‘Access to Assistive Technology’ – The Access Group National Training Event

On 12-13th November myself (Jenny) and Stewart, Occupational Therapists (OTs) with the Barnsley Assistive Technology team attended the Access Group National Training Event ‘Access to Assistive Technology’ at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney, London.

The Access group consists of a group of individuals working in, or with an interest in Electronic Assistive Technology, (including Augmentative Communication and Environmental Control), with a specific focus on accessing this technology for those with disabilities. The group consists of mainly OTs, but is open to other professionals working in the speciality also. The group is primarily a national online group, but with regular meet ups to share knowledge and best practice, including a two day training event every other year.  Details of the group and how to join their email list can be found on their website: http://ataccessgroup.org.uk/

Due to OTs being a new addition to the Barnsley Team this year, this was the first time that the team had sent OTs to this event and we both found it a great opportunity to meet and network with others working in this specialist area.  The two days mainly consisted of sessions presented by group members on a variety of topics, but also offered a valuable opportunity for discussion and sharing of knowledge around accessing assistive technology.

Sessions were varied and included, amongst others: developments in computer access; functional vision assessment; the use of technology for profound and multiple learning disabilities; accessible gaming; and considerations in low tech AAC.

Accessible Gaming

The sessions by the charity Special Effect  http://www.specialeffect.org.uk/   and Geoff Harbach of Lepmis  http://www.lepmis.co.uk/ provided a great insight in to the adaptation of gaming consoles and controllers to enable individuals with limited movement to access gaming.  This is something that we are regularly asked about in regards to environmental control, but as a team have previously had limited experience in implementing AT in this area.  As a result it was really interesting to see the work and devices/access methods that these two organisations use and specialise in to facilitate, what is for some people, such an important and meaningful occupation.

Integrated access

Another session of note was ‘The Highs and Lows of Integrated Access’ by Jodie Rogers, OT from East Kent Adult CAT Service. This discussed experiences of the provision of integrated assistive technology, including integrated AAC and EC devices and integrating AAC devices with power wheelchair control.  This session focused on the need for strong communication between different services (AAC, EC and wheelchair services amongst others), highlighting the difficulty of jointly providing the increasing range of devices that do both AAC and EC across respective services. On a positive note, this did emphasise how well this works for the Barnsley team as both specialised EC and AAC services for the region are both provided from the same service, with team members experienced in both specialist areas.  In terms of funding, communication and seamless working, this does indeed make things much easier for the team, however it also highlighted the challenge for our team to be knowledgeable and up to date regarding both EC and AAC products and the implementation of these.

As a team however, we regularly have visits and demonstrations by various EAT companies to update us on their products.  We are coming to the end of our current run of these type of events, but we will likely be looking to book in some further sessions in 2016.  See our website for further details of training and sign up to our email list – selecting ‘training and education’ to receive information about future training events.

A positive event

All sessions were a great way for the group to share experiences and knowledge and discuss devices, software and approaches for facilitating access to EAT.  Thanks go to the AT team at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability for hosting the event and to the members of the Access group for organising and presenting.