Tech conference brings together global experts to tackle exclusion for those with sight loss

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Image is the RINB logo. RNIB is in black text above a pink line. See Differntly is written underneath the pink line

RNIB logo – See differently.

Global tech giants and inclusion specialists will gather in Scotland next week to explore ways in which technology can improve the lives of blind people.

RNIB Scotland, which works on behalf of those with sight loss, will host the Inclusive Design for Sustainability Conference at Glasgow Science Centre on June 21 and 22.

It will bring together experts from leading companies including Google, Sony, Samsung, and Virgin Media/O2, as well as academics and policymakers to discuss ways to make technology more inclusive.

Sessions will be held on video gaming for the visually impaired, intersectionality, sustainability, and mental health all in the context of blindness.

ScotRail will also attend to speak about connectivity for people with vision loss, and Glasgow University is expected to demonstrate a robot it has developed to help blind people with navigation.

The two-day event will also include a ‘marketplace’ with companies exhibiting their latest assistive technology designs, with opportunities for attendees to take part in demonstrations while simulating blindness.

As part of this, a ballot box will be set up to allow people to find out what it is like for someone with sight loss to vote in elections, as discussions continue around making the system more accessible.

Christopher Patnoe, Google’s head of accessibility and disability inclusion for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Axel Lebolis, from the global G3ict UN initiative, will give keynote speeches.

Portugal’s Secretary of State for Inclusion Ana Sofia Antunes, who was born blind, will also speak at the conference, along with RNIB Scotland representatives and Diana Stentoft, Secretary General of the World Blind Union.

Around 183,000 in Scotland currently live with a significant degree of sight loss, and over 2 million across the UK.

But an ageing population, and rocketing rates of sight-threatening health conditions like diabetes, means this could double in the coming decades. Already, 10 people a day begin to lose their sight.

“Assistive technology can play a crucial role in removing some of the barriers faced by blind people and those with vision loss. New developments that can help increase accessibility and tackle exclusion are more important ever as the number of people with sight loss will rapidly increase in the coming years. We are pleased to be bringing together global experts in the technology community to promote discussions about the latest designs and identify areas where more work is needed. Integrating this with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is about ensuring accessible technology and inclusive design are embedded in service delivery for future generations. Technology can be key to improving the lives of people with sight loss by giving them more confidence and independence.”

Jo MacQueen, spokesperson for RNIB Scotland

“The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ask all organisations to adopt an inclusive design approach, but not many organisations understand what inclusive design can really do. It is integral to business success, and should be embedded into all products, services, and processes. As an example, with an inclusive design ethos, Google developed our Accessibility Discovery Centre in London, partnering with individuals with disabilities and disability focused organisations across the UK - and that partnership made it better. And the Centre is actively making our products, and the larger ecosystem around us, better - in collaboration with the communities.”

Christopher Patnoe, Google’s head of accessibility and disability inclusion for Europe, the Middle East and Africa


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