First Irish assistive technology site launched

16 May 2008

Ireland’s first web-based library for electronic assistive technology (EAT) has been launched. The site is a collaboration between a number of groups that work with people with disabilities.

The site will enable members to borrow and trial EAT equipment before committing to making a purchase. The equipment that will be available for loan from the site includes communication aids (voice amplification systems, speech enhancers, text-to-speech devices) and computer access equipment (mice, keyboards, voice activation software).

It will also make available memory aids (task prompters, visual assistants, voice cues), switches (tactile pads, grip switches, joy sticks) and visual impairment tools (magnifiers, CCTV systems, screen readers, Braille-to-speech devices).

According to disability experts, there are major deficiencies in access, assessment and provision of assistive technology. allows centralised access to people with disabilities and their carers to the greatest array of EAT available.

The consortium behind comprises the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Enable Ireland National Assistive Technology Training Service, the NCBI, the Assistive Communications Technology Officers Network and the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.

These organisations represent over 20,000 service users. Funding for the library site comes from POBAL (Enhancing Disability Services scheme for social inclusion).

Funding is also being made available to provide a forum for education, training and networking in this area. Research shows that 75pc of assistive technology is abandoned due to the lack of training and the portal aims to address this issue by working with training providers, carers and users alike to provide access to education, training and networking, as well as access to the equipment.

“Research carried out amongst users, carers and trainers shows that there is an overwhelming need for a service like,” said Glenna Gallagher, representing the consortium. “Professionals who work with people with disabilities throughout Ireland will be able to borrow and trial new EAT devices, receive feedback from other users and EAT assessors leading them to make informed decisions about what best suits their particular circumstances, prior to making significant financial or time commitments.

“They will also be able to avail of assessments by potentially more informed and highly trained professionals as a result of the education, training and support dimension.

“This is the first time these five organisations have come together and I believe our diversity of background, knowledge and users promises to enhance an exciting collaboration where the needs of a wide variety of individuals with disabilities are recognised and addressed.”

Michael Gogarty, who is visually impaired, commented: ”I was born with a progressive condition when there was no such thing as assistive technology. I now use, among other devices, magnification software and closed circuit televisions, which enable me to lead an independent life, along with other techniques and adaptions I have learned.”

“EAT is a rapidly developing area and holds huge for empowering, providing independence, and increasing quality of life for people with disabilities,” remarked Henry Murdoch, chairperson, NRH.

This website is modelled mainly on a successful library operated by Assistive Technology Partners in Denver, Colorado.

By Niall Byrne