The second Annual Aspire Assistive Technology Conference took place this week in Nottingham. Aspire’s Assistive Technology Programme is designed to ensure that all patients in the Spinal Injury Centres have independent access to a computer. The Conference offers a great chance for all those people who help make that happen – including NHS Occupational Therapists, Aspire Volunteers and key funders – to come together to learn about new technology, pick up ways of working and share best practice.
It was a packed couple of days, with lots going on. Aspire volunteer Richard Wilkes has spent the last couple of months trying out the iPad and reported back on his findings. As a tetraplegic, Richard has found the light weight design and responsive touch-screen to be of huge benefit. He certainly believes that it could fill a gap in what is currently provided to the hospitals.
Meanwhile, there was a session on advanced use of the Dragon voice recognition software that is available for use on every Aspire computer; delegates learnt how to develop their own command shortcuts, making the programme that much simpler to use. What they learnt they will be able to pass on to the patients.
Away from traditional computer use, we also looked at how assistive technology can be used with games consoles. Occupational Therapists from Oswestry reported on how they use the Wii fit with adapted controllers. And Aspire volunteer, Andy Walker, demonstrated a mouth controller for the Xbox that allows him to challenge his friends on their favourite games. This controller, imported for the conference from the US, uses a combination of joystick, switches and sip and puff tubes to replicate the buttons on a standard hand control. It takes a little while to master but, having done so, the opportunities for social interaction are enormous.
For Badg Champion, one of our volunteers in Salisbury, the conference was a great success:
“I’ve learnt a lot these last two days. The courses have given me an insight into new things that are available for some of the patients, and got me thinking about some of the things I already do. And just getting to meet the other volunteers and NHS staff from around the country has been so useful, sharing tips and tricks and ideas.”