Disability-inclusive Development - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:52 pm on 13th December 2018.

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Photo of Lord Holmes of Richmond Lord Holmes of Richmond Conservative 2:52 pm, 13th December 2018

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, not least because to hear “Strictly” mentioned in your Lordships’ House is always a bonus on a Thursday afternoon. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Anelay on securing this most timely debate, with the strategy being published only on 3 December. I also declare my interest, as set out in the register.

I salute the Minister for all his work in this area. He is a Minister who not only grips his brief perfectly but puts it into action. The work and commitment of the Secretary of State have already been mentioned. She has not only pushed this from day one of taking office but, at the disability summit earlier in the summer, when she made her opening keynote speech, she took the time to learn BSL to sign the first half of her presentation. That was impressive and demonstrated true commitment to inclusion.

I shall limit my comments to the area of technology and the global disability innovation hub. The fourth industrial revolution offers such potential, such tools for intelligence: machine learning, AI, the internet of things and so on. They are fabulous opportunities for all of us. Why do I believe that disabled people globally have so much more to gain through a fully deployed fourth industrial revolution? I believe it because disabled people globally have all too often been on the wrong end of policy, strategy and approaches that have not only not included but actively excluded them from almost every element of the public and civic space.

I was lucky enough to participate in the Global Disability Summit in July. It was held in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for one simple reason: it is as good a blueprint as we have on planet Earth for what inclusive design can look, feel and be like when operating such an event. It was an extraordinary event—not only a unique conversation but one that led to real, solid and achievable commitments. The Olympic and Paralympic Park was the right place to host the summit.

We located the Global Disability Innovation Hub in the same park for the same reason. What is the GDI hub? It has tremendous support from DfID and is a legacy programme from the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Many people know—not least because of my endeavours—about the inclusive nature of the 2012 Paralympic Games. What is perhaps less known is that the Olympic Games 2012 were also the most inclusive ever staged, so it was the perfect place to host an innovation hub to reach out right around the globe, to form a movement to accelerate disability innovation for a fairer world, not least through collaboration and co-creation. It considers issues of inclusive design much broader than the physical environment: assistive technology, participation, partnership, human-computer interactivity and, of course, sport, art and culture.

More than half the world’s disabled people live in situations of conflict or disaster. The mission is in no sense easy, but if it is possible to get inclusive assistance to disabled people in enemy-held Syria, and to construct refugee centres predicated on inclusive design, that golden thread of possibility can and must run through everything we do in international development. As I said, the mission is massive, but as my noble friend knows, even a marathon starts with a first step. The strategy set out on 3 December is a fantastic more than first step on this journey. Ultimately, it boils down to a pretty simple mission—as is so often the case for disabled people globally—of addressing that fundamental blight: around the world, talent is everywhere but, currently, opportunity is not.