Keri McWilliams

How can we support our staff better with Assistive Technology? - Key Takeaways

We recently participated in a jointly held British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) and Business Disability Forum (BDF) webinar on assistive technology (AT) in the workplace. Read on to learn more about our key takeaways from the participants’ discussion. 


We recently participated in a jointly held British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) and Business Disability Forum (BDF) webinar on assistive technology (AT) in the workplace. 

The discussion focused on how software vendors can begin to work more effectively with corporates to create greater assistive technology solutions for large-scale office use. 

Read on to learn more about our key takeaways from the participants’ discussion.

One of the greatest challenges for all employers is to ensure they have the right AT support in place to meet users needs - quickly, efficiently and with minimal disruption on existing IT systems and staff. Stronger working relationships between corporates and assistive technology providers would undoubtedly deliver smoother integration of AT software into the office environment - and steps are proactively being taken to ensure this happens.  

Neil Milliken, Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusion at Atos recognises that one size doesn’t fit all, and that personalization is becoming a significant driver of any buying decision. He stresses the need for software to be more tailorable to suit user needs and the importance of delivering a better user experience. 

This brings us back to the need for improved interaction and communication between suppliers and customers/users, to ensure ongoing development is done with users in mind. As suppliers, we’ve found that the agile approach undoubtedly helps us address customer needs much more quickly and effectively.

Paul Smyth, Head of IT Accessibility at Barclays, has firsthand experience of the decision-making difficulties corporate buyers can face when reviewing AT solutions available in the market. Making the right choice can be difficult, often leading to no action being taken on the part of the buyer. In some other cases, it may have the opposite effect, leading to a rushed purchasing decision being made.

Portability is increasingly recognised as playing a vital role within the workplace. Paul highlighted that cloud-based assistive technology solutions are best suited to the corporate environment, in which workers are just as likely to work remotely as they are in the office. 

Up next, we had Microlink CEO, Dr Nasser Siabi. Nasser reiterated the need for the market to be in tune with new trends in the workplace. In his experience, corporates commonly fail to provide a smooth transition for young graduates, who’ve used and relied on AT throughout their education, as they move into the workplace. 

Too often, he believes, an employer’s attitude may be that ‘everything will be fine’ without making adjustments to accommodate the new user’s needs. This just isn’t true. The new recruit is unable to do their job properly, without the right support in place. He stresses the need for corporates to be better prepared, with support solutions already in place for the new recruits. 

This leads us onto another area where change is needed. We need to move away from AT being perceived as a single-user support installation. It’s time to refocus on the benefits if the AT is rolled out organisation-wide. Organisations with multiple single licence installations of AT will often find it’s more cost effective to roll out an organisation-wide licence. As a result every employee has access - providing AT support to those who specifically need it, and for everyone else who as a great productivity tool. This scenario provides minimal disruption or impact on existing IT systems and staff.

Another important aspect to ‘getting things right’ is greater awareness between all parties (corporate, AT vendors and AT publishers) and this involves software development and bug fixes. Within this context Mark McCusker, CEO of Texthelp, stresses the importance of security - an issue which causes sleepless nights for everyone involved in technology! 

He highlights that a bug-fix, in response to one customer need, can create considerable problems for another, hence the need for lengthy QA processes and checks prior to release. Often the bug itself can be fixed in a matter of hours, but the 3000+ QA tests to ensure continuity of a secure service (in essence to ensure the ‘fix’ doesn’t ‘break’ another aspect of the software) can take weeks.  Whilst agile software development helps expedite this process, corners cannot be cut if the highest security standards are to be maintained.

The webinar highlighted the need for closer working relationships between corporates, software vendors and software publishers - and this is being facilitated with the help of BATA and the BDF in what will undoubtedly be the first of many productive discussions.

But the need for a best practice framework to assist corporates when buying AT solutions is also evident. Guidelines need to be developed jointly by all parties involved (corporate buyers, AT users in the workplace, software publishers and vendors) taking into consideration many of the points covered in this blog. 
With the assistance of everyone involved in the webinar, we’re keen to drive this forward and would welcome your involvement. 

Please join in the conversation in the feedback box below, on Twitter (@TexthelpWork), or email us direct at 

We look forward to hearing your thoughts!


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