The Rehab Group is set to create a new digital and assistive technology service that aims to enrich the participation and independence of people with disabilities.

The organisation is one of 11 to receive funding from a Digital and Assistive Technology (DAT) Fund and will be co-creating the dynamic new service with crucial input from service-users and students.

The DAT Central project will be a first-stop shop, supporting inclusion through digital and assistive technology, spanning participation at home, education and training, work, and social activities. These assistive technologies will include voice recognition programmes, screen readers and screen enlargement applications. They will also include items and utensils to empower those with limited motor skills to eat or play games independently and other devices for the home to help perform tasks such as cooking, dressing, and grooming.

The Rehab Group is one of only eleven out of 79 submissions to have received CREATE 2021 Funding (Cooperative Real Engagement for Assistive Technology Enhancement 2021).

In December 2021, Minister of State for Disability, Anne Rabbitte, announced that the HSE National Disability Operations and the National Clinical Programme for People with Disabilities (NCPPD) were seeking applications for the delivery of digital and assistive technology services. Crucially, these services needed a person-centred and rights-based approach. It was also critically important that the services be co-designed with people with lived experience of disability. Through this funding, Rehab Group will establish the DAT Framework to match the right technology to the person’s needs and preferences. In addition, staff training in Foundations in Assistive Technology, accredited by the Technological University Dublin, will commence early in the project to grow the confidence and competence of our staff to embed DAT in their practices.

In line with Rehab Group’s current five-year Strategy, “Delivering our Future”, the voice of people with lived experience of disability will be amplified through the consultation and co-design activities.

Rehab Group CEO, Barry McGinn, said: “Our plans are ambitious for 12 months, but we are committed to working with our staff, students, members of our services, as well as other organisations, to contribute to the Assistive Technology Eco-System across Ireland. With the support of the HSE National Disability Operations and the National Clinical Programme for People with Disabilities, we can strengthen and enhance our services greatly to benefit our members and students.

“As a sector, we have voiced the challenges people with disabilities experienced throughout the pandemic with low levels of confidence in using digital technologies and lack of access to technology. Our own staff, students and members of our services learned a lot over the last two years through delivering and accessing supports remotely and delivering skills

development activities online. As a result, we have become more innovative in our approach.

“In Rehab Group, we are embracing the opportunity to move forward with a heightened awareness of how to bridge the digital divide for people with disabilities and support people in our services to participate in society and claim their rights as equal citizens through the use of digital and assistive technologies. I am confident that, alongside the pioneering work of students and service users in Rehab Group, a co-designed DAT Central will be a game-changer in our future service models”, he said.

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