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Tuesday, October 2 • 15:00 - 16:00
Designing the Future with Science Fiction. Will Future Technology Empower People With Disabilities?

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It’s more than 30 years since the movie ‘Back to the Future’ was released.  This and other sci-Fi classics all had weird and wonderful Technology that was the stuff of dreams but so much is now actually available and the future will quickly bring even more Technology that is today the stuff of sci-fi movies.  
The presentation is not going to focus on what Sci-Fi movies have predicted.  It will instead focus on how the predicted technology has empowered people with visible and hidden or cognitive disabilities.

Science fiction is more than a distraction from reality; it actually tells us a lot about the world we want to live in. Pay close attention to the futuristic technology envisioned in popular culture, and you will see glimpses of the changes that people want to see.

But what drives these innovations and advancements in Tech?
Technologists and futurists have dreamed visions of how Technology might make our lives easier in the future, for example the idea of a Smart Kitchen can be seen in the 60’s animated kids show, The Jetsons.

Interestingly though, these visions have been seen primarily from a convenience perspective – the idea of mass market products designed for the family of the future.

Since the technology boom of the 50’s, technology has been seen as freeing us from the domestic chores and allowing us the freedom of leisure and time.

So, are we missing the main opportunity of such innovations – the chance to improve the lives of many individuals for whom access is a big issue?

In recent years many research activities have focused on designs that aim to produce universally accessible systems that can be used by everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive skills.

Just as the Industrial revolution gave birth to consumerism and mass market appeal, should we not be on the verge of an Accessible Revolution, which will enable and empower our civilisation – to Create a society whose sum is greater than its parts?

As Einstein said “Concern for man himself and his fate must always constitute the chief objective of all technological endeavours…in order that the creations of our minds shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind.”

So what is disability? Is it the person or the environment?
We believe that often, the negative perception around Disability is because it is seen as part of an identity, when actually Disability is more a consequence of our designed environment and societies attitudes.

MIT bionics designer Hugh Herr, who lost both his legs in a mountain climbing accident, recently said in a TED Talk on disability, “A person can never be broken. Our built environment, our technologies,  are broken and disabled. We the people need not accept our limitation, but can transcend disability through technological innovation.”

We will all have an impairment at some stage in our lives and as we age these impairments increasingly become permanent. – affecting things such as Vision, Hearing, mobility & Cognitive.  But impairment may also be temporary, caused by things such as surgery, fatigue and even drugs, such as alcohol.

So, how we can change attitudes and adapt environments which can inadvertently disable an individual?  We think the answer is in Science Fiction, inspiring new technology which can be the bridge to help us cross this divide in attitudes and environment.

We don’t necessarily see disability in Science Fiction movies, but it does exist and we have identified our very own Access League of fictional superheroes from Science Fiction.

We will reveal our access heroes and explore how we, as the audience reflect on these characters.  They will help to inspire us in our quest to evolve the current attitudes of disability through technological innovations, from something which is limiting to instead being empowering and aspirational.
It seems that with Technology in Sci-Fi, our attitudes towards disability are changed. In science fiction, disability is not a barrier to achievement or success as technology has removed these barriers.  Instead of disabled characters, all we see is ability and their super-powers.  Characters who are empowered and enabled by tech.  We will then provide a glimpse into existing technology and areas of innovation, to explore how close we are to this science fiction future and discuss how we feel this might change our perceptions of disability.

avatar for Sean Gilroy

Sean Gilroy

Head of Cognitive Design & Neurodiversity Lead, BBC
I am the Head of Cognitive Design for BBC UX&D and the BBC’s formative Neurodiversity lead, based at MediaCityUK in Salford, England.In 2014 I co-created and led a small team researching the challenges facing Neurodivergent individuals in employment. This research delivered a series... Read More →
avatar for Leena Haque

Leena Haque

Senior UX Designer and Neurodiversity Lead, BBC
Leena is currently a Senior UX Designer and also Neurodiversity Lead for the BBC initiative called BBC Cape (Creating A Positive Environment) aimed at researching interactive design through the lens of cognition and neurodiversity. Autism & ADHD are Leena’s super power. She is passionate... Read More →

Tuesday October 2, 2018 15:00 - 16:00 CEST
Room 6