Technology as a lifeline has suddenly become mainstream. For people with disabilities, this has long been the case, with people relying on low and/or high-tech aids and devices to enable and enhance their independence, communication, social connections, education and employment.
Now, even for those whom technology has always played a key role, it has taken on an even greater level of importance. Schools, colleges and services are either shut down or operating remotely, meaning that educational institutions, students with disabilities, and organisations like Enable Ireland, have had to find new ways to facilitate communication, prevent people feeling isolated and allow them to continue their studies.
If we were to find a positive from our current isolation, it may be that it is also opening up opportunities for those living with disabilities. Wider society is now embracing technology and virtual living more than ever before, creating spaces for those previously marginalised due to disability or illness.
We were very much looking forward to attending Getting AT Ready in Dublin for the first time this year but the fact that the event can be run effectively online, offering access to the same content, discussion and exhibitors, is testament to the value and capability of technology in our lives.
Enable Ireland’s Assistive Technology Services
Equipping people with the knowledge and skills to find and use the right Assistive Technology (AT) for them is a core part of our work at Enable Ireland. Our National Assistive Technology Training Service offers a range of accredited and customised training programmes to support users of Assistive Technology to live the lives of their choosing. We deliver AT training online via our e-learning site www.enableirelandat.com and offer a wide range of training, workshop and seminar options.
Our Foundations in Assistive Technology Level 6 Course is accredited by Technological University, Dublin and aimed at providing a solid foundation in AT for a diverse audience: adults who are AT users, therapists, teachers, IT professionals, families and others.
Development of communities
In 2016, Enable Ireland, along with the Disability Federation of Ireland, launched CHAT – Community Hub for Accessible Technology. CHAT sees a wide range of people involved in assistive technology – from individual users to developers and those in education – gather together a few times a year to look at how we can create a thriving assistive technology landscape in Ireland. We have loved coming together physically over the last few years but luckily the technology exists to enable us to continue to meet virtually and to hear and learn from individual experiences with AT.
AT Loan Library
Enable Ireland is an online library of electronic assistive technology, through which library members can borrow from a wide range of devices to trial with their clients and/or for professional training purposes.
We also run a range of customised AT workshops to meet the needs of specific training groups, including topics such as AT for young children, educational software and hardware for primary and secondary school students and low-cost solutions.
We are hugely thankful that technology has allowed us to continue to connect with people with disabilities and to deliver support services remotely. There is so much to be gained from creating accessible online spaces that include people with disabilities and that is something we can take from this experience and continue into the future.