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2024 AT Scholars


It has been an exciting time for the AT Scholar program! Running our first application process, receiving a great amount of interest from top notch British AT professionals and having our judging panel of partners having to make some difficult decisions. The end result is nothing short of fantastic! We are very pleased to say that four applicants were chosen to represent the UK at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference, which is the world’s largest AT event where the latest and greatest developments are showcased.

Mary Lavender and Mary Long will be flying off to Orlando to attend the conference in person 25th – 27th January while Helen Robinson and Fran Sephton will be joining virtually. We can’t wait to hear about all they learn and the connections they make in their subsequent reports and presentations at events like Communication Works 2024.

So, without further ado we are pleased to introduce our 2024 AT Scholars …

Mary Lavender 

I’m a Speech and Language Therapist for an NHS Trust (Cumbria Northumberland Tyne and Wear CNTW) in a Community Team for Learning Disability. I work with children and young people with a range of diagnoses. I help in a leadership role for AAC across our lifespan service for people with a Learning Disability in Newcastle. Every day I see the benefits of AAC and Assistive Technology. I also work closely with the regional communication aid service, and many of the global AAC companies. 

I’m disabled (autistic and limb difference) and through an interesting journey I became chair of our NHS Trust Disabled Staff Network. I champion how assistive technology can help our disabled staff and raise awareness of staff knowing the importance of accessibility especially when our aim is to be more inclusive for both our Service Users and as a place of work. 

I’m an advocate. I’m passionate about disability inclusion and accessibility, to create cultures where disabled people can thrive. 

 Mary Long  

I am the deputy team leader at CENMAC, an advisory and outreach service that offers assistive technology assessments, equipment loans, and ongoing support and advice for implementing the technology. I have been working at CENMAC for four years, and prior to that, I was a SENCO in a large primary school, supporting pupils with a range of needs to fulfil their potential. 

Since joining CENMAC, I have completed a two-year postgraduate diploma in teaching children and young people with vision impairment. This has increased my interest in supporting those with vision impairment to access their learning and how technology can be used to remove barriers and promote greater equity in education. I am particularly interested in the use of braille technology and tactile displays, which can make information more accessible to people with vision impairments. 

I am passionate about using my skills and experience to help people with disabilities access the information and resources they need to succeed. I am also committed to promoting the use of assistive technology to remove barriers and create a more inclusive society. 

Mary Lavender and Mary Long met at the Communication Matters Conference in September

Fran Sephton

I am a highly specialist speech and language therapist by background and have a Clinical Management role and service lead role for the ATtech team at ATtherapy. I have a wealth of experience supporting individuals who need paper-based and electronic Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems and have undertaken and delivered training and research on AAC and literacy development. Within my role as a Clinical Manager, I support a large staff team of SALTs, SaLT assistants, education and therapy assistants and the ATtech team. I have been service lead for the ATtech team since September 2022. Prior to this, I managed and grew the ATmentor service at ATtherapy. This team consists of young adults who are all highly competent AAC users whose role is to inspire others and show them what is possible.

I horizon scan and work with companies and universities where possible to engage in research and development. I won the Mike Barnes Award for Innovation in 2021 for a project called MyAbility to support individuals with a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, autism and cerebral palsy to understand their disability, develop self-acceptance and focus on their goals within a positive framework.

Helen Robinson

I am a Speech & Language Therapist working as Assistive Technology Clinical Specialist and AAC Service Lead for an NHS regional specialised communication aid service in England. I am passionate about development of skills and knowledge and lead our service training programme. I am currently writing a book titled ‘working with AAC’ which is due for publication in 2025.  I have been involved with several national working groups relating to assistive technology and have recently presented in the House of Commons for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for assistive technology. I am a Trustee for the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. I have recently been awarded a Pre-doctoral Clinical and Practitioner Academic Fellowship supported by NHS England and the National Institute for Health and Care Research and am completing a masters in Social Research.