6 August 2019

One of the accessible gaming sessions at Everyone Can.

One of the accessible gaming sessions at Everyone Can.

Driving into the office the other day, I got drawn into a debate that Nihal was hosting on BBC Radio 5 Live. They were discussing whether private school gives you an advantage over public education.

Whilst that is a big enough topic in itself, it caught my attention because of accessibility. Much of the conversation was around how private education links you into networks of people that would otherwise not be accessible.

One of my greatest bugbears in life is an uneven playing field. No one should have an advantage because of who they are or how they were born.

We work really hard at UKFast to level the playing field for children in Greater Manchester. When you consider how many schools are struggling to pay for the essential supplies, there’s little wonder that in many places children are learning to code with pencil and paper rather than a computer screen. But that’s not good enough. Our Raspberry Pi cafés go some way to giving young people hands-on access to technology. This access helps to create great job prospects for the future.

These cafes also provide tech for the community. Whilst we assume everyone has a smartphone or tablet these days, many households living on the breadline have no access to the internet at home.

However, poverty is just one aspect of levelling that playing field. There is not only privilege and poverty to contend with. Young people with different abilities and needs are at real risk of being left behind as technology evolves. Surely, tech should be evolving to be accessible to all!

Beyond poverty

Thankfully there are organisations who are there to help. I am proud of the team at UKFast who welcomed a group of young people from Henshaws to our Campus. Henshaws is a charity that supports people living with sight loss and a range of disabilities, to help them achieve their ambitions and surpass expectations. Their digital enablement courses help people with sight loss to improve their quality of life through technology. Other sessions include Tech Talk and Happy Appers.

The group came along to the office to learn about the reality of a career in tech and to learn more about being part of the industry, at UKFast or elsewhere. There is no reason why these incredible young people cannot go on to become the next tech titans. The sheer scope of tech solutions on offer to support people with different needs is wonderful.

The team at UKFast also volunteer at a charity in Sale called Everyone Can. The charity helps people with disabilities to enjoy the fun that technology can bring, running gaming sessions with adapted controllers and VR headsets so that everyone can take part and enjoy the gaming sessions.

An accessible future for tech

It is absolutely fantastic to see just how much enjoyment families get from being able to play video games together. Unfortunately a lot of the adapted tech is expensive so unlikely. These gaming sessions are the only way that siblings of mixed needs are able to game together. And it is these accessible gaming sessions that have the potential to spark a passion for technology that could easily lead to a future career in the industry.

Places and charities like Henshaws and Everyone Can are pushing boundaries to make tech accessible for all. I couldn’t be prouder to offer our support, even in a small way, to help continue the vital work that they do day in, day out.

At the end of the day, these young people hold the future of the industry in their hands. If only a small portion of the population can access technology and therefore a career in the industry, we’re excluding a huge proportion of people and a huge amount of potential that could take tech to another level. For me it is a simple decision; it makes perfect sense to support these causes and encourage as many people as possible to engage with technology and enjoy doing so.

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