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Roadmap for the future of DSA procurement

A group of BATA members met Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) civil servants recently for a briefing on BIS’s roadmap for equipment procurement which had recently been approved as a “direction of travel” by the Minister.

Following the meeting BIS produced a roadmap document, with time lines of how it is envisaged changes will will proceed. BIS has asked BATA to circulate this to stakeholders for information and discussion.

As this document is quite brief, BATA has produced its own notes, outlining some of the issues and implications that were raised at the meeting.

BATA is keen for informed debate, fed back to BIS, as to how this roadmap will support BIS’s objective of providing fit-for-purpose assistive technology for disabled students. Please send your comments and questions back to us or direct to BIS.

Present at the meeting from BATA were Antony Ruck, Chair; Mark McCusker, ex-Chair; Ian Litterick, BATA Council member and ATSP; Jonathan Rouse, ATSP QAG rep; Chris Quickfall, ATSP. From BIS were Georgina Watts and Geoff Munn with SLC’s Graham Tranter and Amy Hedges in telephone attendance.

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Bridging the gap in exam accessibility

BATA’s second exam accessibility event, Bridging the Gap, identified the key issues involved in delivering accessible exams.

The event provided a platform for key stakeholders in the industry to discuss the challenges they face and what solutions could be provided to move forward.

Speakers included Julie Swan, Associate Director – Regulatory Policy and Vocational Qualification Policy at the regulator Ofqual (pictured right)..

A number of key themes ran throughout the day. The more obvious ones were the need for better and more consistent communication, transparency of information between awarding bodies, exam officers, and schools’ special education needs coordinators (SENCos) and a perceived complexity of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) guidelines.

Assistive technology (AT) was also seen as  complicated, with more information about  types and features of AT products needed by thos involved in delivering accessible exams.

A surprising, and perhaps somewhat alarming, finding from the event was that some SENCos feel in the dark around the process and implementation of access arrangements, and that further training is needed to help make more informed decisions.

Furthermore, there is currently no association or entity that acts as a support ‘hub’ for SENCos to go to for advice, guidelines, and so on.

Delegates were also uncertain about how define a ‘normal way of working’, and about the process of applying for access arrangements.

A white paper, which will be circulated towards the end of November, will delve deeper into these issues and discuss possible action points for the near future.

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Microlink founder wins lifetime achievement award

BATA founder member Dr Nasser Siabi, CEO of Microlink PC, has received a lifetime achievement award in the National Diversity Awards held at the Anglican cathedral in Liverpool recently.

Nasser  has spent 25 years spreading the message about inclusivity and creating opportunities for disabled people. In 1992 he founded Microlink, now the largest independent supplier of assistive technology ion the UK.

Some 40% of the company’s employees are disabled and Microlink has helped over a quarter of a million individuals around the world.

For example, Microlink has developed a mass screening tool to identify needs and target solutions for disabilities, which has been successfully piloted in several schools in Cape Town, South Africa.

The judges described Nasser as a man who has “dedicated his life and personal time to his vision”.

He has now turned his attention to a project which aims to create a ‘truly inclusive classroom’ to help every student in this country reach their full potential..

“I focus on finding the barriers that young disabled people face and do my up most best in breaking these,” said Nasser.

“Making employers aware of the skills that these people can offer, and changing their preconceptions is of upmost importance to me. I hope the work I do gives people the life opportunities that we all take for granted. It’s about giving people the life they want and deserve.

“By making people aware of the changes that need to be made, I hope that preconceptions will change and there will be increased opportunities for young and disabled people.

“Some are easy, some are not, but I believe that the work I’m doing is making a difference. We need to focus on youth and give them all the life opportunities they deserve and want. They are our future after all.”

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MPs hold enquiry into access to AT for young people

BATA has been invited to give evidence at an enquiry into the access and use of AT by young disabled people.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Young Disabled People is holding a meeting in the Houses of Parliament  on December 2  to discuss the issues raised by young people about access to assistive technology.

The Group wants to identify practical solutions to ensure assistive technology is available and accessible for young disabled people who would benefit from using it.

It has invited government and industry leaders with experience of supporting disabled people who wish to obtain and use assistive technology to answer questions from MPs and disabled young people.