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Executive Director's report to AGM

Executive Director's report to AGM

Since BATA was set up in 2010 to promote the interests of users of assistive technology and the companies, organisation and professionals who serve them, we have made steady progress towards achieving our aims.

However, the pace at which we can achieve them is reliant on the work of our Council of unpaid volunteers, ably led by Mark for the last two years, and on me, your one-day-a-week paid Executive Director. Our income, which comes from membership fees, is modest.

At the end of 2013, we had 88 members, including most of the leading British suppliers of AT products and services, many accessibility and disability charities and professionals, as well as individual AT users and carers. All members now have equal rights to nominate and elect Council members and to serve on Council. There are also more than 1,000 non-voting subscribers for our free e-Newsletter.

I know I speak for all of us – Council, members, and myself - when I say that we are all impatient to do more, faster, but, given our resources, we can be proud of what has been achieved already. Some of the highlights since I was appointed in July 2011 include:

  • Made membership open to all on a sliding scale, with one member one vote; this was an important step to establishing BATA as working on behalf of users of A.T. as well as those who supply it.
  • Reviewed, updated and expanded our website ; while this is out-of-date currently, following the departure of Martin Littler, we aim to have it back in action as early as we can in 2014 because it’s our main way of communicating with members and our public face to the world.
  • Agreed our definition of assistive technology; this was essential to enable us to focus on who are members are, and are likely to be, and to enable us to undertake baseline research. But it iss a guide, not a strait jacket!
  • Introduced an Ethical Practice Statement for all members joining or renewing from January 2012; again, an important step to establishing BATA as offering something to all its members.
  • Conducted and reported back on a survey of members about what they want from BATA; we plan to repeat this in 2014.
  • Formalised Council proceedings to make more effective use of time and introduced bi-monthly teleconferences between the bi-monthly face-to-face Council meetings ; I’d especially like to thank Mark for how he’s driven this – we’ve made real progress under his Chairmanship. We are currently reviewing how we can work ‘smarter’ in other words be more effective but ask less of our volunteer Council members.
  • Held regular meeting of the DSA Suppliers Subgroup and reported back to Council; I go to one meeting each year and Ian Litterick, the Chair for the past two years, reports back to each Council meeting. We are currently in correspondence with BIS about current DSA issues and possible future changes.
  • Commissioned research to establish baseline data on the size and value of the A.T. sector; this was emailed out to all members in Dec 2013; we plan to review it at regular intervals.
  • Commissioned and published research about the use of A.T. in the workplace; this attracted some media attention – though we’d have liked more! – and was made available to all members to use as they wish.
  • Carried out work analysing the key issues facing the A.T. sector as a basis for campaigning; we looked at issues in terms of sectors and themes and hope to develop this further as resources permit.
  • Responded to Government consultations on relevant issues arising in this period; I’d particularly like to thank Ian, Graham and Terry for the lead they have given on this aspect of our work to date.
  • Undertook speaking engagements and had presence at trade shows to raise BATA’s profile; while Martin Littler probably led on networking at exhibitions and so on, other Council members – especially Graham and Sally – have also done their bit, and I’ve done a talk.
  • Issued Press Releases and wrote or was mentioned in media articles in print and online; here I’d particularly like to thank John for his expert help and the opportunities he’s helped create to publicise BATA this past year.
  • Issued regular e-Newsletters to members and subscribers, later put on website for all to see; while much of the content of these newsletters was often written by me, our readers will miss Martin’s marketing and presentational flair. Once the website is up-and-running again, we aim to be back to issuing regular, readable newsletters.
  • Organised two AGMs attracting high profile political speakers and others; again, this was Martin’s particular area of expertise and we are all sorry he wasn’t able to deliver for this year the very ambitious one he had spent a lot of time planning. When resources allow, we aim to return to organising a really good annual event for members and guests.
  • Identified a wide range of potential strategic partners and decided on priorities; Mark has led on this work, with some great input from Sally, and we continue to keep this in mind as we plan for 2014.
  • Worked with UKTI to identify export promotion opportunities for the A.T. sector; we’ve had some useful discussions and though they have not yet led to specific opportunities for BATA members, we have hopes they might in the future.
  • Tweeted as BATAonline; again, this was very much a Martin lead, but I’ve been doing some and we all plan to do more in 2014.
  • Been invited to join DSSG-AT in 2012; since Graham took over from me, he has done a really impressive job and we’re grateful he’s agreed to continue in 2014.
  • Been invited by BIS and Technology Strategy Board to participate in Paralympic Business Conference at Lancaster House in 2012; this was a real coup for BATA and helped raise our profile generally - and with BIS and the Technology Strategy Board in particular.
  • Been invited to join Judging Panel of Technology for Good Awards 2013; I was lucky enough to be the BATA judge, and most Council members were able to attend the awards, compered by Mariella Frostrup. We are now starting to gear up for the awards in 2014 .
  • Been invited to become founder member of proposed SuperGroup on Accessibilty in 2013; Mark has been leading on this for BATA but the driving force behind it lies elsewhere so whether or not it will prove important in 2014 remains to be seen.
  • Been invited to become founder member of US led International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) in 2013. Myself, Terry Waller and Dave Stephens had a very interesting meeting with Microsoft, the driving force behind this, last summer and we shall be keeping progress under review in the year ahead.

I hope you will agree that that summary of what BATA has done demonstrates that we are becoming recognised as able to speak on behalf of the assistive technology sector.

We are working steadily for our members but much more needs to be done to establish BATA as the voice of the AT sector and drive progress towards achieving our fundamental purpose, hence the work that has been done developing a strategic framework and key action points for 2014 onwards, which Mark has talked about.