The COST Action “advancing Social Inclusion through Technology and Empowerment (a-STEP) will build an interdisciplinary, intersectoral pan-European and beyond, network which will enhance social inclusion and empowerment of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or Intellectual Disability (ID).
Social Inclusion is an important element of well-being for people with ASD and/or ID. Research has highlighted that social inclusion is facilitated through access to education and employment. Despite this, people with ASD and/or ID have low rates of participation in these domains. Research has also shown that Assistive Technology (AT) shows great promise in increasing participation in education and employment.
This Action will bring stakeholders from research, industry, policymakers, service providers and individuals with ASD and/or ID together to exchange current technological, research and policy developments. Stakeholders will identify the challenges of translating research and products into practice and generate strategies to support the development and uptake of new AT. The inclusion of policymakers will be critical as it will allow the Action to promote the deployment and uptake of AT more widely across EU countries and include AT as a policy priority. Thus, there is an urgent need to bring together an interdisciplinary and multisectoral Action to identify and share best practices in order to refine the methods for designing and developing AT tools and accelerating AT uptake and to reduce abandonment issues.
a-STEP will achieve the following:
Evaluating the development of novel AT by providing an inerdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration between all stakeholders a-using a translational approach to establish standardised practice guidelines for design, development and deployment of AT.
Creating knowledge, b providing a database of current AT technologies and their match to employment and educational contexts for users with ASD and/or ID.
Promoting the adoption of evience-based guidelines inrelation to use of AT across settings and populations and propogating the use of inclusive design and rigorous research approaches.
Approaches to Education and Employment
Assistive Technology (AT)
During the past decade, several systematic reviews have demonstrated AT show great promise in increasing participation in education and employment. AT are products, equipment, and systems that enhance learning, working and daily living for persons with disabilities.
AT holds many advantages
Individuals with ASD and/or ID are visual learners, AT uses visually cued instructions abundantly;
AT can be adjusted to suit the cognitive level of the individual, hence optimising the learning environment;
AT can be used to create a controlled environment where the real-world situation can be simulated;
AT can create a safe and controlled learning environment which reduces anxiety;
Low uptake of AT
This could be due to several reasons:
People with ASD and/or ID are often omitted from the research process;
The lack of collaboration between end-users, researchers and developers;
There is a lack of policy options to present to policymakers, which clearly explains the lack of a policy foundation for assistive technologies, and by extension they become low priority and lack a policy support platform at EU level and in the EU member states.
These issues make the translation of prototype conceptualization in laboratories to actual implementation in the community more challenging. The evidence of state-of-the-art in AT is scattered and diverse. While a large number of AT products are available, research is required to investigate which are effective and evidence-based. The majority of studies are limited to small sample sizes and case studies. While studies do report positive effects, it is difficult to generalize from a limited number of participants to the entire population.