Neil Milliken is Global Head of Accessibility for Atos. His role is to deliver better technology for customers and employees, embedding inclusive practice into the processes of the organization, which has thousands of employees and an annual turnover of billions.
Neil delivers strategy and services working with a wide range of clients helping them to develop policies, processes, and technology solutions to meet the needs of their staff and customers.
He is the Atos representative on the Business Disability Forum Technology Task Force
Neil is also an invited expert for the W3C Cognitive Accessibility Taskforce & member of the Atos Scientific Community & Atos Distinguished Expert .
He is co-founder of AXSChat Europe’s largest twitter chat with a focus on Accessibility & Inclusion.
Neil was named in the top ten of the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 list in 2018 and was named D&I practitioner of the year in the 2019 Disability Smart Awards. He is an ambassador and supporter for https://www.thevaluable500.com/ The global movement putting disability on the business leadership agenda.
Head of Accessibility & Digital Inclusion and member of the Scientific Community at Atos.
Neil Milliken is responsible for Accessibility & Digital Inclusion at Atos, a leading digital services organisation with circa 123,000 employees in 73 countries, serving a global client base, bringing together people, business & technology to deliver digital empowerment to its clients. Atos is the Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Olympic & Paralympic Games. Atos is a partner of the Business Disability Forum, a member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals and International Labour Organisation Global Business Disability Network.
Neil is a member of the Atos Scientific Community and is an Atos Distinguished Expert, he works to deliver better technology for Atos’s customers and staff, and to embed inclusive practices into the business-as-usual-processes of organisations with thousands of employees and turnovers in the billions. Neil delivers strategy and services working with a range of clients both within Atos and externally, helping them to develop policies, processes and technological solutions to meet their staff and customers’ needs.
Among his achievements are the creation of the Atos Centre of Competence, encompassing accessibility, inclusive design and assistive technology services and the creation of the first dedicated apprenticeship scheme for accessibility. In 2015 Neil was recognised as “Disability Champion” of the year by the Business Disability Forum.
Neil is also a board member of the charity World Institute on Disability and Chair of the diversity board for the Institute of Coding.
In 2014, along with Antonio Santos & Debra Ruh, Neil founded #AXSChat which is a social media community and twitter chat focussed on raising awareness of accessibility, disability inclusion and innovation. Since its inception AXSChat has become one of the world’s largest twitter chats accumulating over 3 Billion impressions and in May 2018 it won the European Digital Mindset Award for best digital campaign.
Neil is dyslexic and advocates for people with dyslexia as well as other disabilities and additional needs. He was named in the top ten of the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 list of most influential people with a disability in the UK.
Neil champions accessibility in IT as a clear business need and makes sure companies are aware of, and factor in, the widespread use of accessible IT tools.”
My disabilities profoundly affect the way I see the world and the way I process it. I started my education in the arts. I even started my own record. However I changed to computer science some 20 years ago while I was studying in Cambridge. It was challenging for me because when I started my studies and throughout my education I didn’t have access to computers but when I started working I quickly realized how important and mind blowing technology was for people with disabilities. I found my passion in technology, and, especially, accessible technology.
The way I see the world and technology is that people with disabilities have to have the chance to participate in the world the same way everybody does. We need to have the same opportunities and challenges and be able to take an active role in all areas of society. And I think that technology can allow that. And that is what I have been doing ever since.
Until very recently, there has been a strong focus on a medical model: solutions that help people with their specialities. But more recently there has been a shift to a social model instead of a medical model for people with disabilities. And I think the best way would be a blend between the two. The social aspect is critical: the psychological impact of being disable and how it affects your families. But we, as designers and technologists, we need to take into consideration all aspects, as people might have different disabilities and we need to make sure that our solutions are as broad and inclusive as possible.
As we design tech, we should think about every user. All good tech has to be accessible. And companies need to understand how to make their technology accessible for all their potential user base. That includes educating people about how to use their technology. It is important too to say that accessible technology has to be well implemented with already deployed technology to make sure it is useful within mainstream trends. I truly believe that disability is actually a trigger for innovation, especially in technology.
One thing we do at Atos is to listen to our community. I think it is important to understand what is really needed and how to build it to make sure that it is actually accessible and that people will use it. Conversation is critical in accessibility development.
I understand this concept the same way sustainability does for supply chains. Every time a technology, product or service is developed without thinking about making it for everyone is like polluting the environment with a non-sustainable product. And I understand that this includes extra financing from companies. Fortunately, there are different projects, programs and commitments from big companies and CEOs to promote this sustainable accessibility in tech.
Being an European company, I think it has a different approach, more philosophical than just engineering or completely business-driven. For example, we are working towards becoming a net-zero-carbon company by 2025. We are not just about speed then but we take into consideration other social problems and try to do our part. Another thing, when we use a smartphone, most of the pollution is not made by the device we use but the datacenters the device is connected to. And that is a bit how we approach things. We don’t only focus on making shiny products but making sure that our products are conscious from the beginning of its inception.
We collaborate and are inspired by very different and meaningful people who have had the courage to speak loudly about their disabilities. That includes politicians, businesspeople, actors, comedians, etc. And people with different disabilities: from physical to mental.
We are also a partner of the Paralympic games. And our role is more than just a mere partner. We take care of the security, keycards, passes, security of systems, we manage the databases, etc. In my POV, the paralympics games are a great way not only for people to participate in the biggest sporting events worldwide but also the perfect example to see how disabilities can drive innovation too.
For me, I am always thinking about how to use this technology or connection to foster social inclusion. For companies, these things are a long term project but it surely will pay off and the benefits are huge.