Catherine Holloway

Academic Director - Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) at UCLIC

Global Disability Innovation – the evolving role of HCI to make the world a fairer place

The world is not fair and arguably is getting less fair by the day. The technologies we create are, on the one hand, agnostic but, on the other, are infused with our conscious and unconscious biases. The world we live in sculpts the way we think, the people we interact with and the resources we have at our disposal to create new interactive technology. So how do we best create technologies which bring communities closer together and help us overcome the barriers which hold us back. Disability and design is a wonderful space to work in for this exploration. The barriers faced by disabled people are sometimes obvious and body-environment relate. People who wheel can rarely get up steps, for example. However, the real problems of the steps are historic and societal. The challenges therefore are not only the obvious outputs – steps or outcomes – a lack of access. The challenges are structural, complex, and often intertwined with power and poverty. Most disabled people are poor, live in low-resource settings and have limited access to education and livelihoods. They lack agency. Given the scope of the challenge, it could be argued that it lies beyond the abilities of HCI to solve. However, I do not believe so, and in this talk, through a mixture of personal learnings on power and leadership, combined with the work we have done to establish Global Disability Innovation Hub and the AT2030 programme I hope to convince you that we have a very particular and important role in the design and development of next-generation technologies which can help to make the world a fairer place.

About the speaker:

Cathy is the Academic Director of Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI Hub) and Professor of Interaction Design & Innovation at UCL. Cathy contributed to the Global Report on Assistive Technology as an author, via the Expert Advisory Panel, and sits on WHO Technical Advisory Group for Assistive Technology. Cathy has co-led GDI Hub to be the first WHO Collaborating Centre on Assistive Technology, with a project portfolio of over £40m, across 41 countries, reaching over 28 million people globally. Cathy has published over 190 papers in assistive technology and accessibility alongside a recent book: Disability Interactions – creating inclusive innovations. Cathy is also creating new assistive products with her team for low-resource settings. Cathy is also neurodivergent – she has dyslexia and ADHD and has had depression for many years due to childhood trauma. Cathy is happiest when by the sea with her family or watching the Irish rugby team win.