The Government must take urgent action to prevent the closure of a vital research and support facility for people who need technology to help them communicate, says the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA), which represents suppliers and users of assistive technology.
Since it opened in 1984, The ACE Centre in Oxford has provided support for over 5,000 people who struggle to communicate, assessing their needs and recommending the technology that enables them to speak, write and access education. Now the centre is due to close at the end of June for lack of funds.
“Without the sort of expertise and on-going support that ACE Oxford offers, so many children and adults are going to live unnecessarily impoverished lives and be cut off from the communication, learning and working the rest of us take so much for granted,” said Barbara Phillips, BATA’s Executive Director.
“This closure must be stopped. The money needed to prevent it is small in comparison to the long-term damage the end of ACE Oxford would mean. And once we lose all that knowledge and experience, it will take long years to get it back once the recession is over.”
A recent report to the Government’s Communication Council by Communication Champion, Jean Gross revealed significant under-provision of augmentative and alternative communications (AAC) systems such as those used by the ACE Centre’s clients.
“Unless the Government tackles the issue, other charities and specialist services that address complex physical and communication difficulties will be forced to close, further disadvantaging those in need,” said BATA Chairman Mark McCusker.
“Vital services like ours that provide so much support through high levels of expert knowledge and understanding of people's needs cannot be allowed to close and we ask the Government to urgently review the sustainability of these essential services,” added ACE Centre trustee Bill Nimmo.