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State of the Science in Assistive Technology in Australia 2016

Over 200 AATC delegates reviewed a Summary Statement on AT, made available in the conference satchels and revised during an active Breakfast Forum. We are pleased to publish the outcomes:

- Statement on AT Good Practice

- AT Issues Statement

The resulting statements identify 'what good looks like' and 'where to from here' for AT in Australia.  ARATA freely provide these foundation documents as artefacts from AATC 2016. We invite continued dialogue from our  members, partners and cross-sector collaborators to utilise and develop this work in ways which will contribute towards fair and equitable AT provision for all Australians.



A Snapshot of AATC 2016: where practice meets policy

Under blue Gold Coast skies the first Australian Assistive Technology Conference was launched this July: a magnificent collaboration of the Australian Occupational Therapy Association (OTA) and Australian Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Association (ARATA). The conference attracted a diverse delegate mix of consumers and providers from health and allied health, engineering, retail and manufacturing and funding sectors involved in assistive technology (AT) procurement, provision-manufacture, policy and governance in Australia. A well-organized conference program was supported by an energetic trade exhibition, that was well attended by delegates and during periodic public access.

There were notable conference highlights. The key note speakers challenged our thinking: Dr. Rosie Gowran (Ireland) opened the conference by outlining a sustainable assistive technology provision. After the breakfast session, Linda Elsaesser (America) reflected upon learnt history to transform assistive technology practice. Several plenary sessions reflected upon Australian AT procurement policy, sector capacity and capability and an engaged breakfast session focused on good assistive technology practice.


The AATC Closing Plenary was an opportunity to reflect on the question: Where To From Here for AT in Australia

AS well as two minute summations from each of our keynote and plenary speakers, AATC delegates were randomly allocated invitations to share their thoughts for two minutes. Here is a snapshot of what some of our delegates shared:

 Moses, an occupational therapist from Tasmania

Moses thanked the organisers for the opportunity to share his thoughts. Moses notes so many people here with a lot of skills in AT provision, and a network that can take AT across Australia, but there is not the same opportunity in Tasmania. Globally, Moses noted the effect of suffering, genocide and fear upon the country. Moses shared the story of his aunty in Uganda, where confusion and dementia are viewed with much superstition. People may require OT and AT to improve daily life management but there is no system in place, no funding, no government. Here we can easily lobby politicians, and form groups like this, but in that village, if they say anything, it may go badly.  Sad though that even here can’t access AT in all places, with better services in some places than others. We are going on the right path, but still need to do more.


Lynda Hutchinson, an occupational therapist from South Australia

Lynda stated the conference was great. There was a big focus on service delivery and training: this is a great change and very positive. Linda has recently moved from working in the disability sector to aged care and describes this as ‘a bit of a shock’. AATC had lots of content on NDIS with snippets on aged care, but this is an area where AT is poorly funded and ‘needs a hand’. In future, ARATA, OTA, COTA need to push aged care to better fund AT for people to keep living in their own homes.


Carl Thompson, AT user (AFDO, ARATA)

As an AT user, it all comes down to the boring type of technology that is not flashy. 3 years ago I went onto ebay and bought 10000 drinking straws from America, using my own money:  not a fun purchase! But the straws were the right length, and I could drink my smoothie independently in morning without needing help. This wasn’t funded but it was assistive technology. Its good to see straws at this conference! For the future, I’m excited about mainstream that people don’t think is AT, but is. The more accepted AT is, less you feel like you are imposing on others, and more just living a life, drinking a drink. The more mainstream we can make AT, the better everyone's lives could be.


Lynne Foreman, NDIS participant and disability advocate (Geelong, Victoria)

I was so fortunate, it was like a breath of fresh air to go through NDIA. I was involved in the Equipping Inclusion Studies back in 2008 , back then I didn’t have much funding, and also, when I first had to speak to Natasha, had no idea what AT was, and had to ask daughter, and google, and thought that AT was ‘high’ like a computer that opens your door or closes your blind, But it’s not, it’s only the basic things we’d like to help us. I can’t close the door, I have a picker upper, and a little hook that I use to close the door. We don’t want the Rolls Royce, just the basics to get around. I’ve had OTs all my life, but now with technology, the world is our oyster.