Domains: Research, Advocacy

Themes: Assistive & Accessible Technology, Inclusive Design, Inclusive Educational Technology

Inclusive Public Activities for Information and Communication Technologies

WHO estimates there are more than 1.2 billion people around the world with some form of disability. Only 10% of people who need Assistive Technology (AT), including ICT and digital technologies, have access to it. Lack of access to digital AT/ICT deprives children of education excludes adult and older people from work and family life.

As science and technology advance dramatically around the world, ICT and AT digital solutions, such as navigation apps, speech-to-text functions, etc., can greatly improve a disabled person’s ability to successfully navigate life, work, and community life.

Despite great advances in fundamental technology development, many technologies fail to scale and be adopted by disabled people or into the healthcare, education and employment systems which provide the ICT/AT to disabled people. When technology is adopted, it is often abandoned – over a third of technology is regularly abandoned by disabled people. A core reason for this is a lack of co-design which requires additional time, effort, and resources which are often lacking or limited within research projects.

Across the UK, disabled people remain a third less likely to be employed than their non-disabled peers, and a lack of ICT/AT and accessibility are often cited as being a cause of this, something which has been amplified globally by COVID. This picture is despite a significant ICT research portfolio across frontier technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence, which have the potential to disrupt the types of technology we design with disabled people. For this to happen understanding and trust must be developed between emerging technologies, researchers and disabled people.

INPACT will develop infrastructure, training and amplification to support disabled people to be further engaged in future EPSRC-ICT research. We see this grant as part of a longer vision to build the aspirations of the next -generation ICT disabled researchers, whilst simultaneously developing robust mechanisms for disabled people to be better able to interact with current and future research. This will be achieved through three workstreams, each with its own objective.

Given the extensive ongoing research and innovation work within GDI Hub and partners (including future partners attracted to work together through IN-PACT), there is an opportunity to further connect disability-inclusive ICT research to disabled communities through public engagement. There is a known shortage of disabled researchers in the field of ICT. Although digital skills are key drivers for successful employment, there is a gap in technology which makes STEM subjects accessible to disabled people. Specific toolkits have been developed e.g, Code Jumper (formally TORINO) (https://codejumper.com/) and Tip-Toy) to aid disability-inclusive coding environments, but often these kits are not readily available in school environments. Other challenges such as understanding graphs and geometry also prevent STEM engagement from specific groups of disabled youth. However, innovations are also being developed to attract blind and partially sighted youth into STEM.

The project will comprise three streams, (1) Accessible ICT, (2) Inclusive ICT Research, and (3) Public Participation.

Accessible ICT

Inclusive ICT Research

Public Participation

Accessible ICT

We will conduct a series of diverse, co-designed workshops.. Each workshop will be 4-6 hours and hosted at UCLEast at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where GDI Hub is based. The main aim of this workstream is to understand the needs and examine the barriers to engagement in ICT and STEM research. We will build on the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) core values and spectrum of public engagement to train disabled people as public engagement champions. The bootcamp will cover topics including digital skills training, 3D design and technologies, Augmented and mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and video game design.

Moreover, this project will also maximise the impact of public engagement activities, targeting groups of people with diverse cultural backgrounds, demographics, including young disabled people and offering opportunities to engage in academic research and innovation work. We also aim to collaborate with community-based and led groups and disabled people organisations to access under-represented groups.

Inclusive ICT Research

The first task of this workstream will be establishing a formal steering committee to guide public engagement activities. This committee will recruit known experts in disability innovation, advocacy and public engagement, and disability research to form a participatory research panel of experts with lived experience of disability. The committee will advise on the public engagement approach, design of activities, recruitment of participants, and design of the project website and online network mentioned next.

Members of the steering committee will include the project team and representatives from key project partners:

  • Prof. Cathy Holloway
  • Maryam Bandukda
  • Louise Gebbett
  • TBD

Participatory REsearch and Disability Inclusion in Information and Communities Technologies (PREDICT) Panel

We aim to establish a panel of lived experience experts interested in driving participatory research and disability inclusion in ICT (PREDICT). We will do this through an open advert to the GDI Hub’s Expert Bench, the local east London communities and through GDI’s Disabled Leaders Network alongside GDI Hub partners and EPSRC ICT researchers.

The PREDICT panel will help co-create a set of guidelines for ICT researchers working on projects funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The guidelines will be developed to uphold the values of participatory design and co-creation and following the principle, “nothing about us, without us”. Through collaboration with UKRI, we aim to publish these guidelines on the UKRI website to accompany research calls focusing on ICT research. This will at first include the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and will be expanded to other research councils under the UKRI banner.

Public Participation

Through continual informal engagement and annual showcase of disability-inclusive ICT research, we will ensure the public is better informed about the UK position as a leader in inclusive ICT development. We will host this with a mix of partners from across GDI Hub including industry and disabled people’s organisations, particularly those working with disabled youth.

Towards the end of the project, we will organise a free hybrid event with limited capacity physical attendees for the project participants; the event will be live-streamed. The event will be used to launch the disability-inclusive ICT research toolkits, which will have been produced through the wider community interested in disabled people’s participation in scientific research and innovation. The event will also feature poster presentations from student researchers in ICT and disability innovation and a panel discussion with PREDICT focusing on the ‘future of disability inclusion in scientific research’.

Project Team

Prof. Catherine Holloway (PI)

Maryam Bandukda (Co-I)

Louise Gebbett (Comms and Engagement)

Project Partners

UCL logo

Project Funder