on June 24th, 2019

The traditional engineering qualification is going through changes. Universities and technical vocational educational institutions are coming to grips with the changing nature of engineering. The world’s problems need solving, and they cannot be solved with one engineer from one discipline from one university anymore.

Some universities and institutions understand that, and are determined to bridge the gaps between engineering disciplines. Other universities do not seem to grasp the idea of changing educational offerings at all - and produce future-proof-less engineers.

With technology advancing at a rapid rate, universities are having to update their curricula with the most cutting edge research and technical information. What universities are wanting to do is instruct the prospective engineers in the kinds of knowledge that can help them help the world.

One subindustry engineering has produced is the assistive technologies industry. This is an industry that sees engineers developing technologies for disabled and elderly people in hopes that it might make their lives easier. The industry has heated up to such an extent that entire degrees are being compiled.

There are over one billion people living with a disability. Accessibility to technology is thus extremely important.

The universities that are meeting this challenge head on are the University College London (UCL), Loughborough University London and the London College of Fashion. They have just added the Master of Science in Disability, Design and Innovation to their offerings. It will be a multidisciplinary approach to creating assistive technologies. The curriculum is ready to go, with expert instructors ready to teach, at the Global Disability Innovation Hub (GDI) based at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The GDI Hub is pumping £10 million that will see the Life Changing Assistive Technology For All programme reach over 3 million people.

Dr Catherine Holloway, Academic Director of the GDI Hub told Eureka Magazine:

“The global potential for disability innovation is huge. New technologies provide opportunities for scalability and access, but to accelerate this movement we need a new generation pioneers. The Disability, Design and Innovation Masters is the world’s first course in this rapidly growing area of expertise. Students will be taught in a uniquely multidisciplinary environment, learning from global experts, live research projects and high-profile global collaborations. We’re looking for exceptional students with the drive and determination to push the boundaries of this new area of study.”

The market is ripe for some innovation in the tech sector for the specific task of creating truly innovative technologies for the disabled and the elderly. As a result, engineering startup companies with budding engineering entrepreneurs have been developing to get them to the market.

Even big tech is getting in on the game. Google has gotten its engineers to develop a subtitling function to its new operating system Android Q. It will be very helpful to hard of hearing and fully deaf people when activated on the smartphone. The function named Live Caption can transcribe podcasts, videos, audio and even video chat on the fly, as it happens. It is accessible via one tap.

The MSc in Disability, Design and Innovation has modules on entrepreneurship, engineering skills and understanding of the global policy and societal contexts of disability. Consequently, the industry could see more software and hardware entering the world that will positively assist those with disabilities.


Works Cited

“Google's Impressive Live Caption Will Add Subtitles to Any Audio on Your Phone.” Android Authority, 7 May 2019, www.androidauthority.com/google-live-caption-983562/.

Ucl. “Disability, Design and Innovation MSc.” UCL Graduate Degrees, 11 Feb. 2019, www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/taught-degrees/disability-design-innovation-msc.

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