Vision for an inclusive Australia: technology and innovation at the forefront of Disability Royal Commission

Australia has a golden opportunity to embrace recent advancements in technology innovation and become a world leader in creating a more equitable and accessible society, Remarkable Founder Pete Horsley has told the Disability Royal Commission.

Speaking today in Brisbane, Horsley urged the Australian technology sector, businesses  and wider society to capitalise on the important steps taken towards accessibility and inclusion as part of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

Horsley, who has over 18 years’ experience in the disability sector, was invited to submit a verbal statement at the 31st public hearing of the DRC in Brisbane today in response to the theme of the hearing, ‘Vision for an inclusive Australia’.

Remarkable, made possible by Cerebral Palsy Alliance, has played a pioneering role in building an inclusive Australia for people with disability by harnessing the power of technological innovation. Since Remarkable’s inception, 61  startups have taken part in their accelerator, which have gone on to secure almost $30 million in investment and served over 120,000 customers.

The hearing, which also examined the progress of the Australian Disability Strategy, was held before all Commissioners: The Hon. Ronald Sackville AO KC (Chair), Ms Barbara Bennett PSM, Dr Rhonda Galbally AC, Mr Alastair McEwin AM, Ms Andrea Mason OAM and the Hon. John Ryan AM.

While one in five Australians live with some form of disability, overall people with disability are significantly under-represented as developers and consumers. Remarkable’s mission is to change that by providing solutions and enhance choice, control and independence, said Horsley.

“Technology is becoming more and more prevalent, we’re dealing with it in every aspect of our lives, and all tech is assistive tech. My vision for a more inclusive Australia is that the Remarkable tech we’re helping to create isn’t remarkable anymore, because we have people with disability in the c-suite, guiding the product development,” he said.

“We should be seeing disability as synonymous with innovation – people with disability are the best advocates for that as they’ve been doing it all their lives. In Australia we have some policy settings that lend themselves to this, so imagine if we could take that to the rest of the world as well. Australia could lead the world in [disability tech],” Horsley told the DRC.

Through four core programs, Remarkable supports  innovators and entrepreneurs to launch products and services that drive inclusion, autonomy and agency for people with disability.

Echoing the sentiment he shared at the Disability Royal Commission, Horsley said the disability sector is a relatively untapped gold mine of technological potential with an attractive consumer base.

Horsley also extensively discussed the principles of universal design, accessibility and innovation, and Remarkable’s dedication to co-design with a diverse community of people with lived experience of disabilities, their families and supporters.

Rob White, CEO of Cerebral Palsy Alliance, said the advancement of life-changing research and technology continues to change the world for those living with disability.

“Cerebral Palsy Alliance is a global centre of expertise for cerebral palsy and the largest private funder of cerebral palsy research globally, having committed more than $68 million to the field in the last 17 years. We are proud of the work Remarkable is doing to help grow and lead global advancement in the understanding of inclusivity for all those living with disability.”

A host of revolutionary products and businesses aiding people with disability have emerged from Remarkable’s various programs offering mentorship, support, resources and funding. PolySpine,a modular torso and head support system enabling people with a physical disability to participate in activities, was submitted into evidence and discussed by the commission.

Other notable alumni are:

  • Homeable: Smart home solutions designed for the unique goals and needs of individuals living with a disability.
  • Bookbot: Empowers those with learning disabilities to become confident, independent learners through a reading assistant app.
  • Bump’n: Creating the first line of sex toys that don’t require the use of hands to assist people with hand limitations.

Having established the ‘Design-athon’ and ‘Accelerator’ programs in 2016, Remarkable launched its newest pre-accelerator program called ‘Launcher’ and a scholarship program for entrepreneurs with disability called ‘Jessica King Fellowship’ this year. A new venture-scaling program ‘Scaler’ will commence in 2023.

The Royal Commission on Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (Disability Royal Commission) was established in 2019. It was established to investigate the protection, best practice and promotion of a more inclusive society for people living with disability. The Commission will deliver its final report to the Australian Government in September 2023.