who I find the most exciting and I look forward to seeing what is produced by this group to support a variety of disabilities.