On 25 November 2021, AAATE members from Egypt, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Portugal, Faroe Islands, UK, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Bulgaria joined us for our last of year online Aperitivo. It proved once more how fruitful it is to learn from each other and exchange about the many things going in our countries in the areas of assistive technology and accessibility.
Joao Guerreiro from the Sociedade Portuguesa de Engenharia de Reabilitação, Tecnologias de Apoio e Acessibilidade (SUPERA) raised the interesting point that our societies – no matter in which country – are subject to pressures from demographic, societal and lifestyle developments. We age, we spend more and more time sitting and in 30 years, when we are old, we will need other and farther reaching assistive technology (AT) than what is available today. Joao’s work has concentrated on developing a new spine brace and new ankle support that are supposed to adapt to the new needs.
Klaus Höckner from the Austrian Association in Support of the Blind and Visually Impaired (Hilfsgmeinschaft) presented five initiatives his association is currently driving. These included accessible fashion and the intention of organizing an inclusive fashion show at the Zero Project conference in February in Vienna and the Access Israel Congress later in Tel Aviv. The second initiative focuses on accessible arts and culture. The third on 3D print and how to make people with vision impairment operators of 3D print to give them easier access to necessary replacements. The fourth evolves around artificial intelligence (AI) and how to use it to the benefit of people with disabilities, evaluating the pros and cons of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for people with disabilities. There is a lot of standardization work being done on AT right now and it is important to look at topics of trustworthiness and confidentiality of this technology in the service of users with disabilities. Klaus finished his update with news on IAAP certifications piloted in German now.
The Hilfsgemeinschaft furthermore plans on creating AT labs, inviting AT manufactures to come and showcase their products to an interested public. He was invited to come and have a look at the Italian AT centers which seem to already put into practice the intended purpose.
Maurice Grinberg, Professor at the New Bulgarian University, shared insights from the recent 13th Eastern and Central European Regional Augmentative and Alternative Communication Conference, held in collaboration with UNICEF and ISAAC. The focus of the conference was on contemporary approaches and technologies for children and adults with communication difficulties – cerebral palsy, autism, multiple disabilities, intellectual disabilities, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and others, and targeted specifically at the Eastern and Central European Region. More information can be found at: eceraac2021.assistfoundation.eu.
David Banes added that globalsymbols.com now also includes symbols developed by Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro and some support for other languages. Open training materials in AAC are also freely available and translated into those languages at training.globalsymbols.com.
Our informal gathering concluded with updates by AAATE on the conference organized jointly with ICCHP 11-15 July 2022 in Lecco, Italy. Evert-Jan Hoogerwerf, Secretary General of AAATE, emphasized the many different ways of contributing which include 1) submitting scientific papers, 2) the inclusion forum, 3) the young researchers forum, 4) consortium contributions, 5) collaborating organizations, sponsors and partners organizations, and many more. The conference covers a broach range of topics and should present something interesting of each and every AAATE member. More information about the conference can be found at https://icchp-aaate.org/.
We are also thinking about best connecting to the US RESNA conference taking place the same days in US time zones, and which might cater to some exotic late night and early morning sessions connecting with our US colleagues online.
Many thanks to all AAATE members who joined and connected for this last of the year online Apertivo and we are looking already forward to following up in the beginning of the New Year!