Barbara Phillips, CBE, appointed Executive Director for a recently established social enterprise, The British Assistive Technology Association
Campaigning for the rights and interests of children and adults with communication difficulties
Barbara Phillips, CBE, has been appointed Executive Director for recently established social enterprise, The British Assistive Technology Association. In her new role, Barbara will be responsible for championing the objectives of the organisation - campaigning for the rights and interests of people with communication difficulties who need assistive technology (AT), providing expert impartial advice to government departments and agencies, educating and informing widely on the benefits of AT, and promoting British AT products and expertise at home and abroad. Assistive Technology is widely viewed as any product or service designed to improve communication and increase independence for people with disabilities or those who are affected by age. A social enterprise is an organisation that is driven by its social objectives rather than maximising profits - it uses business strategies to achieve philanthropic goals.
As an former Senior Civil Servant dealing with policy development and delivery, Barbara will use valuable skills gained working within a number of Government departments, combined with her previous experience in education and the private sector, to the benefit of users, education and healthcare professionals and developers of assistive technology – identifying areas of common ground, gaps in provision, and barriers that stand in the way of the wider understanding and use of AT, whilst also building membership and developing a sustainable organisation capable of delivering change over time.
"My first job is to listen to what people have to say, so that BATA becomes the effective voice of the sector", she said. "We want to change public perception of assistive technology and make it more accessible to those whose lives would be better through its use. Being able to bring about change like that is what motivates me – and I like a challenge!
"As a society, we generally agree that those with mobility disabilities should have an appropriate wheelchair or similar device. The same cannot yet be said for those with communication difficulties, even though the right AT equipment could unleash abilities and enrich lives. AT should be as much "a right" as the wheelchair is now, and not something professionals, carers or users are made to feel is a luxury they can't quite afford.
"We want more professionals and those authorising educational and healthcare spend to see how AT can improve the quality of life, unlock potential and, in the longer term - in more cases than they may realise - reduce expenditure on care. AT could and should be more widely used, but for that to happen there has to be a better understanding of what is already available, how it can best be matched to the user, and what gains and savings can be realised over time to offset the costs."
Barbara was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2004 for Services to Trade and Industry, in particular for recognition of her pioneering work in social enterprise. Barbara's work changed the way that Whitehall viewed social enterprise – a topic that is now well represented in all government documentation.
Commenting on her appointment, Martin Littler, Chair of BATA, said: "People with special needs can be forgotten – particularly by those in Government. BATA exists to champion the opinion of those who, with the aid of assistive technology, can be given a more equal chance. The appointment of Barbara Phillips CBE as BATA's first Executive Director is a major step in ensuring that those with special needs get what they need to communicate, learn and live a full life.
"Up to 20% of us need a little extra help to be effective readers and writers. One or two in a hundred have more profound difficulties stopping them from communicating, playing and learning as children or leading an independent life as adults. British companies have a world lead in Assistive Technology. Together with expert professionals, education and health authorities and third sector organisations, BATA wants to use technology to bear down on anything stopping people from leading the fullest possible life.
"In Barbara Phillips we have found someone with drive, a knowledge of Government and a commitment to making people's lives better".