A lack of reliable data about the use of ICT by people with disabilities is making it harder for disabled entrepreneurs to succeed, delegates heard at a recent debate hosted by the Information Technologists’ Company, a livery company of the City of London.
The debate was on the motion: “This House believes that it is harder for disabled entrepreneurs to compete in the fast-moving digital age”.
Nick Goss, managing director of Goss Consultancy ( www.gossconsultancy.co.uk ), said a lack of knowledge on the subject was a major barrier: “How do we know how many disabled people are using IT, how do we know what needs and support disabled people may need when it comes to providing accessible IT?”, he said.
Penny Melville-Brown from Disability Dynamics ( www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk ) said inaccessible technology itself was also holding back disabled people. “If the technology is not capable of supporting you, you are on the back foot, competitively … Technology at the moment has very little concept of accessibility and actually puts disabled entrepreneurs like me and many others in this country at a significant disadvantage”.
However Andrew Thomson, director of Sign-now.com ( sign-now.com ), said technology has “enhanced quality of life” for disabled people, and can benefit those running their own business if the right equipment is used. “Technology has given us access to the mainstream world”, Thomson said. In a close vote, the motion was ultimately defeated by 28 votes to 23.