UCL Grand Challenges: Developing Solutions

Authors: UCL Grand Challenges Team and Dr Youngjun Cho (GDI Hub & UCL Interaction Centre)

The Global Disability Innovation Hub is challenging assumptions about disability and the design of assistive technology. The GDI Hub takes an inclusive approach that draws on the expertise of disabled people, practitioners, academics and the local community. London 2012 promised to be ‘the most inclusive Olympics ever’ and legacy planning for the games included ambitions for increasing disability equality. In 2016 the GDI Hub built on this Olympic and Paralympic legacy with a series of ‘Pop-Ups’ funded by the Grand Challenges. This pilot version of the Hub brought together a range of partners and stakeholders to push inter-disciplinary boundaries and explore new ways of thinking about disability.

This week-long series of discussions and workshops provided a crucial testing-ground for new approaches and methodologies to create new dialogues on disability innovation. The event was followed by the approval of a new master’s programme, MSc ‘Disability, Design and Innovation’ – led and awarded by UCL with input from London College of Fashion and Loughborough University London – and the inaugural Disability Innovation Summit in July 2017 featuring 300 delegates from around the world and across sectors. In 2018, the GDI Hub was awarded £10m from the Department for International Development (DFID) to widen access to assistive technology for disabled people by running a three-year, multi-partner programme called, ‘AT:2030
– Life Changing Assistive Technology for All’.

The GDI Hub is building a movement to accelerate disability innovation for a fairer world, with an innovation hub to be set up in East Africa, led by UCL in partnership with the University of Nairobi and Government of Kenya, and in collaboration with the Tokyo Olympic Games Committee to support their thinking around a legacy from the Paralympic Games in Japan. The UCL Grand Challenges served as a catalyst for the creation and impressive growth of the GDI hub, now a global organisation driving disability inclusion and social justice by disrupting current practice to create changes internationally. We are grateful for the financial support from UCL Grand Challenges that made this innovative project possible, and look forward to seeing it grow in the future.

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