Weekly Poll – Assistive Technology (Week Beginning 8 February 2021)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 8 February 2021, we asked a question about access to assistive technology.

Results

Do you think more could be done to promote eye care services and access to assistive technology in Scotland?  

  • YES – 96% (52 respondents)
  • NO – 4% (2 respondents)

Comments

An overwhelming majority of respondents (96%) believed that more could be done to promote eye care services and access to assistive technology in Scotland. We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Awareness

A large proportion of respondents believed there is a lack of awareness from the general public regarding the availability of eyecare services and access to assistive technology.

“I think that there is a lack of information and understanding in this area. People are unsure how to access this technology and how they could benefit from using it.”

“I volunteer in a vision support service based in a hospital eye clinic and while the doctors have been good about referring patients to us, a majority of the patients had no idea that such services even exist and some of them have had varying degrees of sight loss for many years.”

“knowing what is available would be a start. It took me years to discover how to use a voice recognition system on my Mac.”

“It is difficult to receive eye care, especially in remote areas. It’s also very difficult to know what sort of assistive technology is out there, both for free on NHS, but also to purchase individually.”

“I have only ever been told to contact my community occupational therapist who seems to know nothing of the full range of modern-day assistive technology solutions. Is there somewhere else? Can we try before we buy? If so, then I would like to know because nobody is telling me.”

“As someone who has lost most of their sight in one eye, I wish there were more products to help me.”

Cost

There are forms of assistive technology that can be expensive to purchase, which can result in some disabled people being unable to afford products and services.  It is vital that financial support is in place to ensure disabled people can access assistive technology that has the potential to enhance their learning, working, and daily living.

“Only assistive technology available free under NHS is any use. There are already ample items available to rich people, but they are unaffordable to me.”

“It is cost that is the main problem when you purchase the JAWS software from Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). It costs over £1,000 plus VAT”

“I do think price is a major barrier and unfortunately people begin to get excited at what technology can do for them and then hear the price tag and their face just falls. This is common across disabilities unfortunately, where it’s frustrating that aids and tech exists but not within our financial means.”

“We need readily available magnifying sheets and other aids at a reasonable price.”

“Financial support to buy the assistive technology, and greater learning opportunities in its use.”

Access to Assistive Technology

Respondents provided examples of exhibitions and schemes that help to raise awareness of assistive technology. This includes Access to Work, a government grant that aims to assist disabled people to start or remain in employment by providing access to aids and equipment.

“Assistive technology can be transformative for people. I use Dragon software to assist me with hand arthritis. I got it through Access to Work, but it should be available to non-working people too.”

“Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) hold impartial information and advice available for the public to help them self-assess and identify equipment solutions on the market, including assistive technology for sight loss equipment. This free service should be promoted more to the public and health professionals seeking or giving advice.”

“Previous exhibitions like ‘Sound Sight’, run by the former Strathclyde Regional Council and then Glasgow City was a great opportunity for those with sensory impairments to find out what equipment was available, training in equipment and an opportunity to network with other people with sensory impairments and share experience/advice. Exhibitions like this around Scotland for all groups of disabled people would be of great benefit.”

“One thing that COVID-19 has taught us is that we have to be imaginative and think beyond how we have done things before. In my view, all laptops should inherently have much of this software, which would meet many accessibility needs without disabled people having to go and hunt it down.”

Inclusive Communication

It is vital for the methods that are used to promote access to assistive technology to be produced in a variety of accessible formats, to reach as many people as possible. One respondent highlighted the importance of producing information in easy read, a format that is accessible to people with learning disabilities.

“Some people are reluctant to ask for assistance. Look at ways to improve connection with harder to reach groups.”

“I feel that we need easy read guides to explain how the assistive technology works. They need a guide with plenty of easy-to-understand words and visual pictures.”

Access to Treatment

Some respondents highlighted delays to medical treatment and the difficulty in travelling to appointments due to the inaccessible nature of public transport.

“I have been waiting for a cataract operation after being referred in July 2020 but no word of a first consultation yet.”

“I have Diabetes, so I get a retinopathy test annually. Maybe down to the COVID-19 lockdown, but I feel that we should have a bit more attention paid to our problems.”

“Even in towns and cities, appointments are usually centralised and transport unreliable from the outlying area so impractical for many. More home visits would help.”

Conclusion

The vast majority of respondents agreed that more needs to be done to improve access to eyecare services and assistive technology in Scotland. There is a lack of awareness about what products and services are available. In addition, some disabled people are unable to access assistive technology due to the high cost of certain aids and equipment. There are schemes in place, such as Access to Work, which can provide support in gaining access to assistive technology. It is important to raise awareness of assistive technology and the support that is available, using a variety of accessible formats and promotional channels.

Disability Equality Scotland, February 2021