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Innovation and Uptake of Technology – The ultimate equalizer?

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On the 12th of July 2022, the Dyslexia Commission heard key testimonies and recommendations from some of the leading entrepreneurs in the third section of the Inquiry session. This included entrepreneur, Andy Salmon, founder, and CEO of Sirlinkalot, researcher, Chrissie Franklin at Scanning Pens, Marius Frank, Head of Education at Microlink and Ruth-Ellen Danquah, Chief Innovation Officer at Exceptional Individuals. This topic in the session discussed key technologies that are being curated to increase literacy for children and adults.

Resistance to assistive technology in prisons and schools

On this topic, Chrissie Franklin opened the session on this topic by discussing the impacts of assistive technology in the prison and educational sector. In this area, Franklin discussed that the key issues in the prisons sector pertained to people not having the ability to come forward and access potential help for their reading. In this, Franklin explained that organizations and facility providers simply assume that adults will come forward if they have a reading difficulty. This, she expanded is simply not the case. As such, a vicious cycle persists.

“There is still a stigma and issues around adults admitting that they have a learning difficulty”Chrissie Franklin

Franklin explained that the way in which reading difficulties are overcome are by increasing accessible and well-funded schemes of assistive technology provision, this makes technology an equalizer in the prison sector. Franklin discussed that increasing this technology will allow prisoners to re-join their communities and lower re-offending rates.

Ruth-Ellen Danquah expanded this point discussing the issues of organizational resistance to assistive technology in the workplace. Danquah affirmed the essential point that organisations need to adopt the latest technologies in order to improve the quality of workplace assessments.

So, during the process of reviewing their needs, some assessors treat it as a tick box, the employee goes away and they don’t feel seen, heard, or valued”, Ruth Ellen Danquah

Technology to end stigmatisation

Andy Salmon, founder, and CEO of Sirlinkalot, an app dedicated to using animations to breakdown words in forms of “links” to increase understanding and memory retention of words and their spelling; explored the benefits of assistive technologies. He demonstrated the direct comparability between traditional learning vs assistive technology focused on animation and linking words to funny phrases o improve literacy. Salmon affirmed that his technological method of utilizing animation for reading and numeracy in the classroom created a levelling of the educational playing field.

Salmon suggested that he has received testimonials from schools who have used Sirlinkalot. Children living with dyslexia have been able to use their imagination skills to help improve to the literacy and numeracy aptitude of fellow classmates without SEND requirements.

As such, Salmon stated that Sirlinkalot not only has the capacity to level the playing field of children living with dyslexia but has the capacity for them to be ahead of the class. In this, he insisted that assistive technology should be used as an academic advancement for all children.

Marius Frank from Microlink raised a key testimony he received from a teacher who adopted assistive technology in her classroom. He explained that a child living with dyslexia initially could not keep up with his peers during classroom reading sessions. As a result, he was disengaged and underconfident. However, once the teacher provided a book in app form, the child’s aptitude dramatically increased in the classroom.

“If we open up the possibilities in the classroom, the children will make the journey to independence at the age of 7,8, and 9” Marius Frank

Final Thought

This inquiry session for the Dyslexia Commission demonstrated the importance of such testimonies and expert discussions. With experts and entrepreneurs like Andy Salmon, Marius Frank, Chrissie Franklin, and Ruth-Ellen Danquah exploring how technology can overcome the practical challenges for reading equality, this demonstrates funding is an essential factor for solutions.

As mentioned in the previous inquiry session, the theme of funding cannot be ignored. Why? Because without resources, such technologies simply won’t reach the target groups who will benefit the most from their adoption. As Chrissie Frank stated in the inquiry session, if we don’t fund projects such as theses, we as a society will pay for it later. In this, Frank summarized the point put forward across the panel. We either fund early intervention or technology for people now for we pay for it later through high offending rates in prisons.

To find out more, visit the commission page or contact Policy and Research Analyst Ann-Marie Debrah at annmarie.debrah@chamberuk.com

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