Enable Ireland and Disability Federation Ireland Launch Discussion Paper on the Future of Assistive Technology

Europe, November 15 2016

Enable Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) launched a discussion paper on Assistive Technology (AT) for People with Disabilities and Older People. Ireland has an underdeveloped Assistive Technology infrastructure in comparison to other countries, and the paper outlines a vision where everyone with a disability and older people has access to affordable, up to date and appropriate technology that suits their needs.

Discussion Paper Front CoverThe paper makes seven recommendations for Government, policy makers and service providers, including the introduction of an AT Passport to streamline the way  in which people gain access to assistive technology – equipment, training and funding.

Ireland’s Digital Ambassador, Lord David Puttnam, joined the event by video link and praised the initiative as being vitally important to improving the lives of people with disabilities. “I believe in the power of technology to enable people’s lives in ways previously unimaginable. Initiatives like this, along with a lot of determination,  are necessary to achieve the enormous potential that technology has to offer people with disabilities.”

Speaking at the event, Senator John Dolan, CEO, DFI noted, “Assistive Technology has the potential to support people with disabilities and older people to exercise  their human rights and become more active members of society. The current service provision for AT is fragmented and under-resourced to meet the growing needs  of this group of citizens. We hope this paper will start a discussion and prompt action on providing a more comprehensive Assistive Technology service in the  future.”

Also at the event, Fionnuala O’Donovan, CEO, Enable Ireland said, “The AT Passport is the foundation upon which we can build a comprehensive Assistive    Technology ecosystem of supports, from quality information provision to assessment, provision of technologies and training support. It has the potential to ensure  that those who need Assistive Technology can get it and, as a result, experience greater autonomy in their own lives.”

A national online Assistive Technology survey was undertaken as part of the research process which informs the recommendations made. A total of 236 Assistive Technology users responded to the survey. The findings dispel the widely-held belief that AT is expensive, with 64% of respondents indicating that they used technology costing less than €1,000. 41% of AT users reported that they had self-funded their own AT. Respondents were extremely positive on the perceived usefulness of their AT equipment with 61% reporting that they couldn’t manage without it. However, nearly 30% of respondents experienced frustration and delays in the process of securing their AT. Waiting times were also highly variable, with 54% reporting that they received their AT in three months. However, 15% had to wait over 6 months and 16% waited in excess of a year.

‘Assistive Technology For People with Disabilities and Older People. A Discussion Paper’ is available to download at www.disability-federation.ie.

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