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BATA partners with Smart Home Expo taking place in March

We are delighted to announce our official partnership with the Smart Home Expo, the UK’s leading event for the smart technologies revolutionising the way we live, coming to the NEC Birmingham on the 26th & 27th of March 2019.

They say home is where the heart is, but nowadays, home is also where an industry revolution is taking place! Within the next few years, the smart home sector is set to become one of the fastest growing markets in the world. If this wasn’t enough, there’s a growing opportunity for the so called smart technologies to be applied to many other areas beyond the home.

The Smart Home Expo is completely free to attend, and the organisers have confirmed an unparalleled lineup of speakers and exhibitors, who will be coming together to provide you with the best technologies, innovations and insights that are completely revolutionising the way homes are built, and the way people live in it.

From smart lights that help with energy saving, to assistive home technology that enables ultimate independence, the show will redefine what constitutes a home.

Key features at this year’s event include:

  • 150 seminars by an incredible speaker lineup
  • Interactive panel debates where you can have your say among the greatest minds in the industry
  • Live demos that allow you to try before you buy, and interact with the most innovative products in the industry
  • 200 exhibitors, putting together the most comprehensive marketplace of smart technologies and solutions
  • Innovation awards, featuring the latest technologies being judged by industry experts
  • Launches of the very latest products and solutions that are changing the way people live
  • Exclusive show offers and competitions available to visitors only

And much much more.

Completely FREE to attend, the Smart Home Expo really is the hub of the innovations changing the face of Assisted Living. For more information or to register for your free ticket, visit

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The stage is set for our AGM

Speakers at this year’s AGM will be demonstrating the exciting use of technology to make theatre accessible to disabled people.

Philippa Cross is General Manager of the Coventry-based Talking Birds Theatre Company. She will be talking about The Difference Engine, a tool for making events and performances accessible to partially-sighted, deaf or hard of hearing audience members by delivering captioning or audio description direct to their mobile device.

Taking a slightly different tack, the National Theatre has spent four years developing Smart Caption Glasses which enable people with hearing loss to see a transcript of the dialogue and descriptions of the sound from a performance displayed on the lenses of special glasses. Technical Director Jonathan Suffolk will explain how the technology works and the benefits it brings.

The AGM is open to anyone from a BATA member organisation. It will be held on February 8 between 10.45 and 2.00, including lunch, at Barclays Headquarters in London. To reserve a place please book here.

Would you like to be more involved with the Association? If you would like to put your name forward to join the Council please contact our secretary Carolyne Smith.

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BATA calls for consultation on changes to DSA tenders

BATA welcomes the Department for Education’s continued commitment to support disabled and neurodiverse students in higher education through the provision of Disabled Student Allowances (DSA).

However, the plans to tender the provision of assistive technology equipment and training, have led to uncertainty about the future of DSA and the wider industry that supports disabled students.

The sector body is calling on government to ensure there is thorough consultation with industry stakeholders, higher education providers and students.

Antony Ruck, Chair of BATA said:

“BATA is continuing its campaign to promote the rights of the users of assistive technology and to ensure the needs of the student are kept at the centre of any decision making.

“Any efforts by DfE to simplify, streamline and expedite the process of providing disabled students with assistive technology to enable them to study to the best of their abilities are broadly welcomed by our members.”

“The current policy of ‘student choice’ with regard to equipment supply and training should be preserved. The DfE must also consider the impact of the reduction in the number of companies supplying equipment and training that is implicit in the current proposal.

“The decision to consolidate both equipment and training means that the expertise of standalone training companies and institutions’ in-house teams may be lost to students. BATA urges the DfE to carefully analyse the consequences of this decision to ensure the best outcome for students.”

The government has been committed to supporting the small, innovative companies that have built the UK’s world leading assistive technology industry. Britain’s DSA system is the envy of many countries in the way it allows disabled students to reach their full potential in higher education at the same time as fostering the development of small, specialist suppliers.

BATA is urging DfE to continue supporting small and medium sized British businesses and reflected this support in the criteria used for award of supply contracts.

The industry body believes it would not be in students’ interests to limit their choice of technology or reduce the quality of the support they receive.

BATA will continue to work with DfE to provide expertise and support to ensure the DSA system continues to provide the best possible outcomes for students.

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Accreditation scheme for DSA AT trainers gets the thumbs up

Efforts to establish the first phase of a DSA accreditation scheme for AT trainers involving certificating trainers in core software have received positive feedback from the Department for Education.

BATA has outlined a proposal to officials for an accreditation scheme that would involve software publishers offering free courses to the up to 300 individual AT trainers providing DSA-funded AT training.

However, it is not clear at this stage how the proposal might be affected by the decision to put the supply of equipment and training under DSA out to tender to a single supplier or small group of suppliers.

At present the DSA-QAG quality body neither requires AT trainers to have any specific qualifications other than a thorough knowledge of assistive technologies, nor has any mechanism to measure the knowledge and experience of AT trainers, resulting in variations in the quality of support provided.

BATA has proposed that a professional membership for AT trainers is made mandatory from January 2020 in order to ensure appropriate quality and consistency of training of AT trainers.

The scheme, run by BATA will offer annual certification that can be checked by DSA-QAG auditors in parallel with professional memberships for other Band Four roles such as specialist one-to-one study skills support and specialist mentoring.

BATA also proposes to offer accessible and cost-effective support to individual AT trainers and training providers on routes to accreditation, with a phased approach planned to minimise disruption in the sector.

All individuals providing AT training (whether as a sole trader or through a training provider) would complete online or in-person Level Two training on the software products deemed as core, currently 14 products in total provided by 13 publishers.

In addition to this, each accredited trainer will be supplied with a free of charge copy of the software title on completion of the accredited course.

In phase two software publishers could opt to deliver Level Three training to enable third party AT training providers to deliver accredited training on their behalf to their own trainers.

BATA proposes to charge under £100 per trainer per annum to cover the cost of the scheme. BATA membership will not be a requirement for accreditation.

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TechSharePro 2018

terchsharepro logo

TechSharePro 2018 took place this week at Barclay’s Bank , Canary Wharf in London and sponsored by a number of organisations including AbilityNet, Google & RNIB. Great event with lots of inspiring talks and ideas to share. Here are just a few of them:-

Google Accessibility

Voice access – control the whole of the device, voice control on a chromebook. Tried it but not as comprehensive as I thought.

Google Accessibility Extensions


Research – User research

Important ideas can come from just 5 people! It doesn’t take oodles of effort and is cheap to do. All you need are the users and time to do it.

Accessible Media – 150,000 programmes with Audio Description

Channel 4 very good audio description

BBC no proprietry open standard format . Able to mix and create good audio description. Interchangeable media incorporating all types.


Samsung tv’s do have fairly good accessibility features and a 32inch screen but alas you have to press the remote button to access voice control


Accessibility Theatre

This was a surprising good session. Good to hear AT is being used in the Arts.

National Theatre are using Smart glasses for open caption theatre. Brilliant idea and looks a cool place to visit if you are hearing impaired.

Goals for 2019 at the National Theatre all performances to have smart glasses available for those with hearing loss to have caption direct from the stage

AT goals for the National Theatre in 2019 using augmented reality captioning


Neil Millican on Sustainable Accessibility

IAAP & Apprenticeship, RNIB, HEX DESIGN, ABILITYNET – recognised profession

Trail blazer group first intake for Apprenticeship in 2019

Reduced reality – filter over-stimulation that goes to the other end of augmented reality 


Make disability factors mandatory (Amen!)

VivifyMe – Android and apple in the future . Launching August 2019

Dementia friendly app but can’t tell you what it does yet ! Because i honestly don’t know!

Lewis Hine – “friend finder”

Lewis is an inspiring individual who has a medical condition that denies him access to school when it affects him. He wanted to reach out to others and discovered an amazing amount of people in the same situation as him take a look at:-

“Prom in a box “ – live prom link through A1 robot – great idea to get teens and young people who because of illness miss so much to attend a prom.

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US steps up efforts on AT

Legislation has greatly expanded the use and awareness of assistive technology in the US, Mike Marotta of Inclusive Technology Solutions told BATA members in an exclusive presentation.

Marotta, a well-respected AT professional, was speaking at the AT into the USA seminar. He detailed the so-called dyslexia laws adopted by all but seven States in the US that ensured early screening of students and provided support for educators in assisting students with dyslexia.

There remained, he said, a balance to be struck between accommodation in schools of a child with a learning difficulty and the more demanding remediation that involves helping a student overcome a learning difficulty.

The assistive features of Chrome and Office 365 were widely used in US schools who were largely committed to cloud-based systems.

The Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act had also had an impact on assisting disabled people into work. Marotta explained how the Pre-Employment Transition Service (PETS), established by the Act, improved the chances of a disabled person finding a job.

PETS provided work-based learning experience, counselling and training in social skills and independent living. The scheme accounted for 15% of federal funding for disabled people.

However, there was a need to convince those involved in PETS that AT has a part to play and questions about whether State Departments of Labor or School Districts should pay for equipment.

Marotta noted there had been a marked rise in requests for help for people with autism.

So far as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) was concerned, Marotta talked of how the technology was being used to deliver creative education. But practitioners had concerns about consolidation in the industry and also about a lack of data about usage patterns of AAC.

Marotta also gave his audience useful pointers on where to find further information about the US market. All States have programmes that provide demos, loans of equipment, re-use of devices and funding. Contact information about those who run these programmes can be found at

The Quality Indicators for AT Services (QIAT) is a grassroots group focusing on education, while #ATchat provides a forum for educators from around the world.

Copies of Mike Marotta’s slides can be found at

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TechAbility 2018 Conference

natspec and techablilty

TechAbility 2018 Conference took place on 16th October . Great event with NatSpec representing specialist schools, colleges and further education colleges in the UK. This is the second conference and the focus was on Assistive Technology. BATA members were among the suppliers represented at the event. Paul Doyle (Hereward College) & Myles Pilling ( BATA Council) were speaking at the event which attracted over 100 attendees. 

Alastair McNaughton(JISC) gave a very interesting keynote equating Assistive Technology integration into educational settings were like a dolphin  set in the middle of an onion. The analogy being that we need to understand the nature of the disability from the person’s point of view and then apply the technology that goes through stages of implementation to reach the outer layer of the onion.  Why a Dolphin? I think because people with disabilities are considered  different from non-disabled people  and so it’s a fish out of water scenario – much like a dolphin in an onion!

Abi James spoke on Exam Access which was very much a hot topic for specialist colleges with needs that are often complex to apply for the technology to be used in Exams. 

Fil McIntyre and Paul Doyle spoke on the use of Alexa and Google home as assistive tools and demonstrated  how they have implemented them in their colleges. It was a practical session which had the audience engaged in what these tools can do to make the lives of disabled people more simpler and enjoyable in leisure activities.

Robert McLaren ( Policy Connect) and Myles Pilling (BATA) spoke of the work going on to inform government about Assistive Technology. Robert explained about the new initiatives to engage suppliers to promote digital learning tools in education as well as new legislation around accessible websites and what schools and colleges can do to be compliant. Myles explained what BATA does and the need for a central source of AT information in the UK as well as the need for a nationally recognised accreditation and training scheme for AT.

Thanks to NatSpec and TechAbility for organising the event.

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Dyslexia Awareness Week focuses on AT

As part of Dyslexia Awareness Week the BDA are focusing on Assistive Technology, Abi James (Southampton University) is running a free seminar on Tuesday 2nd October on “Realising Potential Through Enabling Technologies” .

Helen Simon of Helen Simon Associates is speaking to parents about AT  in Coventry  on the 6th October.


Here is a slide from Abi’s excellent talk about Enabling Technologies, very interesting talking about the reason’s why we use these technologies and the things that need to be in place to make it successful


Slide from Abi James' talk

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Three autumn events on leading overseas AT markets

Light coming our of hand with a projection of the world

The ATGlobal Special Interest Group has organised three first class events for the autumn featuring experts on the Indian, German and USA markets.

They will provide invaluable insights into the AT sector in these countries.  The online events are free to BATA members, but non-members can also join in, for a small fee. Go to Eventbrite for further information and to choose which ones to attend.

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Tobii Dynavox acquires Smartbox

Consolidation among AT suppliers continues with eye tracking specialist Tobii Dynavox’s £11m takeover of Smartbox.

The acquisition follows hearing aid company Sonova’s recent purchase of Gordon Morris, the assistive listening device supplier.

“Together we will be able to drive more innovation, drive broader programs to educate the market and empower even more people with disabilities to fulfil their dreams and potential,” says TobiiDynavox.

Smartbox, developer of the Grid communications software widely used in alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) applications, was founded in 2006 by Paul Hawes.

TobiiDynavox intends to build new features and functionalities for Grid and Snap + Core First. It will retain Smartbox’s two offices and network of resellers.

For further information email or go to