Robin Christopherson is Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet, the pioneering UK charity that aims to make the power of digital technology available to everyone, regardless of ability or age. He was brought up to believe that blindness need not be a barrier in life. Both his parents had demanding jobs despite being partially blind, setting a strong example to their three visually impaired children.
As his condition worsened, Robin learned to adapt, moving gradually closer to the front of the class at school. At Cambridge University an early talking laptop running DOS helped his engineering studies. Robin took inspiration from Prof Stephen Hawking, who overcame physical disability to provide profound scientific insights by nudging a switch
He co-founded AbilityNet in 1996, specialising in adaptive and assistive technology, helping people gain qualifications and design software that is easy to use for all. It has centres all over country, but has never received government funding, although many of its services are free.
Upcoming advances in adaptive and assistive technology that he lists include smartphones that help people find keys, shoes, or a dog’s harness, check clothes are suitably colour co-coordinated and use lidar to bleep when it is time to move forward in a queue. AI-enabled biometric authorisation will obviate the need to remember passwords and there is huge potential in smart glasses and headsets, he says.