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Themes: Assistive Technology

Iyiola Olafimihan: coproduction is key to innovating Assistive Technology

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Paul Ntulila

Assistant Project Manager

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Iyiola Olafimihan LLB/BL MA

Advisory Board - UK

Black Disabled Innovators Series during National Inclusion Week

An insight into the world of innovation from a disabled black innovator’s perspective.

We will delve into the world of identity and the positive effect this has on their work. We will also look at discrimination and disabled black people in the workplace.

Through the panel answering questions, we will gain an understanding of what they have experienced, the struggles they have faced and the successes they have won.

Iyiola's background

Iyiola's background is as a capacity-building specialist at Disability LIB, a Lottery funded project. Before moving to the UK, Iyiola worked for a commercial bank in Nigeria and was a founding member of ASCEND, an activist group working to achieve disability discrimination legislation in Nigeria.

This short interview consists of 5 questions.

How visible are you as a disabled black person?

I am very visible (although 2020 has been a bit different). I work 4 days a week as information and advice officer at a grassroots disabled people’s organisation in Camden. I volunteer on the board of Global Disability Innovation Hub, am a member of a few access panels, member of Disabled Black Lives Matter and a member of a political party. I enjoy socialising (pre-Covid 19) with friends and families. I particularly enjoyed going to reggae concerts. Finally I am active on social media especially twitter and Facebook.

Have you encountered any discrimination or positive reactions?

I have on a few occasions - first being in my home country (Nigeria) when as a young graduate I was denied work in several places despite my qualifications. In England, it’s been because of lack of inclusive access at clubs but that is changing now. I recall an incident back in 2011 when I was denied entry into a central London wine bar because of no level access. The manager’s response was they “didn’t know disabled people would be attending the event.” Luckily he took me through their goods entrance and gave me a shot of brandy on the house!

What support did you need and how have you progressed? Do you use any assistive technology products?

As a polio survivor the support I have always craved is to be able to be more independent. The current benefits I receive enable me accomplish this. I live in an accessible flat and also have access to medical professionals at St Thomas’. I use several AT: leg braces, crutches and a wheelchair. Back in Nigeria I adapted my car to drive, it’s available in the UK too, but for now I have no desire to drive.

What do you know now that you wish you had known before and what advice do you have for the next generation of disabled innovators?

I know now that coproduction is key to innovating AT. As a polio survivor who needs callipers or leg braces, the materials to build new gen versions should be as light and robust as possible.

In the past this equipment was way too heavy and even in 2020 I find the design has not changed! Wheelchairs should also be made in tandem with the users. Wheelchairs should always be adjustable especially height adjustable.

Has COVID19 brought more challenges or successes and how have you had to adapt or change the way you operate?

I am adapting quite well to the new normal. Like most organisations we have been forced to work from home and use tech more. Teams and zoom have become the tools to meet with colleagues and attend workshops.

However, I am finding not going out to meet people physically a challenge and also missing going to concerts.

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