ATEC 2019: The Highlights

CEO disability rights UK Kamran Mallik

Delegates representing more than 70 organisations turned up to hear Malcom Glenn, Head of Global Policy, Accessibility and Underserved Communities at Uber, open ATEC at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Coventry.

Over three years ATEC has brought together almost 1,000 professionals involved in Access to Work and the Disabled Students Allowance and opened up the floor to 69 experts in different fields.

This year Uber sponsored the event and Malcom Glenn visited Coventry as part of his European tour to identify attitudes to transport and disabilities in different countries.

atec keynote speaker uber

Malcom Glenn, Head of Global Policy, Accessibility and Underserved Communities at Uber.

Uber uses the latest technology to keep drivers and passengers on the road. Their engineers are always looking for ways to enhance accessibility, maximising the potential of speech, and making sure third-party services are compatible both with iOS and Android. They have been pioneers in the use of Aira which uses special glasses and augmented reality to connect people with sight loss to a person in a call centre who can help them access visual information.

The experience of their employees with disabilities helps to improve the technology: ‘Our hard of hearing drivers suggested a tweak to our app so now there is now a flashing light as well as a beep to tell them they have a new booking.’

Kamran Mallik, CEO Disability Rights UK, talked about the ‘lived experience’ of being a wheelchair user and described the highs and lows, including restricted access to some classrooms at school and being stuck at home with his Commodore computer while his brothers were out and about.

CEO disability rights UK Kamran Mallik

Kamran Mallik, CEO Disability Rights UK.

Thanks to Uber, Kamran was able to make his way from home to the conference without having to make complicated taxi arrangements in advance for each end of his train journey. ‘This allows us to be as spontaneous as everyone else,’ he said. On the downside, he highlighted the prohibitive cost of equipment for disabled people: ‘It costs two and a half thousand for a wheelchair but you can get on top of the range bike for £700.’

The final keynote was from Antony Ruck, ATEC Conference Director and Chair of BATA, about changes to the DSA. Under new proposals, there will be a competitive tendering process which may deter small specialist companies and conversely open up the market for big mainstream companies which do not have a track record in assistive technology or experience of training users with disabilities.

Anthony Ruck speaking at ATEC

Antony Ruck, ATEC Conference Director and Chair of BATA.

ATEC showcases excellence in assistive technology that removes barriers to learning and work and this conference provided an exciting opportunity to measure progress and see what is on the horizon.

Save the date for ATEC 2020 – 26th March, Coventry.

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