By Sally McKeown
Martin LittlerBATA's Martin LittlerWorries that no news could be bad news for Government plans for the Home Access project, and in particular what it intends to do for children with special needs, have led the chair of the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA), Martin Littler, to seek an assurance from education secretary Michael Gove MP on the fulfilment of the project.

Under the Home Access scheme, more than 250,000 homes will receive a free computer or broadband internet connection or both in an attempt to support families on low income with ICT for learning and reduce the effects of the "digital divide". (Update below.)

BATA founder members

By Martin Littler

Promptly at 4:30 the formal meeting closed and 27 of the founder members (click on picture for full view and caption) of the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) toasted their future with champagne. The setting, the Shaftsbury Room of the Grade 1 listed Institute of Directors building in Pall Mall, was distinctly un-shedlike while the CEOs of key UK assistive technology companies were more amused than bruised by the “Men in Sheds” sobriquet reportedly applied to them by officials (see earlier article).

In their two-and-a-half-hour meeting they discussed the scope of assistive technology, finalised the aims of the association; approved the name, logo and URL; discussed membership levels, service levels and subscriptions; decided its legal form and elected six of its nine directors.

Click StartPeople with learning disabilities often have difficulties reading text and coping with conventional interfaces using a mouse and keyboard. So, for them, accessing information on the internet can be a major challenge. Now Click Start, a £192,000 multimedia project funded by the European Social Fund and channelled through the Learning and Skills Council, aims to help thousands of the UK’s 1.5 million learners thought to be affected.

For nine months staff at the Rix research and development centre have been working with London boroughs to create a network of 150 accessible information ‘wiki’ websites using innovative, easy-to-build website software. Linked by a main portal website in each borough, their content is easy to read and uses photos, sound and video clips alongside simple text.

"Men in sheds" was the disparaging term given to the UK's assistive technology (AT) companies by a senior official at a government agency. It's fairly typical of a certain type of bureaucrat who is ignorant of the fact that this is a highly creative, inovative industry with an annual turnover of £60-£70 million.

Now Inclusive Technology chief executive Martin Littler is planning to bury the "Bill and Ben" perception once and for all by setting up the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA). And it has its founders meeting at the Institute of Directors in London on October 5.

By Maureen McTaggart
Racheda AliRacheda Ali: beating her fearsTen weeks ago Racheda Ali (left) was too scared to even look at a laptop and didn’t know how to open one. Now the 41-year-old graduate of one of Sheffield’s "Communicating for Success" courses is confidently using computer games and her son’s laptop to help her 6-year-old daughter make the grade in her primary class.

“I have wanted to learn how to use computers for a long time but was a bit scared to go out and about, which is the case for a lot of Muslim women,” she said. “When I heard about the ICT classes being held at my daughter’s primary school, I jumped at the chance to sign up.”