Communication Works (South) – Review of the Day!

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Communication Works (South) – Review of the Day! By Mary Long (CENMAC Deputy Team Leader)

Wow! This was my first experience of being involved in the planning, preparation, and presentation of CENMAC’s annual event ‘Communication Works’. Following a two-year pandemic related hiatus, (with the last in-person Communication Works held in May 2019), this year saw the CENMAC team aiming high with our first collaboration with Ace Centre to hold two events, in the south and north of England, our first time holding the event at a venue outside of our base school, Charlton Park Academy, and a hugely ambitious programme of speakers, workshops, seminars and exhibitors.

The day began early for us – well, back in September last year actually, when we first started sowing the seeds and thinking about all the possibilities which might grow. Having spent about five hours on Wednesday setting up the space and completing all the final little jobs, we were all extremely excited about how the day would go. Exhibitors arrived promptly to put the finishing touches to their spaces in the North Stand conference suite at Charlton Athletic Football Stadium. I think all were impressed by the space and I spotted several of the company representatives taking photos of the ground and the stadium.


Once the doors opened for attendees, there began a steady flow of visitors which lasted throughout the day. One of the highlights was the opening keynote speech by Toby Hewson, founder of charity ‘Just Different’, using his AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) device to deliver an inspiring and thought-provoking speech on the positive aspects of having a disability. One significant take-away from his words was for all the professionals in the room (and beyond) to “always be ambitious for us”. This is central to the work that CENMAC does with so many young people in and around London, and to hear it from Toby, in front of a packed audience, was immensely powerful.

One of our CENMAC student ambassadors, Khamani, was involved in the welcome presentations and did a fantastic job of MCing throughout the day and keeping everyone on track with announcements. He also took control of our social media for the day and made sure that everyone at the event had the chance to #GetSeen. Khamani would like to be a television presenter one day, and he definitely showed his talents for this, with his interviewing skills and way of connecting with everyone he spoke to.

Following on from this, Robert McLaren, of Policy Connect gave a passionate talk about how assistive and accessible technology can improve the lives of disabled people. Robert heads up the ATech Policy Lab, championing digital inclusion for all, and the use of technology to cultivate independent living.

The day continued with not one, not two, but a total of sixteen seminars, the majority of which had students and young people demonstrating and sharing how they use assistive technology to achieve their goals. If you missed one of these on the day, do not worry, because there will be some films of the sessions available soon on our website. A favourite of mine was the personal story of one young person who has Cerebral Vision Impairment who spoke about his journey from sudden, unexpected sight loss to where he is now – working at a bike shop, and independently accessing his world through technology.

We were incredibly lucky to have the entire day captured in a visual record by the wonderful graphic facilitator, Dr Pen Mendonça, who has previously illustrated many of CENMAC’s booklets and documents. It was fascinating to watch her work develop and transform as the day went on. You can see the finished piece here.

Communication Works 2022 has been an inspiring event. We are now looking forward to the second part – next week in Manchester! A few of the team will be going by train and we will be taking our student ambassador Khamani, as well as Danny, one of the students from Charlton Park Academy who took part in the presentations yesterday.

A huge thank you to all the companies who exhibited and presented, everyone who attended and took part, and of course the young people who gave their time to share their assistive technology stories. What a day!



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CENMAC Blog 20 May 2022