Date: Friday, November 20, 2020
Dear RESNA members,
With the end of the year fast approaching, the world of assistive technology continues to adjust to the reality of serving people with disabilities in the midst of a pandemic. Throughout all of this, RESNA has had to change and adapt in unexpected ways. I can’t say I expected my first conference as RESNA president to be a virtual one – but in retrospect, I am glad it was. The 2020 Conference was an experiment, and the results it produced shows the great potential that technology has to enhance the RESNA experience and our community.
I am pleased that our first virtual conference was so successful. I have heard from many members and non-members alike that the conference energized them to return to their practice, their research, and their education efforts with new insights. It was wonderful that the virtual format allowed us to learn from global perspectives. Our plenary speakers provided viewpoints from our own back yard in the Americas, as well as across the pond in Ireland. The GAATO AT Outcomes Summit drew delegates and presentations from six continents. Luc de Witte, President of GAATO, conveyed congratulations to RESNA for a “very successful conference” that “allowed a truly international audience, with participants who would not normally be able to participate.”
I was especially impressed with our virtual platform. During a year when we are practicing safe distancing, the platform allowed members to network with each other in new ways, while bringing our global community to our doorstep.
I think RESNA has managed to weather our 40th year with grace, despite the many challenges 2020 has thrown our way. In addition to the pandemic, civil events have focused national attention on diversity and inclusion. RESNA has always been at the forefront of diversity and inclusivity for people with disabilities. Now, however, we need to expand our vision and find opportunities for discussion throughout RESNA, in our SIGs and PSGs and at our conferences. We welcome member ideas for being more inclusive and diverse, as this can only strengthen our organization from within.
2020 has shown us what it truly means to be flexible. We have shown that, as a society, we are technologically capable of working from anywhere at any time. CMS expanded access to telehealth practices so that clinicians could continue to meet the health needs of their clients remotely through video calls. I am hopeful that after the pandemic, these lessons will lead to overall changes and will open up new opportunities for people with disabilities to engage in work and access their health. I am also hopeful that these new ways of operating will lead to a more integrated global community that improves practices to support people with disabilities regardless of the resources available in their geographic location.
In 2021, RESNA will engage our members in exciting new ways. Here’s a glimpse at some of our plans for the coming year:
- We recently launched RESNA Connect, a completely on-line community platform that will allow members to engage with each other, advance initiatives, access informational resources, and network through group discussions as well as private communications.
- RESNA’s 2021 Conference, “Welcome Home,” will celebrate our many partners in AT as well as offer sessions in new formats, including short “Buzz” sessions devoted to single hot topics as well as longer Master Classes designed to allow in-depth explorations.
- The Assistive Technology Journal has plans to start a virtual Journal Study Club, allowing members to get together and discuss journal articles to apply the findings to their own research and practices.
- RESNA members will be presenting a track at the 2021 International Seating Symposium on technological advancement that lies alongside the wheeled mobility world, as wheelchair controllers begin interfacing with other technologies that aid people with disabilities.
Want to get involved? There are plenty of opportunities! Join your favorite SIG and PSG on RESNA Connect and start collaborating with fellow RESNA members. If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering for a committee, please do not hesitate to reach out to myself and other Board members. You can add us as contacts in RESNA Connect and easily send messages. Share your thoughts and ideas!
I am proud of all that RESNA has accomplished in 2020 and excited for what it will do in 2021. In the meantime, I wish all of you a safe and happy holiday season.
All the best,
Maureen Linden, MS, RESNA Fellow