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Australian Assistive Technology Conference update

Dr Courtenay Harris, Head of OT Department, and Ms Sally Hunter, Director OT Fieldwork and Vice President of the Australian Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Association (ARATA) Board, attended the Australian Assistive Technology Conference in Queensland in July. The conference was ARATA’s inaugural collaborative assistive technology (AT) with Occupational Therapy Australia.

ARATA is a national association whose purpose is to serve as a forum for information sharing and liaison between people who are involved with the use, recommendation, customisation, supply and ongoing support of assistive technology. ARATA’s members, and the conference attendees, included occupational therapists, rehabilitation engineers, AT users, physiotherapists, speech pathologists and suppliers.

The program, whilst always very practical in nature, was this time influenced by the new partnership with Occupational Therapy Australia. It further explored areas of policy, change management in service delivery systems, workforce and training and the credentialing of practitioners. It also prompted discussion about opportunities for collaboration for ARATA.

Dr Harris outlined Curtin’s AT education across the courses.
Dr Harris outlined Curtin’s AT education across the courses.

The first keynote from Dr Rosie Joan Gowran, University of Limerick, discussed the need to build policy to support AT provision to support citizenship. Dr Gowran presented on creating sustainable infrastructure that supports the understanding of the value AT holds for users, and its link to human rights. Dr Linda Elsaesser also provided a keynote on the Assistive Technology Service Method (ATSM) as an evidence-based process standard for AT services to improve the practice, education and data gathering that informs policy.

The conference also featured a panel of tertiary educators, suppliers and AT users who presented the competencies for AT provision, where they are placed within the different Occupational Therapy courses and how they are assessed. Dr Harris outlined Curtin’s AT education across the courses.

There were several presentations about the NDIS, including Dr Lloyd Walker, who discussed developments in the assessment and reporting protocols that are expected of the sector. Home and Community Care reforms also featured within the program and there was a ‘call to arms’ to ensure that AT and home modifications are resourced and serviced appropriately as this sector also introduces reform.

It was a very valuable and full conference with many concurrent sessions, which made choosing what to hear difficult!