Current and Emerging Technologies

6 April, 2016

Spire, in conjunction with Austin Health, hosted a lecture by Andrew Nunn, Jeff Neal and Lachlan McLeod on current and emerging assistive technologies. The lecture was a great success; generating thought provoking conversation and interest about how assistive technologies can provide greater options for people living with a spinal cord injury.

Current and emerging assistive technologies have the capacity to provide greater opportunities for those living with a spinal cord injury (SCI). Spire and Austin Health were proud to present an interactive lecture by Jeff Neal, Lachlan McLeod and Andrew Nunn on how technology can offer successful outcomes in helping people overcome limitations or barriers that they may face as a result of an injury or disability.

With the room at capacity, Jeff Neal, Assistive Technology and Education Consultant for OneStep Education Network spoke first. Through working with a wide range of disabilities, including SCI, Jeff has developed detailed knowledge and experience of how assistive technologies can be used to support people in developing a higher degree of independence and comfort.

Jeff is confident that through consulting and listening to the individual needs of each client, custom made technology can be identified and created to meet the needs and desires of each person. This includes making everyday living more convenient and manageable such as utilising Smartphones and iPads, Voice Recognition and Communication Software, Interactive Devices and Environmental Control Systems.

Jeff’s work with advanced technology has also enabled people living with disabilities to fulfill their hobbies, activities and personal goals. To name a few, he has implemented custom made remote control wheelchair lifts into aircraft, adapted Polaris buggies to drive, modified tractors and even designed remote control cranes to lift a person onto their boat!

Lachlan McLeod an Arts Journalism graduate and blogger who has worked alongside Jeff, shared his personal experiences utilising technology to help lead a fulfilling and independent life. Having lived all of his life with a spinal cord injury Lachlan showed that he has been able to overcome many limitations and roadblocks along his journey. He also made the important note that with technology being an ever evolving entity, his use and the impact that it can have on his life is constantly changing; especially as his needs and desires become more defined.

Lachlan believes that technology is crucial to people in general, but especially for those living with a disability. If set up appropriately  technology can improve employment opportunities, enhance social prospects and more; independence being key! His ability to achieve this, is in large part, due to the comprehensive arrangement that he has worked on setting up and implementing with Jeff. For example Lachlan has a laptop with voice recognition software, a trackpad for writing, emailing and research and also various hard drive recorders attached to the TV which allows him to watch TV shows and sports.

Following Lachlan, Andrew Nunn, the Director of the Victorian Spinal Cord Service at Austin Health, Spinal Physician and long-time associate of the engineering and medicine departments at a range of Victorian universities expanded further on prevention, acute care, rehabilitation and overall independence and care.

Andrew spoke about how existing and developing technologies can be beneficial when applied appropriately. Andrew sees that these technologies have the capacity to compliment unique comprehensive care from accident onwards, such as: acute management, rehabilitation, community integration, and long-term follow-up. Positive experiences and lifestyle benefits can be seen in areas such as optimised function and control, electronic stimulation for bladder, bowel and sexual function, muscle control systems, nerve transplants and robotics. As technology continues to advance leaps and bounds, and with stem cell research being explored more and more, who knows what prospects are ahead for people living with a disability!

Overall the central message from all three speakers was clear; that through customised technology altered to suit each individuals needs a higher degree of independence and in turn life satisfaction can be achieved. As an area that continues to change, it is exciting to see what new technology will arise, and how it can be utilised to better improve the lives of people living with a disability.

The lecture was followed by an enthusiastic Q&A and an afternoon tea. This gave everyone the opportunity to meet and network with each other, make new friends, catch-up with old ones, and to ask the speakers any further questions.

Lachlan’s blog is about showing that people living disabilities have the capacity to lead fulfilling lives, check it out here!

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