Inclusivity is not something we can achieve without putting in the work. The systemic problems we’re facing won’t be resolved with good intentions alone – we must be proactive in creating an inclusive future.
Whilst how we can make the tech sector a more inclusive industry to work in is a prevalent conversation in our community, a lack of inclusivity spans all aspects of our lives. From entertainment and daily tasks to working practices and education, there are groups being left behind.
In the South West, we’re fortunate to have some of our brightest minds on the case, building tech to break down barriers. We’re shining a light on a handful of these top innovators, each targeting entirely different areas in which inclusion is not being put into practice. But they all have one thing in common – they’re using tech to build a more inclusive future for us all.
Bristol-based publisher, VIKA Books, utilises state-of-the-art technology to teach children British Sign Language (BSL) in an engaging, creative way. Using Augmented Reality (AR), these books work in tandem with a smartphone app that brings magic illustrations to life, with animations jumping out of the page and deaf presenters demonstrating the accompanying word.
Recently, VIKA Books was awarded the prestigious Design and Art Direction (D&AD) Impact Fund to expand its pioneering innovation. The first AR publication Where is the Bird? is already inspiring a new generation of deaf and hearing children (0-3) alike, to play in BSL through a this immersive publishing. The £10k grant will go towards the development, illustration and print of a 24-page zine-style activity book for the 3-12 year old market, Where are the Fish?
“British Sign Language should be a language for everybody,” says Victoria. “It allows both deaf and hearing children to communicate freely without speech. This is particularly useful in loud, silent, or distanced environments, like in a noisy playground or in a library.”
Amy Dick, D&AD Impact Council Member and judge explains that, “VIKA exemplifies the power of creativity to innovate business, improve human lives and unite communities. By leveraging technology, Victoria is raising the bar for what is possible in print publishing and education – whilst driving inclusivity and equality for deaf people. This is exactly the type of work that deserves support to succeed.”
Open Bionics develops medical devices that enhance the human body. Its first product was the Hero Arm for people living with a below-elbow limb difference, with the ambition to turn disabilities into superpowers.
The Hero Arm is an advanced prosthetic arm for adults and children and the world’s most affordable multi-grip prosthetic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics. Samantha Payne, co-founder of Open Bionics explains on their inclusive innovation, “Our hand is super light, easy to make, open source and dexterous.”
People can choose custom prosthetic covers for their Hero Arm. The stylish magnetic custom prosthetic covers for the Hero Arm will allow you to mix and match your bionic arm based on your personality and mood. Open Bionics has over 50 different colours, designs and textures.
Bristol-based Inclued AI is a companion software that helps content creators identify bias as it happens, providing real-time insights on representation across strategy, visual design and language. Inclued’s technology smartly helps marketers to connect with their audience by spotting and removing unconscious biases in digital content, as well as providing data, insight and educational resources to implement inclusive marketing.
It would take 71 years to fill the race employment gap in advertising agencies, a factor that contributes to marketing teams not having diverse representation. Regardless, with all marketing teams, unconscious bias will always be present and can unintentionally create campaigns perceived as offensive by the public.
Using Inclued, marketing teams can finally identify unconscious bias during the process of content development. Using machine learning, Inclued can quickly identify bias from gender and sexual identity to race and ableism in imagery and literature content.
Built by the Arima & Co team, Inclued has seen prolonged success in the past year. The company joined SETsquared Bristol in 2021 via the Breakthrough Bursary programme which supports Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic entrepreneurs to grow their tech startups.
Since then, Inclued won Best Elevator Pitch at SETsqaured Bristol’s Tech-Xpo, was awarded the Trailblazer Award grant from Bristol + Bath Creative R+D, and this year Joyann Boyce, CEO and Founder, was named 30 under 30 by Rife Magazine, as well as Change Maker by BIMA100.
Most recently, Joyann impressed a room full of investors with the innovative solution to an industry wide problem at our Silicon Gorge Investor Showcase this autumn. Speaking on what the future may hold for Inclued, Joyann tells us, “We truly believe that with the right companion software, marketers can create content which is truly inclusive. Winning Tech-Xpo was just one validation of this mission and has given us exposure to a network of people to make the change happen. I am excited to continue my investment readiness journey.”
Bristol Braille Technology
Bristol Braille Technology has developed the Canute Gaming Dock, a Braille-based gaming system that enables blind, visually impaired and sighted people to play video games alone or together – and can even be used to create your own games!
This is the birth of a new medium: the tactile videogame. It is all about accessible gaming, accessible Computer Science and the brilliance and creative potential Braille offers for blind people.
The Canute’s unique 360 Braille cell display means whole genres that have previously been largely visual can now be made available to blind people as tactile experiences, sometimes with minimal or no adjustment. The team has tested Snake, Hangman, word searches and maze exploration so far with positive results and hope that with the open-source technology, both blind and sighted programmers will create a range of accessible games and have fun adapting games already on the market.
Since 2012 Bristol Braille Technology has developed, manufactured and distributed the first affordable multiline, refreshable Braille machine, the Canute 360. The award winning Canute allows Braille readers to read books downloaded to an SD card rather than dealing with bulky Braille books as well as read music, maths and simple graphs. They have sold hundreds of machines to users all over the world including Australia, America and Japan.
Gapsquare is the software development and HR tech company revolutionising the problem of fair pay through tracking pay disparity, pay equality and pay gap data.
The team has developed an easy to use software which allows your business to analyse and track pay disparity statistics and produce instant reports on equality and diversity data, ready to be presented to your team.
Their tech tool has been backed by countless equality and diversity experts and last year, Gapsqaure consolidated its value as it was acquired by XpertHR. With Gapsquare, you can automate pay gap reporting, look at the impact of your pay reviews and develop equal pay audits saving hundreds of hours normally spent on analysis. Gapsquare strives to build a world where work is inclusive, where pay meets value and diverse talent thrives.
Zara explains more, “We work with large companies who generate regular reports to monitor whether they’re paying employees fairly and are developing predictive analytics that will show companies when they are on the road to creating equal pay or pay gap issues.
“It can be so easy for employers to be so caught up in the day to day of keeping employees happy and productive that they miss when larger issues emerging around who is progressing and thriving at work. I think we can transform that and by offering software that employers can check-in with to make sure they’re doing the best they can for their people.”
AutonoMe combines Educational Technology and one-to-one support to improve outcomes for vulnerable people in Social Care settings. The AutonoMe app gives vulnerable people access to personalised, instructional video programmes to develop and maintain their independence and prepare for employment while presenting Social Care and Education providers with real-time data to evaluate impact and progress towards independence.
The platform is being used by organisations across the UK including London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Devon Council, Telford & Wrekin Council, Shropshire Council, City of Bristol College, Weston College and many more. Investors have also recognised the value of the solution, as the AutonoMe team successfully secured £400k last year.
William Britton, Founder and CEO of AutonoMe, tells us, “Providing vulnerable people with access to tools and resources that help them develop important life skills is vital to allowing them to live fuller, more independent lives. This is what drives everything we do at AutonoMe.”
Written by Shona Wright. Published by Techspark.
Shona Wright covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they’re up to. She also oversees TechSPARK’s social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.