ATLEC to boost uptake in Assistive Technology by People with Disabilities (ATLEC raises AT)

Published on: 18/03/2012

Recent studies throughout Europe [e.g. ACCESSIBLE, AEGIS (FP7 projects), and KA3 project ImPaCT in Europe] with over 1000 end-users and Assistive Technologies (AT) specialists, indicate that lack of training is one of the core barriers towards effective usage of Assistive Technology (AT) by  people with disabilities. This lack of training is subsequently also recognised as a main barrier for people with disabilities gaining employment in the regular labour market.

Alongside various European initiatives that address training the trainers and professionals who work with people with disabilities, ATLEC, (Assistive Technology Learning Through A Unified Curriculum), a 2 year project partially funded by the European Commission's Lifelong Learning program, aims to fill the current gap concerning the ICT AT training of people with disabilities. 

ATLEC will support their learning in order to develop specific skills, particularly tailored to their individual and employability needs, while also creating the job profile of ICT AT trainer, relevant for VET (Vocational Education and Training) Centres.

The innovation of this project lies with the individual tailoring of the ATLEC curriculum and training materials to the learners' needs, combined with the implementation of mobile learning applications to support the learning, as well as applying mentoring as an additional supportive aspect of the ATLEC training services. The learner and his/her needs and potential are central in the project, as well as the relationship between the learner and the trainer who is expected to equally benefit from the learning process.

Supporting the end-users' learning in effective usage of ICT-based AT means enables them to gain new skills, including self-directed learning and also allows them to gain self confidence, improve their adaptability skills and their attitude towards risk taking which is necessary to address the challenges of the employment environment that in many cases is still full of physical, technological and attitudinal barriers.

A mentoring scheme will be set up and run in workplaces in Belgium and Greece, directly linking the knowledge and skills acquired with the practice, while also facing the reality in the working environment.

"The ATLEC project gives us an opportunity to work with colleagues across Europe in establishing and developing assistive technology for young people and for adults with physical and learning disabilities.
In the world of Disability we only move forward by working together. We are all European citizens and it's very important we share our expertise across the European Community. The more we share together, the better", says David Stewart OBE, Head tTeacher at Oak Field School & Sports College in Nottingham, UK.

The applied pedagogical methodologies will use blended learning (face-to-face, online and mobile), and will provide accessible WCAG2.0 compliant learning/training objects/material, which are thus exchangeable with other learning initiatives. All ATLEC learning opportunities objects, learning materials and mobile applications will also be offered through the platform of the ViPi project (KA3-ICT, 511792-LLP-1-2010-1-GR-KA3-KA3NW, ) that aims to be launched in 2012, and which is also coordinated by PhoenixKM BVBA.

Finally, the ATLEC consortium is focusing on promoting free access to the resources developed. The mobile application will be freely available via the Android market, while all created material will follow a creative commons license. This approach will ensure that the research, methodology and outcomes of the project will be freely available to everyone.

The 2nd ATLEC project partnership meeting will take place in Belgium (Ypres) and is scheduled for 25-26 June 2012, in combination with a local workshop.

Policy Context

The ATLEC (Assistive Technology Learning Through A Unified Curriculum - 518229-LLP-1-2011 1-UK-LEONARDO-LMP) project has been partially funded under the Lifelong Learning program.

Fully in line with LdV, ATLEC aims at raising competence levels of people with disabilities (PwD), thus ensuring improved opportunities for PwD in having access to the regular labour market. It does so using innovative ICT and learning methods, social media and mobile services.

ATLEC will:

  • develop tangible products, namely an ICT AT training curriculum with supportive services (training platform and learning objects, mobile application), which can be taken over by other stakeholders, since all will be released under the creative commons (cc) license agreement;
  • apply innovative methods throughout its activities, whether it is during dissemination (usage of social media, etc.) or in content delivery (apart from F2F, also online training and mobile training);
  • ensure that the project outcomes can be used in different settings, whether in formal (VET centres, but also University settings) or informal learning environments (the working environment, mentoring schemes);
  • involve core gatekeepers directly in the project;
  • consider the exploitability of the project outcomes as a core goal to achieve, so that the uptake by stakeholders is guaranteed, and the curriculum can be further enriched, benefiting from the creative cc license agreement under which it will be released;
  • closely involve, throughout the entire project duration, local associations and representatives of the end-users (beneficiaries), as well as local service providers for PwD, trainer and teacher organisations in the area of special education, as well as VET training centres.

ATLEC addresses following Lifelong Learning Key competences:

  • digital competence as ATLEC will support PwDs in using information society technology (IST) in a confident manner, thus enhancing basic skills in information and communication technology (ICT) with a specific focus on the usage of ICT driven Assistive Technology(AT);
  • learning to learn as ATLEC provides the necessary framework (curriculum) and tools (blended learning, using advanced and fully accessible learning tools, also mobile based) for every end-user to pursue and organise their own learning, either individually or in groups;
  • social and civic competences since the usage of ATs can take end-users out of their isolation, enhance their personal, interpersonal and intercultural competences, thus strengthening their own place in social and working life.

Description of target users and groups

The project outcomes are mainly targeted towards:

  • People with disabilities (learners and potential trainers) that currently have a job, or are in the process of looking for one, or would like to be employed, but face a barrier by the lack of basic ICT skills;
  • Trainers of ICT AT training centres, as well as VET centres and special education centres that want to improve their knowledge on ICT AT training, and incorporate it in their current training practices;
  • Human resource (HR) responsibles at companies that want to improve their knowledge of ICT AT, which will also make them better understand the needs of new or current employees that have one or multiple disabilities.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The project will be organising 6-monthly project meetings in the partner countries, combined with dedicated workshops in the UK, Belgium, Greece and Italy.

Additionally, every partner country has established a national advisory board.

Technology solution

ATLEC will be developed as follows:

  • Create a specific ICT AT curriculum taking into account individual needs/different disabilities; and publish the training materials as both traditional paper version, as well as exchangeable learning objects (SCORM compliant learning courses).
  • Deploy an online (ATutor based) as well as mobile learning platform (Android 4.0 based) that will enrich the learning experience.
Technology choice: Accessibility-compliant (minimum WAI AA), Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

ATLEC's concrete objectives are:

  • To create a specific ICT AT curriculum taking into account individual needs/different disabilities;
    • Customise the curriculum and nationally adapt it (pilots in UK, BE, GR and IT);
    • Publish the training materials as both traditional paper version, as well as exchangeable learning objects (SCORM compliant learning courses).
    • Establish a trainer's handbook that will accompany the ICT AT curriculum.
  • To deplop an online as well as mobile learning platform that will enrich the learning experience;
    • To support the development of innovative ICT-based content, services (both mobile and online, as well as F2F), pedagogies and practice for lifelong learning easily and freely available
    • To provide all training materials and learning objects in a fully accessible manner for all types of disabilities in different formats;
    • To publish all tools and learning objects for free under a creative commons license, while also providing it through the VIRGIN portal that will be operational in 2012.
  • To make to working environment more accessible for PwDs by implementing a novel, contemporary and benchmarked learning in ICT AT solutions;
    • To foster the integration of learning via the ATLEC curriculum, by establishing mentoring schemes and providing workplace training as a basis for the development of vocational skills relevant to the labour market needs;
    • To increase the employability of People with disabilities at the work place by teaching them new skills for new jobs.
  • To prepare the necessary steps for qualifying people with disabilities as ICT AT trainers;
    • To introduce the curriculum to local VET centres, special education and employment centres;
    • To prepare a job profile of ICT AT trainer.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Lessons learnt

This will be completed at a later stage, after the survey outcomes become available, and also after initial piloting has taken place.

Scope: Cross-border, International, Local (city or municipality), National, Pan-European, Regional (sub-national)