Assistive Technology, April 17 2019
A UK charity recently welcomed children’s hospice staff from across the British Isles to a free conference to learn about the potential impacts of assistive technology on life-limited and disabled children.
Lifelites donates and maintains assistive technology for children and young people in every children’s hospice across the British Isles. Part of their work is to provide free training and technical support to the care staff to encourage them to use the technology to its full potential for the children they care for.
The charity focuses on using technology to give these children opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have to play, be creative, control something for themselves, and communicate, for as long as it is possible. The technology ranges from highly specialist equipment like the Eyegaze, to more conventional equipment like iPads, which they develop with accessories and software to be more suitable for children with a range of special needs.
The fully booked conference, which is now in its 11th year, was an opportunity for over 50 staff to network, share best practice, experiment with the technology on offer and think about its possible applications for the children they work with.
Every second counts for these children and their families, so one of the sessions focused on using the iMovie software to record precious memory videos which their families can treasure forever. Delegates were also shown how the equipment, which is lightweight and portable, can be used when visiting patients in the community.
As well as hearing from representatives of the charity themselves, delegates were given the opportunity to play with the new Xbox Adaptive Controller, as part of a talk from Hector Minto, the Technical Evangelist from Microsoft. The Adaptive Controller is the first mainstream gaming controller which is fully adaptable and can be used by people with disabilities. Lifelites donates them to every children’s hospice across the British Isles, along with other games controllers, consoles and games.
Delegates also heard from the charity’s patron, Sarah Ezekiel, who has Motor Neurone Disease (MND). Sarah discovered she had MND when she was pregnant with her first child, and struggled to come to terms with her diagnosis, particularly when she lost her ability to communicate. Since discovering Eyegaze, her life has changed and she is keen to show others the benefit of the technology. She is passionate about the impact it can have on the children Lifelites supports and spoke to delegates about how it has completely changed her life and allowed her to become an artist.
Simone Enefer-Doy, chief executive of Lifelites said: “We do our best to conduct in depth research on a range of assistive technologies so that we can provide the very best for children in hospices. However, there is limited benefit if this technology is provided without the proper training and support, which is why we work hard to provide this for free for all children’s hospice staff. The care they provide is incredible, and our job is to support them in that care by providing the tools to give these children the ability to do things they never dreamed of. The conference is a wonderful opportunity to meet them all and share our knowledge.”
Conference delegates told Lifelites how much of an impact the conference, and the charity’s work, has:
Aly Moore, said: “This is my third year attending and it’s always a fantastic day. It gives us new ideas and refreshes our memory about how we can get the best out of the equipment.”
Marc Viera, another delegate said: “I can’t imagine doing my job without Lifelites equipment. Lifelites is amazing. Thank you so much.”
To find out more about the work that Lifelites does, take a look at their website: www.lifelites.org