Ireland’s first national assembly on assistive technology (AT) took place today at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
The FreedomTech Assembly was run by Enable Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) along with support from Maynooth University and Microsoft.
Those present called on Government to introduce an “AT passport” for people with disabilities and older people. AT has transformative possibilities for both of these groups. The AT Passport is proposed as a solution to the challenge of providing quality, person centred AT services that offer value for money and are accountable and transparent.
“This is a critical time for AT services” said Joan O’Donnell, Development Officer with DFI. “Technology is changing rapidly: the biggest opportunities of our time lie in Artificial Intelligence, robotics and driverless vehicles all of which have huge accessibility potential. We are calling on Government to create a systems wide approach to prioritise putting assistive technology in the hands of those who most need it: people with disabilities and older people. This not only puts people back in control of their own lives, it makes sound economic sense.”
Enable Ireland intends to introduce the trial use of AT passports with their adult users in Dublin in 2018. Siobhán Long, Enable Ireland’s National Manager AT Services commented, “An AT passport places the individual who requires AT at the centre of the process, so that they can play an active role in identifying and managing their own technology needs. An AT passport would capture all of the key elements that are essential for people who need AT to get it: from referral and eligibility to selection of the most suitable Assistive Technology solutions, as well as training requirements, funding and follow up.”
A capacity crowd attended representing industry, academia, AT users and people with disabilities themselves.
Chapal Khasnabis, Programme Manager at the Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE) with the World Health Organisation has “welcomed the concept of introducing an AT passport”. He goes on to say that “this is quite an innovative idea and if implemented well, could be a foundation stone to a national AT ecosystem. Achieving well-coordinated AT services is a goal which most members of the GATE community internationally share, and we support such a focused approach. We would like to see more such efforts. We look forward to hearing of progress in the implementation of the AT passport.”
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