The report, entitled “Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future”, urges the incoming Government to seize the opportunity to secure the UK’s place as a global digital leader and makes some significant recommendations. Key recommendations are: treating the internet as a utility and prioritising and regulating it in the same way as other essential utilities, making digital literacy a core subject, as important as English and Maths and putting a single “Digital Agenda” at the heart of Government with a Cabinet Minister responsible for it. Chris feels strongly about the need to set more ambitious goals and urges the next Government to adopt the Committee’s recommendations.
Chris is delighted to announce a new role as spokesperson for Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women. The charity was founded on 29 January 1951, to provide support and services to blinded World War I veterans. Exactly 100 years on from its foundation, a specially commissioned survey into public attitudes has found a “major positive shift” in the public’s perception of blindness. 65% of the general public have indicated that if they were to lose their sight, it would not mean that their “lives were as good as over”. Chris is pleased with the survey’s findings and observes that “the amazing stories of blind veterans supported by the charity show that its support can make a life-changing difference and can spur people on to do inspirational things, contrary to any negative views about blindness limiting a person’s ability.” Watch Chris’s birthday message to Blind Veterans UK.
Chris spoke at a conference organised by Demos that was focussed on exploring how policy can build character. The particular question Chris considered was whether sport, art and extra-curricular activity build character? This is an important area and one Chris feels passionately about.
Chris took part in a trial of an amazing new device, currently at prototype stage, that equips blind people with extra tools and information when navigating city centres, including accessing public transport.
Speaking on Radio 5 live Chris described the headset as “your navigator, personal guide, transport information, local historian, all the (information about) shopping stuff… It’s absolutely incredible. And it’s the confidence it gives you. It was the first time I had done that route and it just felt so comfortable.”
The technology – developed by Microsoft, Guide Dogs and the UK government’s Future Cities Catapult – takes the form of a smart headset paired with a Windows Phone app, which has been designed for people with sight loss.
The headset is a modified pair of headphones, which hooks over the wearer’s ears and rests on their jaw bone, transmitting sound to their inner ear using vibrations. This means that the wearer can hear sound from the headphones and from their environment simultaneously.
Microsoft has added a small 3D-printed box on the back of the headset containing an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a compass, as well as a GPS chip, so that the user’s position can be tracked.
Click here for further media coverage of the device…
For the first time since participating in the Seoul Games in 1988, Chris travelled back to Korea to give the keynote speech at the 2014 Inclusive Sport and Society Forum. The Forum was organised by the Korean Paralympic Committee just ahead of the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games and was attended by UN Special Advisor on Sport, Wilfried Lemke, and International Paralympic Committee President, Sir Philip Craven. Themes developed at the conference were the integration of disabled and non-disabled sports and social inclusion through sports.
Chris was invited to speak at the Gala Dinner marking the International Paralympic Committee’s 25th Anniversary. The Gala Dinner, in Berlin, was the highlight of a three-day event celebrating 25 years so far, and discussing the future strategic direction of the Paralympic Movement. One of the highlights of the evening was when Chris learnt that the London 2012 Paralympic Games had come top of the list of 25 greatest ever Paralympic Sport Moments.
At this year’s Conservative Party Conference Chris spoke at events organised by Demos and the Work Foundation. Both events covered a subject he cares passionately about; creating employment opportunities and giving people a chance for a better future. Although unemployment figures are at a record low employment prospects for many young people and disabled people remain a particular struggle.
Disabled people are more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to be lacking but wanting work. The government now has an important opportunity to look at new ways to improve employment outcomes for disabled people. “Living with Disability: Improving employment outcomes” was run by Demos and launched a fascinating collection of essays titled “How far we’ve travelled and how far we have to go….”.
Chris also took part in a panel discussion organised by the Work Foundation and chaired by Fraser Nelson. It asked the question; what would constitute a good youth labour market? ‘More Than a Job’ – Creating Career Opportunities for Young People.