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Themes: Assistive & Accessible Technology, Culture and Participation

Bridging the gap between communities and Assistive Tech in East London

I was delighted to attend the Enabled Living Sensory Suite grand re-opening event on 28th February in Newham with my colleague Felipe Ramos-Barajas. We had the chance to look at the assistive technology being used at the venue and engage with a variety of Deaf and disabled people that use the services there.

We also had the opportunity to explore the two new sensory rooms named Libby and Ellie after the Deaf character Libby in the Oscar winning short film The Silent Child and blind actress Ellie Wallwork. Ellie Wallwork attended the event and gave a powerful and inspirational speech about her experiences and how she copes with her disabilities. The whole room was captivated, I feel lucky to have shared the stage with her.

The Ellie room has been redesigned to provide a suitable atmosphere for visually impaired service users including adjustable lights and has a range of equipment for attendees to trial and seek advice on.

The Libby room has been renovated to provide a good acoustic atmosphere for carrying out hearing needs assessments and has a range of equipment for Deaf and hard of hearing service users to try and get advice on, for example, hearing aids, minicoms, cochlear implants and alert systems.

There was even the chance to try on special glasses and be guided by trained guides to experience life as a visually impaired person, if only for a minute. It gave attendees different perspectives and demonstrated possible training opportunities for companies and individuals working with Deaf and disabled people.

I was also asked to deliver a short speech at the event because of my previous work as Chair of the Newham Deaf forum from 2013 until last year, and the partnership that the Forum developed with the Enabled Living Sensory Suite. When I was Chair, the Forum worked with Enabled Living to improve the existing services that Newham provided; the changes and developments that have taken place since I have been working with Enabled Living are life changing for the residents of Newham and will continue to have a positive impact for years to come. For example, the drop-in service for Deaf service users means that they now have a place to go for support and advice on a range of issues, from housing and benefits to new technology.

They also provide equipment and training for new and existing equipment and offer hearing aids services such as changing batteries and re-tubing. I encouraged the Deaf and disabled attendees to actively engage with the service and use this valuable resource. This innovative service is a fantastic resource for Deaf and disabled people in Newham, ensuring access to essential services, equipment and support.

I strongly believe that this Sensory Suite should be distinguished as a model of best practice in sensory services and sincerely hope that other Local Authorities will see this excellent example and aim to provide similar facilities so that Deaf and disabled people outside of Newham can benefit from this achievement