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Global AT Collaborators Seek Your Knowledge, Insights, and Leadership

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Forum at ATIA Orlando 2012 promotes creation of an AT Centers Leadership Network, writes Eliza Anderson.


Why reinvent the wheel? That was the ultimate message of the forum held on January 26th at ATIA Orlando. The forum was convened to discuss the formation of an AT Centers Leadership Network as a logical and necessary outgrowth of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Network is the brainchild of the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict), which is an advocacy effort of the United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development, and Mada, the Assistive Technology Center in Qatar. 


G3ict Executive Director, Axel Leblois, kicked off with an exciting message: the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is gaining impressive momentum--108 countries have now ratified, covering 80% of the world's population. The implications for greater AT access and awareness are profound. In addition to requiring countries (“States Parties”) to create their own ADA-type of legislation, the CRPD is extremely specific about States' obligations to promoting ICT accessibility and Assistive Technologies. Research and development of AT must be promoted; accessible information and communications for persons with disabilities must be provided, along with the provision of training to professionals and staff working with people with disabilities.


The challenge now is how?


The goal of the forum, it was explained, is to drive these CRPD aims forward by developing a global leadership network of AT Centers to share their best practices and experience. Panelists--which included David Banes of Mada, the Assistive Technology Center in Qatar; Lou Orslene of the U.S. Job Accommodation Network; Evert-Jan Hoogerwerf of Emilia Romagna's Regional Center for AT in Italy--presented on the Network’s vision, mission, and charter, inviting attendees who run AT Centers to consider applying for membership.


ATIA CEO David Dikter summed it all up energetically: “AT Centers, no matter where they are--Brazil or Qatar or Italy--we all have to do the same work: provide services, supports, awareness. And we all have to break through the same barriers: the Dept. of Education, Department or Ministry or Council of Labor, whatever! And so why shouldn't we collaborate? I'm hoping you will join in and make this possible."


One powerful, if somber, forum moment was provided by Hoogerwerf, when he noted the recent defunding and imminent dismantling of the AT center in Denmark, an institution with a long history and rich base of knowledge on providing AT services. “What will happen to that intellectual property?” he posed, and then voiced the hope that an international body such as the Network envisioned would provide opportunities in the future for such institutional legacies.


Forum attendees offered feedback on the membership charter and strategies for organizational development. It's clear there are many details to work out and the exchange was dynamic. Next steps include a follow up presentation/forum at CSUN 2012. Interested in learning more? Review the AT Centers Leadership Network forum presentation (including information on the criteria for membership).
Eliza J Anderson is Managing Editor at Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) newsletter and Editor and Founder at AT Program News, an electronic newsletter and blog of news for and from the State Assistive Technology Act Programs, the Alternative Financing Programs, and their community partners.
Related Event: Taking Accessibility Mainstream: Making the Case for an International Society of Accessibility Professionals:
Related Blog: Enabling Access for Persons with Disabilities to Higher Education and Workplace: Role of ICT and Assistive Technologies:
Related Publication: e-Accessibility Policy Handbook for Persons with Disabilities. Download Publication.