Assistive technology professionals can often be accused of not having a good understanding of what their clients need. One of our recent research papers, however, suggested that this is not necessarily the case – and that professionals do seem to understand the needs of users well. This paper was recently selected to receive a ‘highly commended’ award by the journal publishers.
The paper was based on a focus group with assistive technology professionals who had provided speech driven environmental controls. These devices allow a person to use their speech to control equipment around them. Environmental control provision is well established in the UK, but anecdotally we felt that speech driven systems were not being commonly provided. This research set out to look at some of the reasons for this.
As well as suggesting that professionals are able to empathise well with users’ needs, the research suggested that professionals are cautious about using speech driven systems because of concerns over reliability. Most professionals had, however, recommended or provided such a system to meet specific needs, though generally in combination with a back-up system to cope with any ‘safety critical’ functions.