Date: Monday, May 4, 2020
Dear RESNA members,
I hope this letter finds everyone safe and well. In the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the work we do as assistive technology professionals. Schools have moved to remote learning, hospitals are anticipating surges, and assisted living facilities are on lockdown across the country. Travel is restricted, and many have found themselves caring for children, parents, and loved ones full-time. In light of these circumstances, the Board has concluded that the 2020 Annual Conference cannot be conducted as usual. The health and safety of our members is paramount, and a physical gathering is out of the question until the outbreak subsides.
Even though we will not be gathering in person this year, technology has allowed us to come together in other ways. The AT Forum listserv has been at the heart of this. It has been a pleasure to see members of the Assistive Technology community come together online to share developments and insights. Given the complex impact of COVID-19 on patient care and daily life, it is ever more urgent that we share what we know about AT and how it can be used to fight the outbreak. I am thrilled that RESNA can provide a platform for this.
If anything, I hope this situation can help some understand how people with disabilities use technology to do the things they need and want to do. In my own career as an occupational therapist, I have focused on adaptations to computing that have enabled people to communicate, contribute and lead active lives. Occupational therapists care about what people do and how they do it, and these days the answer is more often than not through technology. As we are challenged by this pandemic, able-bodied people are using computing for things they once took for granted just to stay safe. When your smartphone or laptop becomes the only way you can safely communicate with the world outside your house, it becomes easier to understand the perspective of someone for whom technology is the only way they can communicate. As AT professionals know, access to technology is not a luxury – it is a necessity for many people with disabilities. Now more than ever, it is a necessity for everyone.
I am thankful to our partners– NCART, NRRTS, the Clinician Task Force, ATIA, and others – for their tireless advocacy and education efforts. I am also grateful to the Board for their hard work and adaptability in this time. And I am thankful to you, RESNA members, for your continued support and participation. As you go about your daily life, remember that RESNA and the assistive technology world is here for you.
Mary Ellen Buning, PhD, OT, ATP/SMS, RESNA Fellow
President, RESNA Board of Directors