A Guest in the Assistive Technology Department

I’m Amber and a couple of months ago, I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a Master’s degree in Physics. In order to put my degree to good use, I am aspiring to become a Clinical Scientist via the Scientist Training Program which is run by the NHS. To help me on my way with this, the AT team at Barnsley Hospital kindly provided me with an insight into some of the work that they do.

The team provides a great service by utilising technology to aid people who have difficulty in communicating and also help to make their surrounding environment more accessible. My first day with the team introduced me to a young gentleman who had been provided with an iPad to use Grid 2 software as a communication aid. However he managed to successfully adapt to this technology by using photographs taken on the iPad as a prompt in conversation. In contrast, I shadowed a visit to another young gentleman who managed to utilise the Grid 2 software to communicate with his family. He had a grid which could be personalised by adding cells such as the names of his pets and his favourite choices for breakfast etc. Everyone was impressed with the improvement that the software had provided to every aspect of his life, both at school and at home.

I also spent a morning with Graham, the department’s electrical engineering expert. He spoke to me about how his role has changed with the rapid evolution of technology and explained why modern technology doesn’t always provide the simplest solution to issues with accessibility. He also taught me a little bit about circuitry and soldering, an integral part of his role in the department and something I haven’t approached since being in a technology lesson at school!

Another afternoon with the team involved visiting a lady with Multiple Sclerosis to assess how environmental controls could give her increased independence around her home. With the help of her husband, she had already adapted to some of the changes which the disease brings about by utilising technology which was already available to them. For instance apps for the iPad made controlling the TV easier as the buttons were larger and internal calls were made using the home phone which then acted as a pager. However she identified that a pager would be fit for purpose and therefore much more practical. A device which would allow her to control the television, digital TV receiver, landline phones as well as an entry system to the front door was also identified to be beneficial.

The department is currently preparing for numerous changes which will hopefully allow the team to provide their invaluable services across the whole of Yorkshire. I would like wish them the greatest success with the transformation to the Assistive Technology Service and to thank them all for generously sharing with me their time and extensive knowledge in this field.