The biennial ARATA (Australian Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Association) conference held in Canberra from 20 to 22 August brought together researchers, developers and health professionals from many different fields to share their expertise and explore new equipment.
Independent Living Centre WA (ILC) occupational therapists Alex Andrews , Lauren Farrell and Jessica Rigden and Assistive Technology Services Manager Sally Hunter attended the conference, all of whom were involved in projects which had abstracts accepted for presentation.
The conference opened with a gripping keynote speech by Australian Royal Navy Clearance Diver and shark attack survivor Paul de Gelder who discussed the human ability to improvise and adapt to overcome barriers in life. This helped to get people talking and thinking about all the different roles assistive technology can be used to assist a person.
This was built upon by University of Sheffield UK Professor Mark Hawley who followed up with a keynote speech relating research being done in the UK to practices in Australia and the way the world is moving towards technology in healthcare. These two speakers set the tone of the conference to be about innovation in technology and also practices.
There were four streams of presentations running on each day of the conference. The ILC presented on five projects:
– the Telecare Equipment Project with Perth Home Care Services;
– the HACC (Home and Community Care) Assistive Equipment Service Review;
– the stARTSPEAK Development with DADAA;
– the Video Consultation Access Project; and
– the Pathways to Non Complex Aids and Equipment for HACC clients research.
All projects were well received and supported the promotion of the work the ILC does on a national level.
On reflecting about the conference Lauren Farrell (pictured left trialing a a Dejay Medical Sunrunner) said the opportunity to present our work at a conference which attracts allied health professionals, academics and service management is a great experience; and the learning outcomes achieved are invaluable.
“The conference is beneficial in terms of personal development but also in promoting the work the ILC does to others in related areas.
“Telecare, video consulting and App development were all topics which were presented on by other organisations and are clearly an area of growing interest and importance. Learning what others have experienced in working with these technologies is beneficial for us going forward,” said Lauren.
“One of the great advantages of attending a national conference is that you can learn from many different people, hear about what other organisations are doing in a frequently changing environment and how they are doing it. A number of times whilst attending presentations we had the thought “we could do that” or “why don’t we do that?” Coming away from presentations being inspired to promote change is a wonderful feeling,” she said.
Attendees were able to trial a range of new assistive technology that is being used to aid everyday activities including new powered mobility, environmental controls and communication equipment.
Lauren said the conference packed in so much in just three days that “by the end of it I doubt we could carry any more information in our heads let alone our backpacks!’