1) Can you tell us simply, in 3 sentences what your research is about?
I want to empower all learners to communicate; sometimes this isn’t as easy for all individuals. I am creating an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app selection tool that will help parents, teachers and specialists to select the correct technology fit for users. They will also have access to training to ensure they are utilizing the App fully.
2) Why should we be interested in this issue?
Current AAC assessment tools are not designed to address criteria for differentiating among AAC apps, leading most parents and teachers to make selections without robust guidance. These decisions have a knock on effects on the people who are dependent on using technology as their main method of communication.
3) What does it mean to your research career to be an ASSISTID Marie Curie Fellow?
This AssistID Marie Curie Fellowship has given me the platform to enable my research to become a real vehicle for making change. Having the opportunity to travel to Boston and work here for two years allows me to gain skills and establish relationships that I can bring back to Ireland and Europe, to further benefit the wider disability community. I see the Marie Curie Fellowship as a great stepping stone which allows me to make the change that is needed to give people with disabilities the quality of life they so deserve.
4) What do you hope the impact of your work will be?
I want all learners to have the same access to education. For this to happen we all need to be able to communicate, this is not always the case. My research will allow the correct technology be put in place to give everyone the same access to information and to communicate as required. It will empower parents and teachers to make decisions for their children or students, and know they are doing so in an informed matter.
5) What is the most frequently asked question which people ask you about your work?
“Why is there so much Autism these days?” – This is a question which I come across very regularly. Of course I don’t have an answer and my work is not entirely in that field, however, because I work in the area of Autism people are very eager for an explanation. I personally feel that there are a number of reasons and that this short piece isn’t the place to discuss them - needless to say, vaccines aren’t the cause!
6) Tell us something which might surprise us?
I was on RTE’s Dragons Den in 2014 to raise investment for my company UrAbility, I got investment from Barry O’Sullivan and it was a fantastic experience. I really enjoy sports and triathlon is my sport/pain of choice. I’m also running the Boston Half Marathon in a few weeks. I have dyslexia which I battle with daily. It becomes more of a challenge when working in research as there is a level of expectation that everyone in the field should have a certain ability. However, I use assistive technology to help me to overcome these daily challenges.
James has documented his fellowship in monthly YouTube posts.