On Wednesday 10th June I was able to discuss the current state of NDIS work in AT with the relatively new General Manager, Market and Sector Division, Esther Kerr-Smith. It followed my letter to the CEO of NDIA in April .
Essentially Esther was briefed by the CEO to accelerate the NDIA AT discussion and readiness. The aim was to make sure that ‘technology is a catalyst for innovative solutions and enhanced efficiencies for NDIA assistance to participants.’ After 3 months or so getting a handle on things, talking to staff and others, Esther is now gearing up on developing an AT Strategy.
The Strategy was likely to have three parts:
- Innovation – using NDIS as a catalyst for innovation in AT, and its use to benefit participants.
- Choice & control – developing and enhancing guidelines, addressing issues for information, trial, choice etc.
- Sourcing & procurement – drawing on the earlier AT Framework paper, but now under further test from Boston Consulting.
Matthew Massy-Westropp was appointed through to the end of the year to bring a broader perspective with domain knowledge and is focused on developing the component parts of the strategy. A key part of this is the engagement approach – which the NDIA wants to make more focused on hearing from participants.
Aspects of these new approaches are being considered/approved for progress by the Board, and the Agency will now be increasingly opening this up to consultation/engagement. On Tuesday morning this week (16th), the NDIA had a briefing on ICT aspects for their systems. Interestingly Esther and David Bowen both made the point during the session the focus was on innovation to assist participants engage personally with the Agency, and also to catalyse new support options (think ubiquitous accesssible ICT, Smart AT etc.) for them using ICT (the webcast is likely to go online in a few days).
Sean Fitzgerald was MC for the event and, apart from my misgivings about him narrowing the definition of AT, did a great job in highlighting the opportunities and issues in ICT to a relatively mainstream audience. As this was Microsoft, Google, big & smaller ICT businesses, it put them on notice that the tenders/procurement would have a strong emphasis on solutions to empower people with disability (and involve them in the innovation & delivery aspects). It also highlighted that both Dept of Social Services (DSS) and Dept of Human Services (DHS – who are in charge of the underlying project management of the ICT build drawing on their experience in Medicare/Centrelink) were also overtly thinking about how they could more directly connect with people with disability, and not rely on carers or others as a ‘go between.’
This is probably the first ‘cab off the rank’ info sharing event, and Esther indicated to me there are other planned events/meetings in the second half of the year with AT presentations, but also including forums/meetings to develop and refine the NDIA approach to AT. The next opportunity is a Q&A session on 26 June.
So expect more to emerge and I think yet again, we need to remember to be listening to consumers of AT and encouraging them to speak up as the Agency seeks their input.