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Assistive Technology (AT) and Children's Rights - Special Thematic Session at AAATE2023


This is an animated call for papers, full details (text only) are below.

Call for Papers

Centre for Disability Studies (CDS) members Angharad Beckett and our Senior Visiting Research Fellow Pedro Encarnação are co-organising a Special Thematic Session at the 2023 conference of the Association for the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE). Their fellow Session Chair will be the esteemed researcher in AT and Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Albert (Al) Cook.

This is one of the collaborative activities that Dr Encarnação is undertaking during his time with us at the CDS. Pedro is an engineer, currently the President Elect of the AAATE. His work is highly interdisciplinary and he is currently engaged in 'discipline-hopping' as a visitor to the Social Sciences here at the University of Leeds.

Pedro, Al and Angharad are inviting people to submit abstracts for this Special Session. The full call is below.

The AAATE Conference 2023 is taking place in Paris, France from August 30 - September 1st 2023. For the conference website please click on this hyperlink:

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Assistive Technology: Shaping a sustainable and inclusive world


Details of Call

The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted in 2006, established the rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities. The CRPD is a benchmark document recognizing that persons with disabilities are persons with rights, able to make decisions about their own lives (even if requiring support to do so) and are active members of the society. CPRD Article 7 obliges States Parties to take all necessary measures to ensure that children with disabilities can enjoy the same human rights as any other child. This means that all of the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) also apply to children with disabilities.

(Note: we use 'children with disabilities' in this call to reflect the language of the CRPD, but some of the Session Chairs prefer the term 'disabled children', since this is the language of the social model of disability. Authors submitting abstracts are welcome to use person-first or identity-first language in line with their preference).

For many disabled children/children with disabilities, enjoying the rights and fundamental freedoms set forth in the CRPD and CRC is only possible through the use of Assistive Technology (AT). For example, enjoyment of the right to play (CRPD Article 30, CRC Article 31) may require using a wheelchair to move within an accessible playground, with inclusively designed equipment and a modified sand tool that enables playing with the sand while using the wheelchair. In order to exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion (CRPD Article 7, CRC Article 12), an augmentative and alternative communication device incorporating the necessary vocabulary may be needed. From this perspective, Assistive Technology is a rights enabler.

The CRPD recognizes the importance of AT. Indeed, it sets forth a general obligation of signatories to undertake research, development and promote the availability of Assistive Technologies (Article 4). It also refers to the Assistive Technologies that may be required to ensure/realise the enjoyment of the enshrined rights in several of its articles. It may thus be argued that the CRPD also establishes the right to AT.

Typically, the route by which these AT rights enablers are acquired by children who need them is through the AT service delivery system. This system must also respect children’s rights. For example, when assessing children for AT, the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration (CRPD Article 7, CRC Article 3) and children should be given the opportunity (and the means) to express their views freely (CRPD Article 7, CRC Article 12). A child-centred AT service delivery process should thus be followed.

In the Special Thematic Session on “Assistive Technology and Children’s Rights”, we welcome presentations addressing the different links between AT and children’s rights. Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Children’s perspectives on AT – their experiences, preferences and aspirations;
  • Research and development of AT that may enable children’s rights;
  • Case studies that provide examples of how AT has enabled children’s rights;
  • Child-centred co-design of Assistive Technologies;
  • Children’s rights and ethical issues in AT service delivery;
  • Innovative ways to include children’s voices in all phases of AT service delivery (assessment, fitting, follow-up and outcomes evaluation);
  • AT personnel training to empower and enable children with disabilities.

Session Chairs

Pedro Encarnação, Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Portugal

Albert Cook, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Canada

Angharad Beckett, Centre for Disability Studies and School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds, UK

We look forward to you joining us for discussions on these important issues!