31 August | Day +1

Bologna, Italy: “It is a very appropriate moment to come together and work on moving accessibility technology forwards as there never has been as much attention paid to this field as right now.” With these words AAATE president Luc de Witte opened the 15th AAATE conference dedicated to discussing “Global Challenges in AT: Research, Policy & Practice” on 28 August in Bologna.

The three days gathering of over 360 AT experts was proceeded by workshops and a high-level meeting on “Unlocking the Human Potential” which resulted in the Bologna Declaration, a public statement written with the support of different stakeholders expressing dissatisfaction with the current situation that many people with disabilities lack access to appropriate assistive technology, and listing 10 concrete areas for action. The Bologna Declaration can be endorsed on the website ( and will serve to push the agenda in the AT field forward.

In a wonderful keynote Prof. Malcolm MacLachlan from Maynooth University (Ireland) then set the scene by outlining 10 key challenges, ranging from the sustainable development goals to research, intersectionality and the system’s gap. These themes were taken up and discussed in detail across the policy workshops and educational sessions throughout the three days, in parallel to the presentation of the 233 scientific contributions.

There was consensus that AT are tools to ensure the equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and economy and that access to AT is a fundamental human right. Representatives of the disability community were firm that this need has to turn into a demand on political level – starting with the implementation of the UNCPRD and trickling down to all policy levels.

One venue to coordinate this demand on a global level as well as serve as the bridge between high-level policy and implementation on the ground, will be the newly formalized Global Alliance of Assistive Technology Organizations (GAATO), which held its first general assembly adjacent to the conference (link to PR on GAATO).

AAATE also uses these bi-yearly conferences to honor people that have greatly contributed to the AT field. In 2019, the AAATE Diamond Award went to Claudio Bitelli, in the past leader of the AT Centre of AIAS in Bologna and one of the initiators of the CLIC network of AT centers in Italy, as well as Dr. Marcia Scherer, President of the Institute for Matching Person & Technology and founding Editor of the journal, Disability and Rehabilitation – both have contributed and shaped the international AT field for over 25 years.

Furthermore, the Best Paper Award went to Tone Oderuda, Cosmas Mnyanyi et al. for their paper on “Developing Tablet Audiometry for Screening Children’s Hearing in Tanzania”, and Sarah Gavra Boland (@SarahGBoland) received the #AAATE2019 Twitter Award for great reporting from and during the conference via Twitter.

Katarina Mavrou, who will follow Luc de Witte as AAATE’s president from January 2020 onwards and next president elect Georgios Kouroupetroglou closed the conference with the announcement of the #AAATE2021 in Paris and the invitation to not only see the challenges but also embrace the many opportunities the AT sector has to offer.

Closing the circle to Malcom’s keynote speech and his 10 global challenges in AT, one #AAATE2019 Twitterer beautifully concluded on these two takeaways: “a) aim for impact and b) embrace systems thinking”. AAATE2021 will be the opportunity to check on our progress. “So, come to Paris to show the richness of what we can do with AT!”, was the invitation to all participants by Dominique Archambault, co-organiser of #AAATE2021, before our 380 participants took the way home.

30 August | Day 3

DINNER ON THE WINE FARM! The bus for the winefarm will leave from Via Irnerio 4 at 19.00. This is close to the park entrance. Please be on time as there is only one bus! In case of emergencies contact Evert-Jan at +39 335 5914187.

29 August | Day 2

SOCIAL DINNER! The buses for the Social Dinner will leave from Via Irnerio 4 at 18.30. Participants are kindly invited to arrive on time.

News from the AAATE National Contact Persons (slide show on the monitor at the entrance) can be found here.

28 August | Day 1

Please be informed that in Room Q there is a permanent “bar” where you sit and talk and get all through the conference refreshments and coffee. The facility is under-used.

Bags have arrived! You can pick them up at the registration desk.

The participants in the panel on Global Challenges in education are: Silvana Contepomi, Lori Richards, Elli Kafritsa, Natasha Layton, Norman Gift. The session will be moderated by Roger O. Smith. Global Challenges in AT Education and Training is scheduled for Wednesday at 16.30 in Room B.

Beatrice Lucarini from the European Commission DG Research and Innovation will take part in the Policy Session on Technology Transfer (Thursday at 9.00 in Room P) and in the Policy Session “Challenges in implementing IoT based person-centred services” (Friday at 9.00 in Room B).

The session ROBOTICS, VIRTUAL WORLDS & WHEELCHAIRS will be chaired by: S.C. Eleni Hatzidimitriadou (Canterbury Christ Church University, UK) and Konstantinos Sirlantzis (University of Kent, UK)

A note from the President

For the 2019 conference we have changed the publication strategy for conference contributions. In earlier years we always published a book with full papers of all accepted contributions. The costs of this book were quite high and many authors felt the publishing a full paper in this book would hinder them from publishing their work as a journal article elsewhere. That is why we have decided to publish only short abstracts this time. These short abstracts will be published as a digital supplement of the journal Technology and Disability, with one DOI for the whole supplement, allowing the abstract to be traced. For those authors who would like to have their work published as a journal article we offer the possibility to submit a full paper to the journal. These papers will be evaluated in the same way as regular submissions, but we will make use of the same reviewers who have also reviewed the accepted abstracts so that they are already some information about the paper. There is not guarantee that these contributions will be accepted for publication but, given the fact that the underlying abstract has already been evaluated positively does of course increase the chances of acceptance. In case an author would like some advise on the publication strategy, it is always possible to contact the editor, Luc de Witte

Luc de Witte, President of AAATE