AT Conference in Manchester, April 2018

The focus of this conference asked several questions, What is the biggest issue? Is it finding the technology? Is it keeping up with what’s new? These questions were the start of the discussions to allow Empowering Independence. My notes below were taken at the conference so I will have missed out some aspects and this is only my opinion.

British assistive technology association for more information.

Ability magazine as another Assistive Technology resource.

Initial Discussion

What are the barriers to acquisition and adoption? It is important to discuss the benefits and barriers and how to integrate Assistive Technology into people’s lives.

Overall AT enables people to live independently.

Smart devices are becoming mainstream.

The ageing population is also driving development and demand.

13m disabled in the UK

Only a fifth are born with their disability.

2m sight impairments

2m use hearing aids


Gives people self-confidence, e.g being to use a magnifier software to do studies

Enables people to reach potential

Boosts engagement among learners

Participation in society

Portability with technology allows more independence

Systems being used by non-disabled people

Universal design allows a wider market and customer satisfaction

Subtitles on YouTube

Alt text on twitter

iPhone as almost a necessity


Can be difficult to use



Students have a £200 charge when they have an assessment. This was discussed and currently, the BATA are trying to get this removed as it was shown that many students can not afford to pay so they then don’t get the help that they need and that should be their right.


AT can be more expensive if there is lower production runs

Sometimes there is a need for telephone support

Mainstreaming has lower the costs for some devices in the public that can also be used for AT needs

ATAI – the USA version

Looking to introduce better training in AT, there isn’t a ‘course’ as such


by David Brown, AT Coordinator

250 people every day find out they are losing their sight

Emotionally this is a process that vi people have to go through. RNIB may be a first point of contact and a support network is needed. ECLOs are placed with each assessor to assist.

Why is tech important?

Avoids exclusion, access to facilities: banking shopping, research, social media, relationships, finding relationships, government websites, travel

Easier communication

Keeping up with peers & employment

Avoiding loneliness especially with rural areas, the family may have moved away and similar

Video call can aid this process or voice calls

Many low-cost solutions

The internet of ‘everything’

How can the technology make a real difference in people’s lives

Sensory impairment was included in the online today project, to make a practical difference to everyday life.

Many sight loss conditions is due to age, 60+ most of us will know family or friends who suffer from vision loss

Loss of reading for yourself (2001) access to talking books library – now 70k books+ also Audible offers similar

Not wanting to rely on other people for your life

How to enable independence

PREVIOUSLY: Costs would have included a pc, software and regular updates, and training to use these devices and programs

Especially in the rehabilitation process when people may not want access to work.

Just as a way to inform themselves and not rely on others, lots to process

There may be other injury or reasons why altered use of technology e.g lack of using a hand or similar, shakes, sensitivity

Financial and training / learning process was the biggest barrier to AT

Having to work in a non-visual way

However, iPhone (10 years?) Changed a lot of that, provided a device with AT build in it.

Initially: was panic about how the hell to use a flat screen with no ‘touch’? When the use of smartphones and tablets started to become popular, there was an initial feeling of panic that there would be no way for a visually impaired person to access things on it, without being able to ‘touch’ buttons.

iOS has AT which is continually developed

Updates add more features

Financially now on the same footing as a person with vision, no need for a third party software with a huge learning curve, or expense

Now also Android, magnification, TalkBack, ok Google but was a slower journey

Zoom features

Device comparison, they are both now offering similar features

Zoom has display accommodations for different light filters which is a great improvement, especially for MD for example, inverting colours

Even without a tactile screen the gestures allow it to react

Previously it would be hundreds of keystrokes, which was a steep learning curve.

Now it is reduced to three main strokes, taps, pinches, drags

Text to speech has 6 was to access and interact with it, so knowing 9 gestures has allowed a huge difference.

Amazon echo Alexa, Google home ok Google, apple home pod

Seeing AI – Microsoft

Use Siri > Open seeing AI

For text, photos, information, barcodes

And handwriting, faces

MagX, Soundscape, be my eyes is also on android



Quality safety innovation

TEC quality

British standards institute

Quality standards frameworks

Information about a fire in 1968 tower block and the corgi registration

(Note) the presenter is using images but is not explaining what is on screen for VI people.

A fire example from using telecaster

Service user safety

Quality of service

Prevent rogue trading

QSF accreditation is a quality stamp, for safety for technology enabled care (TEC) services

Get accreditation to evidence your standards

10 standards listed, safety, the effectiveness of care, ethics, performance & contract management, partner working & integrated care, continuous improvement

This underpins the basics of the standards framework. Telecaster monitoring,

Service delivery modules


Mind view demo

AT version

Used for access to work

Mind mapping and can attach documents notes websites and similar.

Created a document translated from the mind map

Generated from the map, formatted and includes the attachments

AT scholarship to have access to this software and others


Demo: by Jason Gordon


Is the world changing fast? Will a child now days have a need to learn to drive? Is the pace moving fast?

Booking online with GP? Prescriptions? Are we keeping up with health and technology changes?

Apple watch, fitness tracker, being congratulated for standing up twelve times in a day

A challenge to government to help people keep up – everything is moving online – taxes, council tax, services etc

Does this exclude people? Literacy

1/10 people have dyslexia

Council website could be a barrier for people who have literacy issues, maybe English is the second language.

TextHelp is trying to eliminate this challenge and the barriers

It is vital that everybody understands information in an accessible format – NHS statement

An NHS for everyone – but what about literacy? Can people access their information

Accessible information standard

Safety issues, nonadherence of information isn’t understood

Literacy and language support

Browsealoud – product for websites

Supporting hidden disabilities (dyslexia) often found out later in life

Many emails and documents can lower productivity

People should be engaged and enabled to do their best

Can lower stress-related absences

Read&write productivity tool

Documents can be turned into an audio file, screen tint and write

Read webpages, emails, documents, scanned to word and paper-based to digital

Grammar checker

Increased job satisfaction

Works at home, at work on the move, for all devices

Accessible technology for all


Sheffield University, Prof Luke deWitt

AAATE association for the advancement of assisting technology in Europe

Robotics for assisting, as limbs and as assisting

Helping children, elderly, other countries, third world projects

Gap with AT

Of real people and affordability

Only 10-15% of needs met

United Nations – conventions of the right of persons with disabilities

Article 20 personal mobility

Quality mobility aids,

Robotics, material sciences, sensor technology, e-health, m-health, wearables, internet of things, artificial intelligence, gaming, 3D printing, remote training

Never before in history has there been a time with so fast developments in technology

We can make almost anything

But – at the same time, it is increasingly difficult for people with disabilities to obtain proper technologies

Develop AT based on international standards

Based on models suitable in local contexts

Working together in networks,

Awareness raising, information provisions

Outreach in the community

Low-cost solutions

Expert consultation

Too much fragmentation still. Where do people go, what are the standards, who are the experts

What is the strategy?

Robust proven technologies, low-cost tech devices, international perspective

New devices based on emerging technologies

Global strategy


Priority assisting technology products list – 50 products that should be available in every country

Reduce the knowledge gap

The need for cutting-edge service delivery systems

To ensure people get access to what is available

High quality and covering the relevant domain of human functioning

Quality criteria 2012






User influence

Professionals involved in AT must be trained to a high level of expertise – is this available?!

Invest in low tech low-cost devices

Service delivery systems access for all

Best practices of service deliveries

(Notes: is there scope for a course / degree / foundation degree? What would this look like?) HCI or Computer Science? Or?


ACE centre – Anna Reeves

Augmentative and alternative communications

AT can be life-changing and is vital to independence

Mainstream technology versus choosing specialist equipment

Voice-activated home

Dave Allen – voice-activated home (1979s) comedy piece illustrates the thinking

Leave a Reply