New UK Tech Fund to support disabled people and their employers

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The UK’s Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, Sarah Newton MP, has announced a new Tech Fund that offers employers significant savings on the cost of assistive technology (AT).

The fund, part of the Government’s Access to Work programme, was announced at Naidex, Europe’s largest AT conference.

Access to Work provides financial support to ensure someone’s disability or health condition does not hold them back at work, and can cover assistive technology, workplace adaptations, transport and interpreters. It is part of a range of support available to ensure that disabled people can enter, and thrive in, the workplace. This includes supported work experience placements, the government’s Disability Confident scheme and personalised support package.

Previously, medium and large employers were required to pay a mandatory contribution towards the cost of AT required by employees with disabilities. Under the new Tech Fund this cost will now be waived for all employers.

Announcing the fund the minister said:

We know that assistive technology has the power to transform lives, helping to break down the barriers disabled people can face at work and so many other areas of their everyday lives.

Access to Work is providing support to disabled people across the country, and I hope that through the new Tech Fund more disabled people and their employers will be able to benefit from advances in assistive technology that can help create more inclusive workplaces.

Employers will be able to make a significant saving through the Tech Fund. Before the new rules were introduced, medium employers paid the first £500 towards technological solutions and large employers paid the first £1,000, with both paying 20 per cent of the cost thereafter up to £10,000.

Paul Luigi Giuntini is a social worker from Scotland who is registered blind and has one hand. Through Access to Work, he is able to fund cutting edge assistive technology to help him do his job.

Paul’s support includes Orcam, a lightweight camera which clips onto the wearer’s glasses that can recognise faces and read from any surface in real time.

He said:

Access to Work funding is essential for disabled people, as it helps reduce the barriers and difficulties that disabled people face in trying to get into and maintain full-time employment.

Without the support of Access to Work, I would not have been able to obtain and sustain my current employment. I believe that this funding should be promoted so that disabled people are given every opportunity to improve their life situation.

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