AGOSCI2013 – The Final wrap-up


The AGOSCI2013 #TwitterArmy

4 Days. 3 pre-conference workshops. 3 keynote presentations. 90 concurrent sessions. 3431 Tweets. 250+ participants.

No wonder everyone is exhausted! We have laughed. We have cried. Sometimes we have done both. But damn we connected well.

Sitting back now and reflecting on the week there were a couple of themes that kept coming through for me. Bear with me whilst I highlight them.

We need to work together. This was phrased in a number of different ways across the sessions. Dr Sarah Blackstone’s call to action was for us all to get a seat at the table. Several sessions said successful AAC outcomes are the result of a team of specialists coming together. That includes IT + OT + SP. Personal ego’s and agendas need to be left at the door and we need to work together to define and deliver solutions that restore the basic human rights that are taken away when we deny someone the opportunity to communicate. And we definitely need to keep the information sharing going.

We need to demand that communication is on the agenda. Not just paid lip-service, actually on the agenda across ALL levels of organisations, from the Board down. All the other projects and processes and procedures mean nothing unless people can effectively communicate and have their voices heard. Yes/No options just don’t cut it any more. And we need to demand authentic communication acts that are appropriate. There was one session (and I must apologies I cant recall which, maybe Sheridan Forsters) where an example was given of a care worker standing 3 feet away from a deafblind and saying hello, and thinking that was good communication. News Flash. IT ISN’T!

We need to celebrate successes. So many brilliant stories came out during the conference. We need to tell them more. We need to inspire others to strive for what they want, not accept what society tells them they can achieve. We need more people like Melinda to mentor and be a role model for the children coming through. We need to hold people like Melinda and Georgia and Darryl up so they can say ‘See, we can do it. We can have a valued role in society. So can you’ – that may come across as sounding patronising, it certainly isnt intended to be.

Model, model, model. We need to constantly reinforce the practises and communication acts that we are teaching. We can’t just give up because it is ‘too hard’ or because the person we are supporting isnt picking it up at the pace we want. It isnt about us. It’s about them. We do things at their pace. In the way that they can understand. In their language, using their AAC. And we keep doing it in a respectful way that respects their dignity. Period.

Communication Access for All. This again was highlighted in numerous sessions. It needs to be made a priority from central government down. Without access for everyone we are depriving people of basic human rights, not to mention breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. I think the work that Scope Victoria is doing with the Communication Access symbol is revolutionary and needs to have the full support and backing of government to make it a priority and enshrine it in legislation. I am so excited about it I have put it onto my to-do list of action points from the conference.

baskets_smlI am humbled to have the privilege of returning to my organisation to share the knowledge gained over the last week. NZ Maori have a concept of the baskets of knowledge. In our cultural room we have them hanging up waiting to receive more knowledge and to share the knowledge already gained. I think we need bigger baskets now.


AGOSCI 2013 Day One (for real this time!)

Right. Day One. Where the heck to start! My head is ready to explode with the amount of new knowledge shared today. So lets start at the start. With the official opening by conference convenor Harmony Turnbull who introduced the attendees to the ‘Twitter Army’; apparently we are a friendly bunch! Just before I carry on, its seems I have been labelled the ‘AGOSCI2013 Blogger’, which I pointed out makes me sound like the ‘Boston Strangler’…. I shouldn’t be too mean about Harmony though, after all she is at the gym at 6am in the morning before the conference and then working hard, with the rest of the committee, during the day to deliver the conference* And I apologise now for the understatements I am about to make!

Right, back to the conference. Started with a song & dance from resident Elder Alison Golding. As a Kiwi I can relate to the cultural welcome, very much like the Maori waiata. Kai Ora Alison.

This was then followed by a wonderful speech from Professor Emeritus Ron McCallum who reminded everyone of the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities and in particular Article 2″

For the purposes of the present Convention:

  • “Communication” includes languages, display of text, Braille, tactile communication, large print, accessible multimedia as well as written, audio, plain-language, human-reader and augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, including accessible information and communication technology;
  • “Language” includes spoken and signed languages and other forms of non spoken languages;
  • “Discrimination on the basis of disability” means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation;
  • “Reasonable accommodation” means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • “Universal design” means the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. “Universal design” shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed.

A couple of quotes from Twitter really distill and summarise his words”

Onto Dr Sarah Blackstone. Now Dr Blackstone is arguably the pre-eminent AAC expert in the world. In her keynote she suggested that it is time for AAC to undergo a paradigm shift and look outside the box. Change from AAC to CAA or Communication Access for All. For me it was all about basic human rights (okay so I thought that about a number of sessions today, maybe I am biased!) Her call to action was to think about what we, as individuals, can bring to the greater communication table. It is something that we ALL need to get involved with for the greater good. We all need to talk, share and work together; more on this later….

Two HUGE sessions and it wasnt even morning tea!

Into the concurrent sessions. I opted to sit in on Tracey Hanigan’s session entitled ‘Connecting students with ASD to a Speech Generating Device’. Was a really good session, reinforced the need to revise constantly the users requirements. Also how users negative behaviours decline once the frustration of not being able to communicate effectively is reduced. We need to find a way to promote and share these great stories so more people will get actively involved.

Next two sessions were hosted by users of AAC – Emma Green and Georgia Cranko. Was humbling to watch & listen to them share their experiences and how AAC can lead to lifelong learning. But AAC has its place, there is still a need for family & friends to support, particularily in time-pressured situations such as doctors appointments. Was so cool to be in two sessions where the hosts and the audience were communicating with SGD’s! Ashamed to say it isnt an everyday occurance.. but arguably should be.

So to lunch, and a lot of face time with old & new friends. The afternoon sessions I will blog about soon, there is just SO much brilliant content I am having to split it across two postings!

*The ‘real’ reason Harmony is at the gym at 6am is to use the GHD hair things… girl thing, dont understand it. Will now expect retribution from said convenor!

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