Last Friday we hosted the annual Enable Ireland National Assistive Technology (AT) course graduation at our building in Sandyford. It’s the fourth year we’ve hosted the ceremony and it’s a fantastic event.
The course is designed, by Siobhan Long and her incredibly hard working team Enable Ireland, to provide participants with hands-on knowledge of AT which they can then use in their communities, organisations or homes. This year twenty five people graduated, bringing the total number of graduates from the programme to 175. It’s interesting to note that the graduates include people with disabilities, personal assistants, families, carers, therapists, teachers, IT professionals, trainers and representatives of government departments and statutory agencies.
Assistive Technology is a very broad area that includes everything from electronic door openers, to environmental controls, accessibility features in software or alternative input devices. Research has found that without training and support, over 75% of AT is discarded, so the provision of skills and training in AT is incredibly important.
There are three major goals of Assistive Technology, which aims to enable people with disabilities to:
- live independently
- access education
- access employment
AT in incredibly important for a large and growing proportion of our nation.
Fintan O’Toole from the Irish Times was the guest speaker at this year’s event and he did a fantastic job capturing the essence of why creating an inclusive society is so fundamentally important to all of us.
Dr. Mike Murphy from the Dublin Institute of Technology was in attendance to confer the graduates and it should be notes that DIT has been an integral part of the success of this course, helping to certify the course from its inception and showing fantastic commitment ever since. It’s fantastic to see the work that DIT are doing with their under graduate design students in the area of AT Design.
One of my favourite parts of the graduation are the student presentations. Part of the course requires every student to undertake an AT project. There is always an incredible diversity of projects, and the great thing is that they all contribute to the general body of knowledge around AT. This year was no exception with projects varying from how a parent can use AT to help their children to using online mapping for people with disabilities.
Microsoft has been working with Enable Ireland since 2001 and it’s been amazing to see the partnership develop since that time. Future releases of many of our products including Microsoft Office will have accessibility features that draw on Enable Ireland’s experience of helping people with disabilities to use PCs.
I should also note that Enable Ireland’s AT training group have been shortlisted for the overall e-inclusion award from the European Union. The winners will be announced at the end of the month in Austria – fingers crossed!