Communication Works – What is it? by Kathryn Stowell (Team Leader) and Mary Long (Deputy Team Leader)

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Welcome to our weekly CENMAC blog post

Communication Works – What is it? by Kathryn Stowell (Team Leader) and Mary Long (Deputy Team Leader) 

Mary: I started at CENMAC in September 2019, just a few months after Communication Works 2019, and a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on big, in-person and face-to-face events. I am so excited about finally having the opportunity three years on to be involved in the planning and organisation of Communication Works 2022, happening in less than four weeks’ time! I wanted to find out more about the background of the event and how and why it is so important for all those involved in assistive technology (AT), and alternative and augmentative communication(AAC), so I posed the following questions to our head of service, Kathryn. 

Mary: In a nutshell, what is Communication Works? 

Kathryn: Communication Works is an exhibition of companies and organisations providing services and technology for alternative and augmentative communication and accessible and assistive tech to provide greater access to education and independence. The day includes a range of seminars featuring new and established innovators in this field.  

M: When was the first event held? What did this look like? 

K: The event was first held in 2010, missing two years over the pandemic, actually makes this the tenth Communication Works event! The event started as a friendly, engaging, and lively event with a strong presence of students who use AAC, this has continued and developed over the years. One of the key elements of the event was to provide an opportunity for those creating new and innovative technology with a forum highlighting these products.  

M: Why is it such an important event? 

K: Because of its unique format of being based in school and involving many young people who make use of the extensive technology and AAC on show. It is an exciting time for Assistive Technology as many mainstream technologies (hardware and software) integrate accessible options and think about digital tools reducing barriers for all. However, there is still a place for those innovating and developing the specialist technologies which break down the barriers for those with greater complexities to access. It can be these very companies who end up providing the future universally adapted technology we all use. By partnering the companies with the end users, we enable valuable feedback on these future tools. Communication Works is all about creating this community and hearing from the experts; the young people themselves.  

M: With such a big gap since the last Communication Works, what is changing this year to make the event extra-special? 

K: We are thrilled to be partnering with the Ace Centres and New Bridge School extending our model of event to the north of England and having an even bigger event in the south by moving to Charlton Athletic Football Stadium. This year is themed around #GetSeen inspired by Abdi Omar, who is an AAC consultant working with CENMAC. You can look forward to hearing from many of our CENMAC and Charlton Park Academy students who use a range of AT and AAC presenting with many of the companies attending, giving many young people the opportunity to be #GetSeen.  

M: What will the day itself consist of? 

K: We are looking forward to Toby Hewson opening the day and an update on the AT policy connect group from Robert McLaren and in the north from the DfE, Annie MacIver. You can expect a great atmosphere of young people and visitors including school staff, families, and related professionals all engaging and learning about the technology and services available. A range of informative seminars being delivered in partnership with users. Finally, keep an eye out for the photobooth with our new #GetSeen symbol! Many thanks to Tobi Dynavox for designing this symbol for us.  

M: Which companies will be taking part in the event? 


South & North  

Ace Centre, Just Different, Crick software, Smartbox AT, Commtap, Tobii Dynavox, Liberator, Therapy Box, Ability World, Brightsign Glove, No Isolation, Jabba UK, Rix Centre, Kaz type, CandLE, Readingwise, Inspiration, Seeability, Scribeasy, Orcam, Dolphin Easy Read, Eyetech digital systems, Scanning Pens, Cosmo by Filisia, Humanware, Texthelp and Sensory Guru. 

South only  

CENMAC, Adbi Enterprises, Widgit, Pcbyvoice, Calibre Audio Books, QTrobot, No Isolation, Meru, LGFL, Petorian uk (more companies still being added to the South) 

North only  

Inclusive Technology 

M: How does Communication Works differ from similar exhibitions such as the TES SEN show or BETT? 

K: It differs mainly because we encourage and involve so many young people who use AT and AAC, they not only attend but are involved in the set up and running of the day. This creates a very friendly and interactive environment.  

M: Where can further information about the speakers and seminars be found? And where can people book tickets? 

K: Communication Works 2022 – CENMAC 

Register for a free ticket  

Communication Works 2022 | SOUTH Tickets, Thu 19 May 2022 at 10:00 | Eventbrite 

Communication Works 2022 | NORTH Tickets, Thu 26 May 2022 at 10:00 | Eventbrite 


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