Stakeholders take stock of ground breaking AT survey

14 October 2020

The Assistive Products List (APL), an online survey of AT being conducted by BATA and the World Health Organisation, held a meeting of its 40 stakeholder organisations recently to review progress.

Respondents to the survey are asked to nominate a total of 50 products from a list of 100 in various categories. They are also encouraged to suggest assistive products that are not on the list.

“The results so far have been fascinating. What has been striking is the variety of products suggested by those who have taken the survey: from shoe horns to mobility scooters. Many are very simple such as devices to help you put on your socks, while others - augmented and alternative communication (AAC) devices for example - are very sophisticated,” said APL Co-ordinator Esther Dakin-Poole.

Stakeholders are asked to encourage their clients, members and service users to respond to the survey. BATA member AbilityNet, for example, has conducted an internal survey of its staff to guide its response to the APL survey.

The list of the most essential assistive products will enable UK policymakers, users and service providers to plan, procure and provide products even more effectively than they already do. A report on the survey will be published next year.

“The UK is seen as a leading light in AT, so it is right that this country should be the first more developed country to carry out an APL project,” said Rick Bell, chair of BATA. “We are pleased to be associated with the WHO programme. It is BATA’s aim to broaden our approach that is why we also joined the Global Association of AT Organisations (GAATO) this year.

At the stakeholder meeting, attendees raised a number of issues around the supply of AT. “As an amputee I get fed up of people with arms and legs telling me what I need,” said Alex Lewis of the Alex Lewis Trust.

He has worked with university bio-mechatronic laboratories and acted as a guinea pig in the development of orthotics and a low-cost wheelchair. “Seventy percent of amputees don’t use the correct protheses,” he said.

Lewis also said developers are apt to re-invent the wheel and find it difficult to get end user feedback, as a result many projects don’t see the light of day. “Laboratories are a graveyard of technology”. Other stakeholders identified further barriers ranging from the cost and availability of AT to the role of regulation in influencing the application of technology.

The next step in the APL programme will be for stakeholders with specialist knowledge in one of the six categories of products - mobility, sight, hearing, cognition, communication and environment – to meet to discuss the data that has been collected.

In the meantime, the survey remains open and people with and without disabilities are urged to respond to the survey using this link: https://bit.ly/3lIXrkS .