rsz_brain_in_handBarclays sponsored a landmark event in May for those working in the field of assistive technology.

Over 220 disability professionals met at Jury’s Inn in Oxford for the first Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference (ATEC). This is an exciting but challenging time for those who work in the post 16 sector with changes to the Disabled Students’ Allowance and Access to Work funding

ATEC set out to highlight some of the latest developments in assistive technology and offered a chance for the community to come together and exchange ideas and examples of good practice.

The conference and exhibition was sponsored by Barclays which has been a leading light in accessibility. Paul Smyth, Head of IT Accessibility for Barclays talked about the steps the banking giant has taken to help both customers and employees with disabilities  ‘It’s inherently unfair that people who face the biggest barriers in every day life should face the biggest obstacles in doing business with us or being employed by us,’ he said.

When the Royal National Institute for the Blind spearheaded a campaign three years ago to make cashpoints accessible to people with sight loss Barclays were the first to sign up.  At ATEC they were showing their bPay wristband and key fob, an ideal solution for contactless payment for those who prefer not to use a credit or debit card in public places.

Stuart Edwards of the Department of Work and Pensions said the government assessed about 12,000 people per year for Access to Work funding which he described as, ‘the best kept secret in recent years.’ The DWP can provide grants of £41,400 per person per year for a wide range of supports and there is soon to be a sustained marketing campaign to publicise funding and boost uptake.

ATEC featured 25 exhibitors ranging from well known companies such as Dolphin, Gordon Morris and Sight and Sound to newcomers such as Notetalker which makes an app for computers and smartphones to record and annotate lectures and meetings and Brain in Hand, an app for people with ASD that has a timetable and a diary function and helps users to identify stress points and work out possible solutions.

The main providers of assistive technology software were present including Inspiration and Matchware with the latest versions of their mind mapping software. TextHelp focused on their screen reader for examinations while Claro demonstrated their wide range of products both for academic settings and the workplace including ClaroRead for exams, their referencing tool ClaroCapture and ScreenRuler for visual stress.

The conference featured some well known names. Abi James of British Dyslexia Association discussed the barriers which stop people from taking up assistive technology and making use of it while Kerry Pace of Diverse Learners talked about universal design to help workers with disabilities in health care settings.

The organisers were delighted with the response to this first conference and hope to make ATEC a regular diary date. They are also busy planning a range of events aimed at different sectors including a conference on accessible examinations. Further details will be available nearer the date at www.ateconference.com.