While many things are purported to be "life changing", in reality very few things actually have that impact on a life.  But I believe that Assistive Technology is one such life changing agent.

The subject of this post is the headline from a report in Friday's Irish Times on the launch of Enable Ireland National Assistive Technology Training Centre by Minister Martin earlier this week - the first of its kind in Ireland.

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The centre focuses on providing support, advice and training on the use of Assistive Technology (AT).

AT is any technology that helps an individual to overcome a disability.  This can range from simple things such as door openers, environmental controls or even enhanced remote controls, to accessibility features in software such as Windows and Office, to very sophisticated input devices.

There are three goals of AT training:

  1. Enable people to live an independent life
  2. Enable people to access further education
  3. Enable people to join or re-join the workforce

I think you'll agree that these are three major areas of our lives, and the impact of AT has to be seen to be believed.

However, while the AT is important, it's the training that makes the difference.  Research shows that over 70% of AT is discarded due to a lack of training and support and that's why Enable Ireland's AT training centre is so important.

When you look at the macro statistics for people with disabilities it becomes apparent that as a society we have a long way to go.  Unemployment among people with disabilities is over 60% (in what is effectively a full-employment economy) and less than 6% of people with disabilities access further education.

As our population ages and workplace injuries continue the importance of AT grows.

The work Enable Ireland perform every day across Ireland is absolutely phenomenal.  Their Assistive Technology training team, headed by Siobhan Long, bring the benefits of AT to thousands of people every year.

Microsoft Ireland has been working with Enable Ireland since 2000 and we are incredibly proud of our partnership.  Enable Ireland is one of three Unlimited Potential partners in Ireland.

Of course like any successful relationship both organisations benefit.  For example the next release of our Office product will include accessibility features that have been created as the result of direct feedback from Enable Ireland. So potentially millions of people around the world will benefit from the work Enable Ireland carry out every single day.

That is life changing.

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