UD followers may not be aware of the size and diversity of the assistive technology field, and how its aims are very similar to universal design. In Europe, universal design, which they call “design-for-all” is considered a form of assistive technology. Both AT and UD are considered enablers – things that enable people to participate in everyday life.
AT is also a rich area of research and each two years people gather from around the world to catch up on the latest. The next European Conference, hosted by AAATE (Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe) will be held in Sheffield, UK, 11-15 September 2017. The call for papers is open until 10 February. A quick look at their topic areas shows the breadth of this field of endeavour, which does include universal design. All papers from AAATE conferences are peer reviewed and published by IOS Press.
Australia has links with AAATE through ARATA (Australian Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Association), and also Assistive Technology Australia (formerly Independent Living Centre NSW) has made significant progress in linking their database to the European database EASTIN. Eventually there will be a worldwide connection of assistive technology databases.
Editor’s note: I have attended three AAATE conferences and presented on universal design. While not an expert in AT per se, I did find the other presentations fascinating and eye-opening in terms of what is now possible with new AT inventions. It was also great to meet so many people passionate about inclusion.