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And our first AT Scholar is …

 23 November, 2019

In January Anna Reeves will be jetting across the Atlantic to attend the World’s leading Assistive Technology (AT) Conference. Anna will be attending both the two-day pre-Conference and the four-day full Conference of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) as our guest, in Orlando, Florida.

We don’t expect Anna to visit every one of the 120 AT developers and publishers or attend all of the 350 seminars, workshops & presentations at the Conference. But she will certainly have the pick of the latest approaches and resources from around the globe – particularly in AAC.

On her return Anna will visit the Palace of Westminster to address the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology. We have also lined up a presentation organised by Communication Matters and another organised by the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA). We hope our first scholar will address many more events, disseminating what they have observed at ATIA.

Anna Reeves led Ace Centre North from 1997. Back then the Centre then provided support for children and young people with complex communications difficulties in the North. In the twenty-two years since Anna has developed the Centre’s role and its reach it has become a national focus for those supporting Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

Back in 1997 the Ace Centre had already lost most of its government funding (it had been set up by the DfE in 1983) and the remaining municipal funding was limited and committed to local service delivery.

From 1999 to 2002 Ace Centre North was heavily involved in writing, publishing and presenting the NOF/ICT training materials to 7,000 Special School teachers. The programme was highly acclaimed and was delivered from Cornwall and the Channel Islands up to the Shetlands. Clearly some new form of organisational funding was due and in 2001 Anna established Ace Centre North as a charitable company transferring the assets and TUPE employee obligations from Oldham MBC.

In 2002 Anna contributed to the design and implementation of the DfE funded Communication Aids Project (CAP) which provided assessment, equipment and initial training to 6,000 school aged children. This work continued until 2006 when local authorities were intended to take this task on. In 2006 Anna pioneered local authority, PCT, and special school service level agreements.

Following various applications for funding and delivery of AAC services in which Anna was involved, Anna contributed to the Bercow Review of Augmentative and Alternative Communication for Children and Young People. This resulted in the influential Bercow Report:

From 2009 to 2013, while still leading the Ace Centre, Anna became the National AAC Coordinator supporting the Communication Champion, Jean Gross CBE, in developing the new model of AAC commissioning for the Government.

From 1983 to 2012 there had been two Ace Centres, one in Oxford and one in Oldham. In 2012 they merged under Anna’s leadership and became a national charity headquartered in Oldham.

In 2014 the new national Ace Centre won NHS Contract to deliver Specialised AAC Services in the North West, and in Wessex and Thames Valley. Anna was now delivering AAC services, now to people of all ages, to a fifth of English NHS regions, under a system she had herself been deeply involved in devising.

With encouragement from the chairman of the Ace Centre Trust, Phil Woolas, Anna engineered the set-up of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology (APPGAT). Since 2017 this APPG has been successful in raising the profile of assistive technology with Parliamentarians and official from Government departments from Education & Health to Employment.

Anna has presented to International Conferences in the Republic of Ireland, the USA, Brazil, Germany, Singapore and Malaysia. She has been Trustee of key AAC charities including Communication Matters and Chatting Independently. Since 2013 she has been a Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester assisting the Lord Lieutenant in representing the monarch in Manchester.

In 2019 Anna won the Jamie Munro Inspiration Award presented at the AAC National Awards and became the first British Assistive Technology Scholar.

We are delighted to welcome, as first Scholar, someone who has changed the lives of so many people.

Martin Littler 2019

Anna Reeves standing between 3 people holding a glass bowl