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Life-transforming technology out of reach for young disabled people, due to high cost

December 2, 2015

A press release:

Young disabled people are missing out on technology that could transform their lives, with three out of four unable to afford adapted equipment, according to a report released today (Wednesday 2 December).

The 600-strong young disabled campaigners group, Muscular Dystrophy UK Trailblazers, tells how technology plays a vital role in helping disabled people to live independently, work, socialise and study. However, gadgets like adapted smartphone controls, equipment to manage their home environment and voice recognition and eye-reading technology, remain financially out of reach for too many young people. Many members of Trailblazers have muscle-wasting conditions, and may have little muscle strength, meaning they struggle to type, grip or to hold heavier objects.

The group’s report, Switched on, also found that young disabled people are struggling to find out about technology that could make a difference to their lives, with no single source of information on assistive apps, gadgets, hardware and software available.

Of the young disabled people who were interviewed for the report*:

  • Three-quarters do not have the assisted technology they need because they can’t afford it
  • A third felt isolated because of a lack of assistive technology
  • Three in four said technology helped them with daily activities at home
  • Fifty percent said assistive technology helped them with education

At a meeting in Parliament today*, Trailblazers is calling on the Government, the NHS and technology firms to look at ways of making life-enhancing technology more affordable; and to help young disabled people find out about what is available for them.

Jennifer Gallacher (32) from Middlesbrough has the neuromuscular condition, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). She said:

“I’m unable to do many of the simple things people do without even thinking about it, opening the door, going to the toilet or even holding a phone to my ear. Technology gives me independence at home. I would be completely lost without it, and totally reliant on my parents. It wouldn’t be possible to leave me on my own, even for a few hours. I have a door entry system, which I can use from the living room or bedroom, a ceiling hoist to move between rooms and a device which helps me use the bathroom.

“I feel extremely lucky that the NHS recognised the impact this equipment would have on my life, and that I haven’t had to struggle to cover the costs myself, but I know this is the case for many others. For people who have limited movement, there are so many obstacles out there. When you are at home, being able to live your life freely, to use your bathroom, your phone or even let a guest through your own front door, really can mean the world.”

Tanvi Vyas, Project Manager for Muscular Dystrophy UK Trailblazers, said:

“Technology has a huge role to play in increasing independence for young disabled people. The right assistive gadgets can transform home, university, working and social life. Yet too many are missing out because of poor financial support and the often eye-watering costs of buying privately. We need the Government, NHS and tech firms to work together to bring down costs, and to make it easier for people to find out about what is out there to help them.”

* What: Meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for young disabled people

   When: Weds 2nd December, 3:00pm – 4:30pm

Where: Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, Westminster


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