Enable Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland is calling on the Government to form a cross-departmental group to assess how many are already using assistive technology, to streamline state funding in this area and establish the extent of demand.
Assistive technology is equipment is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of adults and children with disabilities opening up education, employment, communication, and independent-living opportunities.
A recent online study of service users by Enable Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland shows that, of the 236 people who responded, just 38% had their assistive technology supplied by the Department of Education and HSE whereas 42% bought their own assistive technology. Another 16% came from other sources such as the voluntary sector, including Enable Ireland. The same survey found that over 64% of assistive technology cost less than €1,000, 22% costs between €1,000 and €3,800; and 13.5% costs over €3,800.
According to Siobhan Long of Enable Ireland, assistive technology is of benefit for everyone from the child with dyslexia to the adult who can only communicate with their eyes.
“Screen-reading technology can allow a person to control a screen with just their eyes, if they fix their eyes on the screen, they can effectively use their eyes like a mouse to select icons,” said Ms Long.
Christina McCarthy, 26, from Dublin, is blind and says that, without assistive technology, she would never have completed her degree in French and Spanish and diploma in public relations.
She uses a laptop that can convert regular text into braille.
“I wouldn’t have got the education I did without my assistive technology,” she said. “If you can’t get your education, then you won’t be able to get employment and then you will be dependent upon the State rather than contributing to it. That’s why we need to invest in the equipment and then the training and support.”