GDI hosts Disability Innovation Summit

The Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub), which Chris chairs, hosted a two day Disability Innovation Summit on 13th and 14th July 2017.
Chris standing in front of banner with Global Disability Innovation Hub logo
The GDI Hub is London’s new global research centre bringing together thought leaders and practitioners, from many disciplines, with knowledge and experience of design and disability. Through collaboration, technology, partnerships and study GDI’s mission is to improve the lives of disabled people worldwide.

Based in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, the GDI Hub is part of the 2012 Paralympic legacy programme. Over two days (13th and 14th July) linked to the World Para Championships, the Disability Innovation Summit, provided an opportunity to bring together disabled and non-disabled experts from around the world to share expertise and ideas to inspire and shape the future of disability innovation.

Technology is shifting the disability landscape. Advances in prosthetics, wheelchairs, wearable tech and bionics are changing the lives of disabled people and the potential is huge. The summit aimed to nurture and encourage those working at the forefront of engineering, computing, robotics, sport and art to come together, share knowledge and push the boundaries of design.

The summit included keynote speeches, workshops and panel discussions:

  • The latest technologies and research
  • Disability dance, fashion and art
  • Global projects and innovations
  • Assistive technology
  • Built environment and inclusive design
  • Sport and community
  • Workplace and employment

Disability Innovation Summit

Fintech Week

Chris was delighted to give the keynote speech on financial inclusion at a major Fintech conference that kicked off Fintech week in London in April. As a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on Financial Exclusion, the full findings and report of which were published just two weeks earlier, Chris was pleased to have the opportunity to pull together themes from this work and his work in fintech. Chris highlighted the terrible cost and persistent nature of financial exclusion by asking why those who have the least, pay the most. He pointed out that in the UK there are currently 1.7 million people without a bank account and 40% of people without £100 in savings. Recommendations from the Lords report include introducing financial literacy at school, expanding the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority to include financial inclusion and creating a Cabinet Minister with direct responsibility for financial inclusion. Chris also celebrated the possibility of technology to offer solutions to some of our trickiest problems, not least the issue of financial inclusion. Chris reminded the audience that technology in-and-of-itself is neutral and the key is to ask always how will the enable, empower and include? On the same stage that morning Tim Berners-Lee had spoken about the need to think about the effect on society in a highly connected, networked world and Chris followed on from this by touching on the need for greater understanding and ownership around resources, identity and data stating that it’s your data, your choices and your permissions. His emphasis on the potential and possibility of technology to solve problems was again clear when he finished by asking everyone to imagine the power of fintech in its totality.

Future Talent HR Conference

Chris took part in a session on aspects of trust in sport in major HR conference; Changeboard’s Future Talent 2017. Chris spoke on the importance of trusting different people, urging that it’s time to take an inclusive approach for innovation and that companies need to become diverse or die. Chris argued that flat structures and leadership teams that lead by example, by “delivering on a promise”,  are creating the right environment for trust to flourish. He recalled moments from his own life when he had to trust in others, including his guide dog Lottie and stressed that trust is about relationships and being prepared to be vulnerable. As Chris says, “It’s not easy but it is essential.” Other speakers in the session were Dame Katherine Grainger and Sir Clive Woodward who spoke about trusting yourself and teamship and collaboration. There was positive feedback during the session and Dr Alan Watkins, chairing the discussion, drew out these lessons on trust from the world of sport and explored how they would apply to corporate leaders and organisations. The future of talent is important because the world is increasingly complex. The only way out is up. By upgrading our human operating systems.

Tackling financial exclusion: A country that works for everyone?

The House of Lords Select Committee into Financial Exclusion, of which Chris is a member, published their report “Tackling financial exclusion: A country that works for everyone?” on 25th March. The report calls on the Government, the Financial Conduct Authority and banks to give greater priority to tackling financial exclusion.

While the UK has a world class financial services sector, it is failing those customers who need it most. The Committee heard that more than 1.7m people in the UK do not have a bank account, and that 40% of the working age population had less than £100 in savings. Estimates suggest at least 600,000 older people are financially excluded, while 51% of 18 to 24 year olds regularly worry about money.

The report says the Government should show its commitment to addressing this issue by broadening the remit of the FCA to give priority to tackling financial exclusion, and working with the FCA to establish new rules requiring banks to have a duty of care towards their customers. This would strengthen the protection offered to customers and reduce the potential for unfair practices.

The Government should also appoint a Minister for Financial Inclusion and report annually to Parliament on progress made toward addressing financial exclusion.

The report highlights that regulation has proved to be effective in tackling abusive practices by pay day loan companies since the Government asked the FCA to cap interest rates. The Committee recommends that similar restrictions should be introduced for other forms of high cost credit. The Committee calls for urgent action to introduce new controls on ‘rent to own’ products and unarranged overdraft fees.

Better financial literacy is identified by the Committee as a key priority for reducing financial exclusion. To achieve this the report says financial education should be introduced to the English primary school curriculum and that Ofsted should assess the extent to which schools provide young people with the necessary financial knowledge and skills.

The Committee also considered the relationship between disability, mental health issues and financial exclusion. It calls on the Government, the FCA and the British Bankers Association to carry out a review of reasonable adjustments for disabled customers and to publish that review within 18 months. The Committee points out that banks are required by law to make reasonable adjustments when communicating with disabled customers but do not appear to be doing so.

The report also identifies the accelerating trend for banks to focus on online services at the expense of their branch network as potentially excluding older people and others who lack access to the internet – 53% of UK bank branches closed down between 1989 and 2016. The Post Office now has more physical outlets than all the high street banks combined, and can offer banking services for 99% of current account customers in the UK, although awareness of this service is very low at present. The Committee calls for the banks and Government to fund a major publicity campaign to address this, and to help the Post Office provide services to those customers who have lost their local bank branch.

The Committee also considered the impact of Universal Credit on financial exclusion and highlighted the six-week gap between claiming Universal Credit and receiving the first payment as a period during which people were at risk of taking on unaffordable debt or falling into arrears. To tackle this the Committee recommends the Government abolish the seven-day wait before a claimant becomes entitled to Universal Credit, and also that it should allow more flexibility about whether payments are made monthly or more frequently. This flexibility is already in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Launch of Parliamentary Group on Assistive Technology

Chris is APPGAT launchdelighted to be Co-Chair of a new All Party Parliamentary Group on assistive technology. The group aims to disseminate knowledge, generate debate and facilitate engagement and a greater understanding of assistive technology amongst members of parliament. The group is supported by a number of organizations ranging from academic institutions to manufacturers of assistive technology and disability charities. On the day of the launch a group of key stakeholders met to discuss aims and objectives. One key issue raised was the unacceptably high disability employment gap (40% of disabled people are unemployed compared to 5% of non-disabled population) and the role assistive technology can play in providing solutions. Questions were also raised over what was perceived as limited dialogue between the industry and government, and departments with government, it is hoped that this group will help address this communication and understanding gap and lead to far greater access to assistive technology for far more people. The group had invited Hannah Rose to share her experiences of using assistive technology after she was paralyzed from the neck down at the age of fifteen. Thanks to various products including mobility aids, environmental controls (allowing her to turn off the lights and switch TV channel independently) and drag and dictate software (allowing her to use a computer) she enjoys a significant degree of autonomy and loves her job at Cheshire Police HQ – she jokes about how difficult it was to convince officers that she had found a job when she was trying to sign off incapacity benefits. Access to employment is important but assistive technology is not only about jobs. It is about enabling people in a far broader sense, to live independent and fulfilling lives. It is about finding and making available the tools that allow people to overcome barriers and Chris relishes the challenge of  working with the group to make sure that happens.

 

Keynote speaker at Adidas Diversity Day Event.

Adidas Keynote

Chris was invited to speak at a major diversity and inclusion event at Adidas HQ on the topic of inclusion for innovation. The corporate focus was on the belief that the best teams are diverse teams, that the company should mirror the society they serve and that for change to happen, it must be actively pursued. In the words of the CEO’s father: “it takes a long time to do something you’re not really working on.” Chris was delighted to deliver the keynote and so much of the power of his personal experiences and philosophy spoke perfectly to the themes of the day. More than most, Chris understands the power of sport to change lives; his own story of adjusting to the unexpected shock of losing his sight as a child to become one of the country’s most successful Paralympians illustrates a deep understanding of inclusion. As he says, making a case for staying in his mainstream school and continuing in his swimming club were experiences of diversity and inclusion “before the terms really existed”. Chris goes on to discuss the various ways technology can be used to innovate for inclusion – from cassette tapes to Bluetooth beacons! – but also makes the point that innovation of thought is as important as the practical tools. A commitment to welcoming and supporting diversity is the major requirement for successful outcomes. What is often viewed as bold, brave, risk-taking he argues is not actually risk-taking when it’s doing the right thing for the right reasons. He gives many fascinating examples of successful inclusive and innovative achievements around the London 2012 games.  As Chris says “it’s not easy but it is essential”. When thinking particularly about the power of digital to disrupt, his passionate exhortation is to “become diverse or die.”

Seeing isn’t believing"Ted" talk

Later on in the day Chris delivered another short presentation, “Seeing isn’t believing” which focused on his sporting achievements and was inspired by his popular TedX talk.

Chris really enjoyed all the connections and conversations throughout the day and wanted to thank everyone who came to say hello. Discussions covered many aspects of the diversity and inclusion agenda but Chris was delighted by the enthusiasm for one of his key messages; that change can happen when one person believes that things can be other than they are.

Adidas Meet

Chris welcomes Commons Report into Accessible Stadia

Top of the league clubs: Derby County, Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers, Egham Town; all have been named as examples of excellence in making their clubs truly welcoming of disabled supporters. You will note that none of these clubs are in the Premier League. In Sept 2015 the Premier League promised to make all clubs accessible to disabled people. The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport report published today states that it’s “very clear” that sports clubs, notably many of those with very considerable income and resources, have not done anywhere near enough for sports fans with disabilities in recent years, despite the increase in income many of those clubs have enjoyed.” Given the examples above I would say it is clearly a question of will rather than resources and Greg Clarke of the Football Association agrees, telling the committee “that for the Premier League the problem was not money”. Football is our national sport, beloved by so many of us, and it needs to rediscover its moral compass. If not on its own then with some help. Both the commons committee and the Minister for Sport have said they would support legal action against clubs that miss the August deadline and Bill Bush, executive director at the Premier League spoke of fines of up to £25,000. I would urge both the Premier League and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to use all means at their disposal to ensure that disabled supporters are no longer treated as second class citizens when they want to support their football team.

Chris’s letter to the Times: Football’s Failure

Watch Channel 4’s report: Are football stadia no go for disabled?

BBC Sport: Disabled access: Premier League clubs may face sanctions over lack of improvement

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