Minister for Disabilities announces €2m for Digital and Assistive Technology Projects –

From Department of Health 
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The Minister for Disabilities, Anne Rabbitte, has today announced €2m for 11 projects under the HSE’s CREATE initiative, which aims to improve access to digital and assistive technologies for people with disabilities.
The Cooperative Real Engagement for Assistive Technology Enhancement (CREATE) initiative seeks to ensure that service users and providers work together to identify what will make a real difference to individual users of digital and assistive technology (DAT). Digital and assistive technologies are defined as “any product or service designed to enable independence for disabled and older people”, and the WHO maintains a list of essential Priority Assistive products.
Minister Rabbitte secured €2 million for the initiative in Budget 2022, with the funding now awarded to 11 projects following an evaluation of 79 submissions. Projects were assessed on the extent to which they were person-centred, as well as how they demonstrated a willingness to work collaboratively across different service providers and to really engage with DAT through a clear process of co-design.
Announcing the allocation of the funding, Minister Rabbitte said:
“I am delighted to see this funding supporting a range of innovative projects which will greatly assist people with disabilities. Digital and Assistive Technologies are a crucial tool to allow people with disabilities to live a more independent life of their own choosing. As Minister for Disabilities, I am proud that Ireland once again is putting resources behind more development and promotion of their use.”
Successful projects include development of Ireland’s first Sit-to-Stand Wheelchair Service, a new Assistive Technology passport, enhanced experience in using respite services, a loan library and a mentorship programme of expert Digital and Assistive Technology users.
Minister Rabbitte added:
“I regularly meet with people with disabilities, their families, service organisations, Disabled Persons’ Organisations, and advocacy organisations, and I know first-hand the huge impact assistive technologies can make, whether it’s wheelchairs, apps, smart speakers or specialised IT equipment.
“The great thing about these projects is the synergies that they create. By working cooperatively, we can achieve much better outcomes for people with disabilities, increasing their independence and enabling them to live ordinary lives in ordinary places. What is important for me is that the learning from these projects will be disseminated widely and integrated into future health and social care policies and practice.”
CREATE projects will support people with sensory, cognitive, physical, and intellectual disabilities, across all age ranges, across different settings and across the country. It will target unmet needs, supporting people to contribute to their communities through work, leisure, and social participation. CREATE Workshops will take place throughout 2022 around Ireland to disseminate the learnings across the sector.
The list of projects in receipt of funding are:
1. Acquired Brain Injury Ireland will use person-centred DAT to support brain injury survivors, whist also establishing a new programme to systematically up-skill its staff in the range and functionality of DAT products.
2. The Brothers of Charity Services (West Region, Galway) are establishing a Pilot DAT team to develop a new multidisciplinary service focusing on communication and access needs, linking with local advocacy groups for people with disabilities.
3. The Central Remedial Clinic will establish Ireland’s first Sit-to-Stand Wheelchair Service; allowing wheelchair users to stand without the need of assistance. For people with spinal cord injury and Duchenne muscular dystrophy this may have a range of physical and psychological benefits.
4. The 9 Children’s Disability Network Teams in Community Health West will establish a community “DAT bank” with access based on need and incorporating DAT into Family Service Planning and integrating with the Department of Education’s Digital Strategy for Schools.
5. Enable Ireland, with several partner organisations, will develop a prototype Assistive Technology passport; comprising a web portal and app, that will help users navigate the DAT system and access information and opportunities regarding the technologies they use.
6. Adult Disability Services in Longford & Westmeath will work with Longford Country Council to identify DAT to support people with disabilities living independently in the community and facilitating those on a housing waiting list to take up a house when it becomes available.
7. The Rehab Group will develop a DAT eco-system with a first-stop-shop for information, advice and guidance on how DAT can enhance person-centred planning, independence and participation is all aspects of life. Their new DAT Training module will be co-produced with people with disability.
8. Saint Michael’s House will use DAT to enhance the experience of using Respite services, incorporating the Slaintecare funded Health Passport for People with Intellectual Disabilities, to promote a joined-up approach across disability, health and educational services; making services providers aware of the abilities, needs and reasonable accommodation requirements of people with an intellectual disability.
9. Stewarts Care will use DAT to promote the implementation of the Meaningful Day approach to service provision, by providing broader range of activities, including greater social interaction between service users and between them and the communities in which they live or will be transitioning to live in.
10. Sunbeam House Services will develop a DAT Loan Library which, among other things, will support the advocacy group, Viewpoint, to develop a mentorship programme of expert DAT users.
11. The National Council for the Blind (NCBI) will provide timely access to DAT nationwide, addressing delays and shortfalls in provision of DAT, offering consistency of support, training and assessments, regardless of where you live.
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