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Expert in digital accessibility receives prestigious Future Leaders Fellowship

Published: 7 May 2019
Sarah Lewthwaite
Dr Sarah Lewthwaite

Dr Sarah Lewthwaite from the University of Southampton has been awarded one of the first UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowships for her innovative work in the field of teaching digital accessibility.

Dr Lewthwaite, a Research Fellow within Southampton Education School and based within the University’s Centre for Research in Inclusion, is one of the first 50 academics in the UK to be awarded a Future Leaders Fellowship (FLF). The UKRI scheme aims to grow the strong supply of talented researchers needed to ensure that UK research and innovation continues to be world class. 

Dr Lewthwaite’s FLF will deliver a transformative programme of research into digital accessibility education at university and in the workplace. This is done to build workforce capacity for the development of accessible digital tools and services. Digital technologies have revolutionised daily life, yet capacity for producing accessible tools and services has not kept pace with demand which has exacerbated digital exclusion among disabled people and older populations.

The four-year long project, which received over £650,000 from UKRI, will employ one full-time or two part-time fellows in Dr Lewthwaite’s team. It will establish digital accessibility education as a field of academic research and forge new collaborations and dialogue between academia and industry. This will be a world-leading research team with a mission to develop graduate and workforce capacity for accessibility, and reduce digital exclusion in the UK and elsewhere to ensure that technology can be harnessed more effectively for all, now and in the future.

“I am delighted to bring this funding and fellowship to Southampton, to build on the excellent work already happening here in inclusion and digital accessibility education,” said Dr Lewthwaite who has extensive expertise in disability research, digital accessibility, pedagogy and critical theory. “This is a huge opportunity to make a real difference to how accessibility teachers, trainers and peer-educators develop their practice, at a critical moment for UK digital tools and services.”

Dr Lewthwaite’s application for the FLF was supported by a number of key players in the global accessibility arena including AbilityNet in the UK, and internationally by members of the Teach Access initiative and The Paciello Group. She also received vital support internally from Professor Mark Spearing, President & Vice-Chancellor (Interim), Professor Jane Falkingham, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Research and Innovation Services, the Centre for Research and Inclusion, ECS Accessibility Team and ESRC National Centre for Research Methods.

 

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