Researching assistive technologies: two new resources

Journal of Assistive Technologies

ISSN: 1754-9450

Article publication date: 16 September 2011


Abbott, C. (2011), "Researching assistive technologies: two new resources", Journal of Assistive Technologies, Vol. 5 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Researching assistive technologies: two new resources

Article Type: Project report From: Journal of Assistive Technologies, Volume 5, Issue 3

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Series “Researching the use of assistive technologies by children and young people: interdisciplinary perspectives” has now come to a close. Four seminars were held at King’s College London and De Montfort University, Leicester, between November 2009 and November 2010.

At the first seminar, where the focus was on theoretical frameworks, Chris Abbott (Principal Investigator, King’s College London) and Jannet Wright (Co-investigator, De Montfort University Leicester) introduced the series from their differing perspectives within Health and Education. Lani Florian explored the educational perspective further and made the case for inclusive pedagogy rather than inclusive practice. A panel of PhD students from three different disciplines/universities spoke about their research and the theoretical frameworks they were using. As a result of feedback, the timings of future seminars were adjusted to allow greater time for large and small group discussion.

The second seminar focussed on involving young people in our research. Al Roulstone, particularly speaking from his perspective as an Editor of Disability and Society, related some recent research to particular constructions of disability. Jane Seale then reflected on her experience of participatory research methods with disabled students, and upon the process of involving young people with disabilities in her recent ESRC seminar series on accessibility. Making a strong case for learner voice, she also located her work within a particular framework for participation. Michael Clarke then spoke about his work collecting the views of children who use communication aids, and the sometimes uncomfortable findings that arose. The day was rounded off by Sarah Parsons, who discussed child voice, participatory design and ethical challenges. The second seminar received positive feedback and the extra discussion time was found to be valuable. There was also recognition that the positive atmosphere engendered made this a safe place to question each other without antagonism.

Cross-disciplinary academic and professional perspectives formed the focus for the third seminar, at which the first speaker was Karen Bunning, who looked in particular at technology and communication in the special needs classroom, from a speech and language therapy perspective. David Brown then presented his perspective, as a Computer Scientist and a Researcher within Human-computer Interaction, on some of the same issues. An international contribution followed from Serenella Besio, who has recently completely a major survey of assistive technology use for the Italian Government, and the final speaker was Andy Minnion, who located research within the advocacy movement. As a result of discussions and feedback related to this event, it was decided that the final seminar should be more informal and would involve fewer external speakers.

At the final seminar, the first speaker was Sal McKeown, previously a commissioner of research for a Government Quango, who spoke about the tensions that arise from this role. The co-investigators then led a discussion of the issues arising from the seminars, and the process by which some of the outcomes would be developed. The final presentation, looking ahead to the year of speech, language and communication was from Janice Murray and looked in particular at early literacy and language learning. Two working groups were then set up to produce the literature review and the research guide linked to the seminars, and processes were agreed by which these tasks would be completed.

These two resources are now complete and are available as PDFs from:

The resources may be copied and used freely so long as the original attribution and source are cited.

Chris AbbottReader in E-Inclusion at King’s College London, London, UK.