InNovATE: Innovation in the Northwest to Advance Assistive Technology Excellence

Research co-leads:

  • William Miller
    University of British Columbia 

Research user co-leads:

  • Ian Denison
    Vancouver Coastal Health
  • Ruby Ng
    Sam Sullivan Disability Foundation

Team members:

  • Mark Harniss
    University of Washington
  • Richard Robinson
    AbleTech Assistive Technologies
  • Emma Smith
    University of British Columbia 

British Columbia can be a global leader in assistive technology (AT) research, education, and health service, as one of the first World Health Organization (WHO) affiliated Regional AT Hubs. InNovATE (Innovation in the Northwest to Advance Assistive Technology Excellence), a two-day meeting of AT leaders from Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest USA, is the first step in achieving that goal.

Addressing health care needs is challenging, especially with the aging population, many of whom have complex conditions and/or experience mental health issues. Health care costs are growing and leading to centralized services, affecting those in rural/remote communities. There is a rapid pace of technological change. ATs are applications of new and existing technological innovation, which assist individuals to maintain health and well-being. They are mediators for independence for those with functional limitations and can help to reduce health related costs. The WHO Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE) initiative was formed to address challenges in access to AT globally. They have issued a call to action to form regional AT hubs to collaboratively advance the GATE agenda in each region and contribute to a global network to promote access to AT. An AT regional hub in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest USA would bring together experts in AT research, provision, education, policy, and use, and provide leadership at a local, regional, and global level to promote access to AT.

The team will hold two days of stakeholder meetings with leaders in AT research, education, and health service in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest USA to increase awareness of innovations and initiatives in AT in this region, develop networks focused on collaboration and funding opportunities, and establish next steps for a WHO-affiliated AT Regional Hub.

Post-meeting, a publicly available InNovATE report will bring awareness to innovations and opportunities in the field. Cooperative initiatives, including a collaboration and funding database and network listserv will promote ongoing communication. Finally, a public lecture (recorded and available freely online) will help increase awareness of AT initiatives in the region, and scholarly research through a delegate survey will demonstrate the impact of this two-day meeting on awareness and collaboration among meeting delegates.