Event Programme 2020

Details of the Getting AT Ready 2020 Online event are below. Attendees who have pre-registered can log in to access today’s event. The content will be made available online at a later date. Please register for access.


Digital Passports

Speakers: Siobhan Long, Enable Ireland & Joan O’Donnell, FreedomTech

Siobhan has worked in the field of Assistive Technology since 1991. Her current role involves management of Enable Ireland’s National Assistive Technology Training and SeatTech Services. Siobhan works with two teams of highly skilled individuals who strive to deliver innovative, person-centred AT and custom seating solutions to a wide range of individuals with differing abilities and needs. Technology is changing rapidly and the goal is to ensure that those who can benefit from what it has to offer, can gain access to it in a timely manner. Another goal of Enable Ireland’s AT and SeatTech services is to influence the development of future technologies. Partnering with AT users to advocate for better assistive technology services, solutions and support is a key objective for our service.

Enable Ireland provides services to children and adults with disabilities and their families from 40 locations in 14 counties. Encompassing services from childhood to adulthood, expert teams work with the individual and their family on a plan for each life stage.

Enable Ireland’s mission is to work in partnership with those who use the services to achieve maximum independence, choice and inclusion in their communities. Enable Ireland focuses on the person, not the disability. We believe that access, inclusion and equality are basic rights for all people and assert that society must recognise and accommodate individual needs.

More information…

Joan O'Donnell

Joan O’Donnell is the Project Manager of FreedomTech, which aims to ensure that we develop a comprehensive ecosystem of supports around AT in Ireland. FreedomTech conceived of the concept of the AT Passport which has since gained recognition internationally as a way to put users in control of their own technology and Assistive Technology. Joan has a background working with complex social issues associated with disability from a social policy perspective. She lectures in Systems Thinking in Practice MSc programme with the Open University and is a doctoral researcher with the ALL Institute, Maynooth University.

The Future of Assistive Technology

Speaker: Steve Tyler, Leonard Cheshire Disability

Steve Tyler is Director of Assistive Technology at Leonard Cheshire. Steve has worked in the disability and accessibility domain for over 20 years and has led on such innovations as the first mobile phone devices becoming accessible for visually impaired people, access to TV, outreach and education through the web consortium at the set up of the accessibility initiative there, payment systems access, and wider access to published information.

Through designing longer term strategies that result in business opportunities for mainstream technology companies, the delivery of broader access to everyday products has gradually become possible, the most notable of which has been the adoption of synthetic speech through Amazon and then latterly in to Alexa.

At Leonard Cheshire, apart from enhancing access to everyday life by people with disabilities, he is engaged in such areas as the role of artificial intelligence in our lives, Government policy development with a push for wider and easier technology product access, and emerging areas such as predictive health analytics and monitoring solutions.

Panel Discussion: Inter-country Collaboration

Gerald McLaughlin, Perth College (University of the Highlands and Islands) Chair

Gerald McLaughlin

Gerald McLaughlin has worked in education for 20 years in both the Further and Higher sectors. As a lecturer (sociology & psychology) and for the past 10 years with Perth College (University of the Highlands and Islands), as the Additional Support Team Leader. Gerald completed the Associate Membership of the British Dyslexia Association (AMBDA FE/HE) course in 2018 and is now qualified to assess/diagnose Specific Learning Difficulties including dyslexia and dyspraxia. He has also mentored on the College Development Network’s SCQF Level 9 Professional Development Award in Inclusiveness, training new Disability Advisers. Gerald currently sits on the Scottish Government’s “Review of Disability Related Student Support” as the Further Education representative.

Fiona Burns, Scottish Funding Council

Fiona Burns is Assistant Director for Access, Scottish Funding Council (SFC). Fiona has worked at the SFC since 2002 in various roles including College funding, mergers, skills utilisation and strategic projects. She is currently involved in overseeing a set of access ambitions for both the College and University sector, such as increased intake and retention for our most deprived communities and a reduction in subjects with extreme gender imbalances.

Lisa Padden, University College Dublin

Lisa Padden has worked in University College Dublin (UCD) since 2012 and her current role in UCD Access & Lifelong Learning is Project Lead for the University for All initiative. The University for All initiative is a whole-institution approach to inclusion at UCD. The implementation of the initiative will see every College and unit in UCD implement action plans to ensure inclusion is embedded in all aspects of university life. This initiative focuses on the key areas of higher education: strategy, policy and procedures, teaching and learning, student supports and services, the built campus, and technological environment. Prior to taking up this current role, Lisa worked in disability support for over seven years. Lisa also collaborates with colleagues in other Universities and Colleges on the wider implementation of inclusivity in post-secondary education and has published widely in the area. Lisa received her BA, MA and PhD from the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), where she also taught in the English Department for five years before moving to UCD. Lisa’s research interests include Universal Design in higher education, promoting independent learning, equal access to education, and assistive technologies.

Russell Renton, Student Awards Agency Scotland

Russell Renton is a Policy Manager working in the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) Operational Policy Team. His team provides information and guidance to a wide range of stakeholders on all areas of Higher Education student support policies in Scotland. He works closely with the Scottish Government Higher Education and Science Student Finance Support team on policy development and implementation. Russell has worked in student support for over nine years and has fulfilled various roles across SAAS including roles in Policy and Operations. He has a wide range of experience and knowledge of the student support system in Scotland.

Caitriona Ryan, Higher Education Authority Ireland

Caitríona Ryan is Head of Access Policy in the Higher Education Authority (HEA).  She plays a lead role in the implementation of the National Access Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education, 2015 – 2021.  Students with a disability, students with a socio-economic disadvantage and students from the Irish Traveller community are included in the national target groups identified in this plan.   Caitríona has responsibility for the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) Fund.  To date, over €16 million has been allocated under this Fund to support students from the national target groups access, and successfully participate in, higher education.  Caitríona has worked in a range of policy roles in the HEA since 2003.  Prior to that she held positions in Deloitte & Touche Management Consultants, Department of Enterprise & Employment and the Department of Health. 

Dara Ryder, Chief Executive Officer AHEAD

Dara Ryder is Chief Executive Officer of AHEAD, having previously managed AHEAD’s digital presence and built a suite of online CPD programmes relating to inclusive practice in his role as Digital Media and eLearning Manager there.

After graduating from Queens University in 2005, Dara joined Dun Laoghaire College of Further Education as a lecturer, where he became interested in inclusive education when working first-hand with students with disabilities in his classroom. When the opportunity arose in 2008, he joined AHEAD where he has been working ever since on creating inclusive environments in education and employment for people with disabilities.


Supporting Visually Impaired Students

Presenter: Stuart Lawler, Sight and Sound Technology

Stuart Lawler is Business Development Manager for Sight and Sound Technology Ireland, and is responsible for driving the company’s activities across products, training, technical support and customer service.

He is also the company’s Specialist Lead for our range of Braille products, and provides 2nd level support and training to staff and customers.

He has over 20 years’ experience working in the Assistive Technology sector and is totally blind.

He believes passionately that technology is the greatest equaliser for people with disabilities and is particularly interested in how assistive and mainstream technology can work hand-in-hand to enhance access.

Assessing and Supporting remote students

Presenter: Kellie Mote, Jisc.

Kellie has worked in inclusive education and assistive technology for over 20 years. Her first role was creating accessible learning materials for school pupils with vision impairment and she remains enthusiastic about Braille and tactile diagrams to this day. Kellie moved on to teach IT and assistive technology skills to college students with vision impairment, while also having responsibility for creating accessible and alternative formats. At the BRITE Initiative (Beattie Resources for Inclusiveness in Technology and Education) she provided accredited training in assistive technology and inclusive practice to further and higher education professionals.

When BRITE closed in 2015, Kellie continued to deliver the graduate-level course developed there, known as the Professional Development Award in Inclusiveness, through College Development Network (CDN).

Prior to joining Jisc, Kellie was student experience manager with remit for access and inclusion at Edinburgh College. Here she worked across the college to ensure access to assistive technology for all disabled students and managed the access centre, which provides a specialist needs assessment service to students from colleges and universities across Scotland who have applied for Disabled Students Allowance.

Member of the British Psychological Society (MBPsS) and co-founder of Deaf Education Scotland.

The Cagney and Lacey Model of Assistive Technology

Presenter: Trevor Boland, AHEAD

Trevor Boland

Trevor has been working in the disability sector for 15 years across many levels of Education. He worked as an Assistive Technology Officer in a University for 7 of those years and is currently the Digital and eLearning Officer for AHEAD who advocate UDL in Tertiary Education and in the workplace. So far in AHEAD, Trevor has co-delivered the online AHEAD Conference, facilitated accessibility training and is currently working on an online course for Managers to raise awareness of mentoring graduates with disabilities in the workplace. Past projects involved collaborating with students to create an online learning resource, the creation of apps to support the orientation of new students to Higher Education and facilitating training session for staff and students around the use of Assistive Technology. Striving to create inclusive teaching and work environments are my mission.

Getting AT Ready Flow

Complete the Getting AT Ready flow in FindMyFlow to access exclusive resources from a broad range of assistive technology manufacturers and developers.