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conference hall, a meeting and a robot with a book

E.A. Draffan

Two more conferences AAATE and Communication Matters!

AAATE stands for The Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE) and this year we were very lucky to have several specific talks and forums about AAC. There was one complete track about "The advancement of AT and AAC for children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia" where representatives from UNICEF, Bulgaria, Serbia, Ukraine and other countries came together to share research and resources such as "The use of Assistive Technology in Education: A Guide for Teachers and Schools" authored by Katerina Mavrou and the Education Section, UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia.

The Global Symbols presentation was "Reflections on Building a Multi-Country AAC Implementation Guide" that tells the practical story with resources and videos.

Maurice Grinberg talked about "Eight Years of AAC in Bulgaria: Achievements and Problems" (Pg 154 download PDF). Finally in that session Evert-Jan Hoogerwerf talked about "Assessment of AT and AAC Capacity for Children in Ukraine" (Pg 156 download PDF).

One of the highlights of the policy session was meeting up with Hanna Usatenko who runs DyvoGra as a Social Enterprise in Ukraine. She shared links to the AAC support they offer including localised symbols and an app. We really hope we can share these lovely Dyvogra symbols in the future. Dyvogra symbols In other tracks Lisa Hoiry presented on STAACS3: Simulation Tool for AAC with Single-Switch Scanning that makes it possible to model and simulate the performance of any type of scanning keyboard regardless of its keys configuration, scanning strategy or prediction systems. Alvard Poghosyan (UNICEF Education Specialist Armenia) and Armenuhi Avagyan shared their Case Study That Provides an Example of AAC Enabling Children’s Rights (Pg 259 download PDF) where The US Embassy in Armenia funded the development of the Armav App and UNICEF Armenia supported the development of a training module on the usage of the AAC App for the ARMAV Center. This meant that Mariam (as the case study) could finally communicate with family and friends in her language of choosing having already learnt to use AAC in English. Taline Ashekian (Harmony Therapy) has a YouTube video illustrating the set up for the Armav app in Armenian. The app is available on Google Play and iOS Amrav app

Finally as part of our journey with Articial Intelligence Global Symbols had some slides about "AI Supporting AAC Pictographic Symbol Adaptations"

A couple of weeks later Communication Matter in Leeds UK showcased the latest research and experiences around evidence-based practices with a theme “More than just talking”. The programme was packed so it may be worth working through the PDF book of abstracts provided before the conference to find areas of interest.

It was lovely to see that Dr Ayesha Butt was presenting on the "Development of Culturally Appropriate Urdu Core Vocabulary Symbols for AAC Users" and we have examples with the Adam Urdu Symbols. Other topics ranged from implementation of AAC at different levels to practical access systems and apps that used AI and Prof. Annalu Waller (University of Dundee) and Priscilla Mensah (Policy Fellow at the cross-party think tank Policy Connect) talked about Artificial Intelligence and AAC - a subject we have also been exploring.

Innovation in this areas has been going on for sometime as Professor Waller demonstrated when she presented a keynote at an AI conference in Scotland 2022, on "Inclusive AI: designing for diversity" but it is clear we still have much to do to enhance AAC skills and make real communication happen more easily.

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