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Making technology work for everybody – Lebenshilfe Austria’s “Better lives through person centred technology”-project

Lebenshilfe organisations throughout Austria adopted the systematic implementation of person centred technology in service provision as an important target for organisational development.  The Erasmus+ funded project “Better lives through person centred technology” provided the opportunity to learn from international examples of good practice.

Delegates from seven Lebenshilfe organisations attended trainings tailored to their interests and learning needs at three expert organisations. CEOs, service managers, experts in assistive technology, trainers, occupational therapists and other professionals used a German version of the Entelis self-assessment tool for service providers to reflect on the current situation in their organisations and prepare for the learning events that focused on three essential issues:

  • Independent information and advice
  • Person centred technology as integral part of person centred services for persons with learning disabilities
  • Awareness-raising and training for persons with disabilities, their families, and staff

In November 2017 eleven delegates attended the first training at AIAS Bologna/ IT. The trainers shared their expertise and experience on how to make technology work for people with disabilities, and on how to design services in the assistive technology field. Through lectures as well as a guided tour through an up-to-date showroom and smart homes the participants got a good overview on critical success factors, and were able to learn about the specificities of the model developed and implemented in Bologna. Group work and other interactive parts of the training offered opportunities to transfer the acquired knowledge to the Austrian situation and to develop strategies for restructuring service provision.
In March 2018 eleven delegates participated in a three days training organised by hft/ UK. Experts from hft and their partners gave an overview of person centred technology approaches, a wide range of possibilities for implementation, success factors and challenges. During site visits to the Liverpool Telehealth hub and supported living services in Cheshire and Merseyside participants learned about the views of staff and service users, and had the opportunity to try out assistive devices and/ or see how they were used.
The concept of the NHS telehealth in Liverpool, and its great impact for the citizens was impressive: emergency admissions decreased by 30% and 90% of the patients felt more in control and continued living at home. The delegates experienced that the most important success factor was a deeply person centred way of attending to the needs and wishes of every single person and his/ her lifestyle, not the technological solutions themselves.

In June 2018 ten delegates visited Learning Disability Wales in Cardiff, a self-advocate with learning disability among them. The course focused on awareness-raising and training for persons with learning disability, their families and staff.
Through expert inputs, site visits and exchanges with service users and staff the participants got a strong message on how essential it was to work on attitudes and awareness regarding technical aids. Fears and reluctance must be challenged proactively. Story telling is one of the best ways to achieve this goal. Success stories encourage and inspire creativity for implementing individual and person centred solutions. Awareness-raising is key to successful use of technology increasing quality of life of service users.

The Lebenshilfe participants expressed high satisfaction with the scope of the training programs, expertise of the trainers, and relevance and transferability of what they learnt. Through their reflections they created a complex picture for the next steps that need to be taken in Austria. It became clear, that isolated action by single organisations only has limited impact. To really improve the lives of persons with disabilities they want to “think big”, implement PCT in all Lebenshilfe organisations, take into account all aspects of the issue and cooperate with important stakeholders. The Lebenshilfe organisations will use their joint forces for adaptations, restructuring of current services, implementation of new services like independent expert centres, and lobbying for better legal and financial frameworks.
At the end of September 2018 a meeting will be held in Salzburg to work on strategies and measures for implementation building on the acquired knowledge and the creative ideas triggered during the learning events with international experts.

To read more about the project in German, click here.
Article Contributon from Karin Astegger, Lebenshilfe Austria

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This project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European European Union