Any plans to set up an AT Program with Practice Alerts?

Yes, there will be an AT-related Practice Alert, which will address what providers need to know, such as what and how to refer to AT, to ensure AT is appropriately used to improve quality of life. We will be open to any additional feedback that Link Disability could provide regarding particular topics of interest relating to AT.

Any issues with getting AT to the disability community?

There are a range of issues regarding AT access, in terms of people’s understanding and awareness of what and how important AT can be in improving the quality of life and safeguarding of a person with disability.

There is a tendency to think of AT only as home modifications and augmentative communications. AT can play a much bigger role. AT is equally important in terms of health-related safety issues. There are apps that can alert a contact person if the person with disability is at risk or feels in danger when travelling independently or accessing the community alone. Apps that identify and locate accessible environments for people with disability who can travel independently are also useful.

Any AT devices you think have the most potential for this sector?

I don’t think there is a particular AT device that has the most potential for this sector or is ‘better’ than another AT device, because the value and contribution an AT device can bring to a person’s quality of life differs so much. It is about the positive impact an AT device can potentially deliver for the person with disability, and to those supporting the person with disability.

AT plays a crucial role in making an environment more accessible for the person. And I define ‘environment’ as more than the physical environment – it is also about the social interaction between persons and people. It is more than augmentative devices. It is about making an environment socially accessible.

A bit left-field but what about selfdriving cars – and yes people are talking about them for the sector amazingly.

It is not left-field, per se, the technology is quickly changing and we need to catch-up with it. WA state director, Samantha Jenkinson, who uses a wheelchair, responded with the following:

Any AT products for the disability sector you think add value?

I would say AT products that facilitate communication, independence, and mobility all add value. The diversity of disability means there are AT that will be incredibly useful for one person, but not for another. For example, simple AT like a slide board make a huge difference for me. The newer materials, which are sturdy and slippery enough for sliding, are the difference of me getting in and out of bed with minimal assistance.

For another person, the new apps that allow live captioning on the phone are still clunky but improving and have great potential. So too are the digital communication apps that can replace paper and plastic communication boards.

I am currently looking into a van with drive from my wheelchair capability, which has hand controls for driving, lock-in for wheelchair and an auto hoist for getting in the van. Personally, I find talking to other people with disability about their experiences with AT in peer groups adds real value to the information from experts, which assist me to find AT that will be useful for me and my disability needs.

Any other comments about AT generally you wish to add?

AT access is consistent with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, hence it is a rights-issue. There is a general perception that AT is an ‘add-on’ or a ‘good thing’ to do, rather than as a rights-issues to enable choice and control, and participation in the community. There needs to be an extensive awareness campaign about the benefits of AT and AT products. This campaign could involve research into how an AT product enhances quality of life.

For more information and other resources that might be useful for NDIS providers and participants, visit: www.ndiscommission.gov.au/ resources#practicealerts

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