on 27th-30th August “MARGARITA” Vocational Training Center participated in the 15th international conference of the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE) in Bologna, Italy. Specifically, “MARGARITA” took part in a fruitful exchange of opinions and sharing of knowledge and experiences with other stakeholders and professionals in the field of Assistive Technology and other relevant fields. Moreover, “MARGARITA” presented a pilot study concerning the accessibility of technological software for people with intellectual disabilities.
The conference of AAATE proved to be a fertile ground for participating into intriguing conversations since about 400 researchers and practitioners from academia, service providers and industry were gathered. The conference offered a variety of topics with interesting presentations and educational and policy sessions that among others covered the following topics: Assistive Technology (AT) and Aging, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Inclusion, STEM, Robotics (Care and Assistive), AT and Dementia, AI and Internet of Things (IoT), MOOCS and OERS, AT and Intellectual Disability, Inclusive Education Environments. The “Innovation Area” of the conference offered the opportunity to come across cutting edge software and equipment in the AT field. Furthermore, the Pre-Conference events attempted to enhance the understanding regarding the changes in the field of AT, by talking (meeting with representatives of international, national and regional organizations) and doing (hands-on workshop about virtual/augmented reality and social robotics). Yet, the most important part was not the knowledge sharing, but the call to realize that “access to Assistive Technology is a basic human right” that resulted in the Bologna Declaration.
“MARGARITA” presented a pilot research conducted during the “SlideWiki” H2020 program, as an external partner of “Athena” Research and Innovation, Information Technologies Center. The study was about the evaluation of the SlideWiki OpenCourseWare Platform by individuals with mild and moderate intellectual disability and employed an action research design. The study was conducted in the MARGARITA premises and the participants were 10 beneficiaries with mild and moderate intellectual disability. The participants were first trained in the use of the platform and then evaluated its accessibility and usability. Multiple methods were used for the training (easy-to-read manuals, teaching, PowerPoint presentations) and the evaluation of the SlideWiki platform (observations, questionnaires). During the presentation, not only the results but also the suggestions made by the participants and the trainers were shared with the audience.
The experience of participating in the AAATE Conference was more than valuable for “MARGARITA”. The benefits concern the acquisition of knowledge from experts in several fields and the sharing of good policies regarding the education, support and inclusion of people with intellectual disability and other co-occurrent disabilities. “MARGARITA” is going to use this knowledge to ameliorate the support and services that offers. Furthermore, “MARGARITA” would be interested to bring to Greece some of the innovative technologies and practices that were presented in the conference and were tested in countries all over the globe. Lastly, “MARGARITA”, as a center that puts first the people with intellectual disability and their independence, support, education, occupational rehabilitation and inclusion, attempted to contribute in the field by raising the awareness regarding the importance of accessibility of technology for people with intellectual and other disabilities.