The Barnsley AT team is commissioned by NHS England to provide specialised AAC and EC services. This involves working with a wide range of assistive technologies and with a wide range of individuals with severe disabilities. We work with local teams and professionals to provide the following:

  • Access

Access methods are the ways in which people control equipment. Access to assistive technology is key and a method of access needs to be established for each person and for each device. Access methods can be very specific if the person has very limited mobility or complex difficulties. Access methods can include customised or specialist switches, joysticks, mice or keyboards and can vary from a single switch controlled by a blink to cursor movement using an eye gaze system.

EC systems give people control of their home environment – enabling independence and peace of mind. EC systems can aid people who have problems accessing things like computers, TVs, phones, doors and in calling for attention.

AAC aims to assist people who have difficulty speaking to communicate effectively. AAC supports or replaces spoken communication. AAC includes Voice Output Communication Aids which are electronic devices that produce a computer generated voice based on what the user enters. Stephen Hawking is a famous example of someone who uses a communication aid.

Some people use and rely on a range of electronic assistive technology devices –an integrated system provides control of all the devices from the same access method.

Integrated systems may involve use of specialised wheelchair controls for mobility which allow people with very restricted movement to have independent mobility using a powered wheelchair.  Provision of specialised wheelchair controls is the responsibility of local wheelchair services.

Definitions of Assistive Technology

“Assistive Technology (AT) is any product or service designed to enable independence for disabled and older people.”
King’s Fund Consultation, 14th March 2001

“An umbrella term for any device or system that allows individuals to perform tasks they would otherwise be unable to do or increases the ease and safety with which tasks can be performed. (World Health Organisation)”
A Glossary Of Terms For Community Health Care And Services For Older Persons”, 2004


Assistive Technology is a powerful tool for enabling independence and is key to several government initiatives and policy. This includes the following key policy, (including historical policy – see also our summary of commissioning changes in 2015):

NHS England ‘Complex Disability Equipment’ Specialised Services (2013-)

NHS England Prescribed Services Manual (2012)

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Code of Practice (2014)

Department for education SEND code of practice

OCC Report (2011)

Office of the communication champion report (2011)

Bercow Review  (2008)

Parliamentary review by John Bercow, then Member of Parliament into Speech, Language and Communication Needs (2008).

Commissioning Specialised Services (DoH, 2002-2007)

Assistive Technology was considered within the Specialised Services National Definition Set 5– Assessment and provision of equipment for people with complex physical disabilities(all ages). Included: specialised wheelchair controls; communication aids; Environmental Control and other Electronic AT; Specialised Telecare

Prior Reports and Legislation

  • NSF for Long Term Conditions (2005)
  • Audit Commission Report ‘Assistive Technology’ (2004)