Are you the crazy person in the room?

tumbleJust like that the last day was upon us. After the previous few days and the AMAZING conference dinner it was no surprise to see tumbleweeds blowing down the main corridor first thing in the morning. But, as we do, by 845 the space was filling up with the same high-intensity energy that is one of the defining qualities of this conference.

I sat in on Martin Littlers keynote first up which was aptly named ‘1990 to 2020’. It was a trip down memory lane looking at where Assistive Technology has come from and a few predictionsfor the next 5 years. Now technically it was statlerMartin’s keynote, but from the start Michael O’Leary (the Spectronics MD, founder) was an integral part of the proceedings, setting the scene early on by admitting they were taking ‘the old farts’ keynote. We all looked back fondly at the good old days of the TRS80 and Apple2 computers. And who could forget the original Lightwriter from 1973. We raced through the decades, pausing occasionally to reflect on how the rapid pace of technological change has ‘encouraged’ the disability sector to change the way things are done to keep up. This holds true even up to now. Think about how the iPad has flipped the way people can communicate on a device that can’t be perceived as ‘for those special people’; it has put the cool factor into Assistive Tech! And that is not taking away from the wonderful hardware devices that have helped so many, but I can’t help but think that they have in some way helped shaped societies negative mindset about people with disabilities… Wrapping up the session Martin threw out a few predictions for the future (the 2020 part of the presentation), including the standardisation of eye gaze tech, having the feedback loop closed, single student logons, big data being leveraged to find whats true and there being more tablets than people. Just putting it out there now – Martin, we need to get you back in 2016 for an update on these predictions!

After the break was the little pocket rocket Kelly Fonner and Scott Marfilius outling some options for communicating at a variety of levels using iPad AAC apps. Some of you may remember me gushing over Kelly at ILT2012… that aside this was a really good presentation, and no I am not being biased! For me there wasnt anything groundbreaking or new, but it served as a really good reminder that we need to support people to communicate in the location they want to communicate in. We need to have a scaffolding approach to support and a progression roadmap. And there needs to be a genuine purpose for the communication, lets not trivialise it. Into the home stretch, and a session on Eye Gaze technology lead by Sandra Thistlethwaite. Whilst interesting I confess to being a little UN-engaged with all the sciency and research bits.

So to the final keynote. The Spectronics team mixed things up a little this year and did the prize draws before the keynote speakers, nothing like keep things going for as long as possible! The two Jason’s (Gibson and the birthday boy Carroll) did what they do best and delivered a session that really rounded out the conference. They challenged us to set SMART goals and share them. They told us to walk to the edge and jump. We need to embrace the change potential that exists in each and every one of us and take that leap. They showed us how to stay the course, to focus on doing what’s right, not what’s popular, how to stay resilient to the nay-Sayers. Tying nicely into Kevin Honeycutts opening keynote was a reminder that perfect is the enemy of done. And they told us it is okay to be different, to be the crazy one in the room. For without someone setting out to do something different things will never change. When you get to the edge of your comfort zone, push through and believe in yourself.

And then, just like that, the final credits were rolling on the screen. It was over. It is always the part of the week that I look forward to in a bittersweet way. I never want the fun to end, but at the same time I am emotionally and physically drained. Really pleased I was staying around until Saturday as it gave me a chance to just unwind and hang out with some of the truely awesome people I have had the pleasure of going on the weeks journey with.

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