We live in an amazing time, where the vast majority of physical and cognitive limitations can be overcome, if not completely mitigated by the use of assistive technology. With the ongoing evolution of technological solutions, it is becoming progressively easier to interact with the world regardless of an individual’s preferred access method. In turn, so many devices are becoming more mainstream that they are increasingly used by all people to create more efficient and independent lives.
It is our job as Assistive Technology Consultants to assess an individual’s needs and aspirations and to match these to the wealth of technological solutions available and, where necessary, design new ones. In addition, it is our responsibility to ensure that the individual and their support network can use these tools effectively. Our ultimate aim is to become redundant as clients and their support teams fully embrace assistive technology (AT) and the benefits it will bring them throughout their lives.
At access: technology, our mission is to “inspire people to embrace and drive what can be made possible through the use of technology” with all interventions and company processes explicitly aligning with our primary value; ‘client centred’.
To mitigate any uncertainty, the following set of guiding principles are designed to give the freedom and confidence to enable team members to achieve positive client outcomes without fear of failure; helping set the boundaries that allow creativity and confidence to flourish. These principles also offer us a common language to discuss clients, design ideas and plan intervention strategies.
We recognise that working for access: technology can be a little different. Autonomy is given to consultants to use their own judgment on how to best deliver client-centred services for their respective caseloads. Each consultant maintains full control over their own diary and is provided with any resources they need to facilitate their workload. This level of autonomy may feel initially a little uncomfortable (especially when coming to us from other environments with strict procedures and company rules), however it is my philosophy to give staff the freedom to allow them to do their very best work in the manner that works best for them.
We direct clients to ‘turn on the light’, rather than ‘push the switch’. This outcome focussed concept of working extends to all interventions and training.
When working with a support person, especially one that might have a self-proclaimed ‘fear’ of technology, demonstrating positive client outcomes provides the intrinsic motivation necessary to embrace a new idea. Using AT is not the end goal – it must have a purpose.
This outcome-oriented principle also extends to our record keeping; we report on what the client has done, not on what we have done.
Experiment and be curious. Do not hold back through fear of failure. The cycle of “do, fail, learn, do” brings about successful outcomes more quickly, than waiting for a theoretical solution to develop (see https://www.samuelthomasdavies.com/unilever). Regular iteration also allows you to capitalise on the benefits of marginal gains – compounding the many small ‘1%’ improvements. Get out there and explore solutions with your clients – you’ll learn much more quickly this way and so will they.
Seek forgiveness, not permission
Be aware of putting up presumed barriers by other people. If a client is unable to work / talk / play and that issue can be easily rectified, then solve it immediately. Seeking permission first invokes uncertainty over your decision that will cause unnecessary delays for your client. Our aim is to ensure our client is best looked after and we will stand by your decision. You are all provided with the means to make payment for devices and equipment without seeking permission. Choose hope over fear.
You are all incredibly competent, capable, and excellent practitioners. Any failures are therefore automatically considered a flaw in the company systems and solving them is how we learn and grow. Create that opportunity by proudly reporting all failures. Make proper apologies if any are required and provide next steps to success.
The ‘Golden Bubble of Joy’
This is our term for the team that surrounds and supports an individual; this is where AT happens. Plan for your interventions to take place here. When the family, school, care staff or client can take over the mantle of AT so that we are no longer required – then you have succeeded in fulfilling our mission.
Make it fun! Make it motivational. Allow opportunities to misbehave.
Keen motivation, especially when working with younger clients, is 90% of the journey and the first principle to success. So much of school, health and therapeutic intervention will already feel like work. We have the opportunity using gaming, entertainment, leisure activities and environmental control to make our intervention feel like play. If, for example, the end goal is ‘spontaneous communication using a talker’ and the client is not engaging with the device, you may need to backtrack and start a million miles away from the destination to get there – inspire excitement in using the device to begin with. Make it control the TV, play music, turn on the lights etc. By tapping into the client’s interests, you can get everyone on board to achieving success.
Spend the time to remove visual clutter, unnecessary steps, and every barrier to success. Using a device, or working with us, should be as simple and intuitive as possible. Remember “don’t make me think”.
You do you
You know how you work best, so choose the most effective workflow for yourself. Purchase the tools you need to allow you to do your job the very best you can.
We are not ‘fans’ of any particular system or software. Work to find the very best solution for your individual client’s needs.
We do not have secrets. Regularly write blog posts and share our designs and solutions for all to learn, so that other practitioners, families, and teachers can use your brilliant AT interventions to benefit as many users as possible.
Proactive, timely and transparent communication
Ensure everyone involved with your client is consistently up to date with your plans. You should already know what intervention is required and it’s your job to drive it. Do not wait for a phone call for the next step. Decide what is right for your client and put that into action.
You are not an island
Work with the whole team to draw on each other’s expertise and experience in sensory rehabilitation, inclusive education, technical expertise and body mechanics, to best support individual caseloads. We also have the privilege of working alongside the best therapists, rehabilitation professionals and education consultants in the country. You are not expected to know all the answers; working with our team and amazing external practitioners you can find the best possible solutions for your clients.
In the mindset of iterating quickly, it is likely that these Principles will be refined and updated regularly to eliminate any confusion and provide clearer guidance for working at access: technology. Please share all feedback and suggestions.