Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, launched on Saturday the world’s first Global Disability Innovation Hub, which will be based at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It will bring together the world’s best academics, disability experts and designers to improve the lives of the world’s one billion disabled people through technology, co-design and innovation. UCL will lead the team responsible for the long-term development of the Hub which will have a permanent home at the new UCL East campus.
The Hub, to be based initially at the London Legacy Development Corporation, launched with:
· A new website calling on people to join its online community and share ideas and innovations from across the world;
· Over ten projects, many developed by teams involving UCL researchers, already delivering and testing new ways of disrupting traditional thinking on disability;
· Plans to launch a Master’s programme, sponsored PhDs, and multidisciplinary research projects being developed by academic partners;
Professor Paola Lettieri, Academic Director for UCL East, said:
“The Global Disability Hub is a great example of the new and exciting activities that we are planning for our new campus at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which break down the conventional barriers between research, education, enterprise and public engagement, and are innovative in the approach that integrates them.”
The Hub emerged from work at UCL, led by Catherine Holloway (UCL Interaction Centre), into finding practical uses for the latest research on disability and innovation. An example of a project being supported by UCL is the development of an app that allows wheelchair users to plan accessible urban routes.
The establishment of the Hub was spurred by a UCL Grand Challenge award led by Dr Maria Kett (UCL Epidemiology) that allowed over 150 people from across the disability communities and academics across the Hub institutions to work together on a week of daily ‘hacks’. They designed transport for disabled children in Zimbabwe and developed methods for visually impaired people to navigate the UCL East campus.
The Hub partnership is led by UCL and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, with Loughborough University London, UAL’s London College of Fashion, alongside partners including Leonard Cheshire Disability, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art and a range of disabled peoples’ organisations and local and international community groups.
The Hub is co-directed within UCL by Professor Nora Groce (UCL Epidemiology). It will work with teams including the Aspire CREATe centre and the UCL Institute for Healthcare Engineering.