Birkbeck, University of London: Atech Policy Lab celebrates first anniversary – India Education Diary

The Assistive and Accessible Technology (Atech) Policy Lab is celebrating the anniversary of its launch.

The Lab, a collaboration between Policy Connect, Bournemouth University, and the Ace Centre, aims to design policy to make technology work for everyone – and has undertaken a range of policy interventions in its first year.

The Lab was officially launched at a meeting of the All-Party-Parliamentary-Group for Assistive Technology by Chair Paul Maynard MP and then Minister for Disabled People Chloe Smith MP.

In its first year, the Lab delivered a workshop in partnership with the Cabinet Office Disability Unit to explore the design of a National Centre for ATech. BU’s Dr Paul Whittington was a key voice in this discussion, sharing insights from his work including on how disabled people can find the right technology to suit their needs. The Lab conducted a workshop to explore the need for an accessible carbon monoxide alarm, and a separate workshop on digital inclusion, which was held as part of London Tech Week.

Policy Connect’s Clive Gilbert is a Senior Research and Policy Manager at the ATech Policy Lab. He led the Smart Homes Commission which launched its report at an event in the House of Lords. BU’s Professor Lee-Ann Fenge served on the Commission as lead academic advisor and spoke at the launch. Several other BU experts contributed to the Commission’s evidence sessions and research interviews, including BU’s Centre for Seldom Heard Voices.

Since publication of the report, the ATech Policy Lab has held a workshop to explore, in further detail, the Commission’s recommendation that government develop an ‘Independent Living Technology Innovation Mission’. The report has already begun to make impact, with the government having accepted its recommendation for new guidance on funding smart home adaptations.

Robert McLaren, Director of Policy at Policy Connect, and Director of the ATech Policy Lab, said, “I am immensely proud of our collaboration with Bournemouth University during this founding year of the Lab. We have seen the Lab’s work welcomed by policymakers, and we have already made important impacts on policy – such as to guidance for funding technology in the home. As we look ahead to the second year of this partnership, we have the opportunity to drive real change by developing the evidence-based and actionable policies that can inform manifestos and current policy development to transform access and support for disabled people to use ATech.”

Professor Christos Gatzidis leads Bournemouth University’s contribution to the Atech Policy Lab. He said, “Bournemouth University has engaged, as part of its involvement with the ATech Policy Lab initiative, with an increased number of existing and new industry and academic partners as well as policy-making ones. This has already led to work towards strategic research and development funding bids in the key area for the university of assistive technologies and we are very much looking forward to the second year of the Policy Lab, as we plan to continue and also intensify our collaboration with the Policy Lab and other external partners in this field.”.

Bournemouth University has made assistive technology one of its four Strategic Investment Areas, building on its established research specialism in the field. BU’s expertise spans a range of disciplines; from health and wellbeing tools, to engineering, computing, and psychology.

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