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Communication Matters celebrate in style at their 30th Anniversary Tea Party and Annual Conference

Communication Matters 30th Anniversary Tea Party
Communication Matters 30th Anniversary conference, held at the University of Leeds from Sunday 11th – Tuesday 13th September 2016, has been hailed a success by organisers and delegates. The leading annual conference for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) in the UK is now into its fourth year at the University.

The conference was preceded by a celebratory tea party, which saw 250 attendees including members of 1Voice, a charity which support children and families using communication devices. Musical performances by local band, Jive Duo and a stilt walker from Circus Malabaristas were complemented by a traditional afternoon tea, which ensured that conference delegates were warmly welcomed to the annual meeting.

The conference welcomed around 400 delegates, which encompassed a series of workshops, talks and opportunities to learn about advances in technology and research. The diverse range of events included keynotes from AAC user and international best-selling author of Ghost Boy, Martin Pistorius, along with a challenging presentation from Dr Angharad Beckett, Associate Professor of Political Sociology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds.

MEETinLEEDS, the conference office for the University of Leeds, provided the event space for the conference, including the popular exhibition which was held in Parkinson Court. The University also provided accommodation at the University’s flagship campus accommodation, Storm Jameson Court halls of residence, which carries the highest possible accreditation under all categories of the National Accessible Scheme (NAS), with 20 fully accessible bedrooms.

Hilary Gardner, Manager of Communication Matters commented: “This year’s conference was a culmination of the hard work and planning from the Communication Matters and MEETinLEEDS teams – without whom, the event wouldn’t have been possible. Yet again we have been blown away by the quality of presentations from all of our speakers and it’s great to see an ever growing number of research papers in the field. Going forward, we’ve set up a series of study days within the education stream which we hope will strengthen the streaming of future conferences. In addition to this, by 2017 the pilot of the Communication Access projects will be well underway, which is incredibly exciting. We’re already looking ahead to next year as we have proposed to bring in some changes in 2017 to keep the conference feeling fresh and appeal to a wider audience.”

Harriet Boatwright, Sales and Marketing Manager at University of Leeds commented: “The conference is always a joy to host, with so many enthusiastic and dedicated members of the charity coming along to meet collectively, and this year was made even more important with the 30th Anniversary Tea Party. We are sure that the conference will continue to gain momentum as awareness of AAC reaches a larger audience, and we look forward to working alongside Communication Matters to build on their current successes.”

The keynote speaker for next year will be Bronwyn Hemsley; an Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Bronwyn is a Discovery Early Career Researcher who examines the use of Twitter by people with severe communication disability.

The conference was organised by Communication Matters, who have been working alongside MEETinLEEDS for the past four years - providing the venue space, accommodation and catering throughout. The charity is now looking to encourage more AAC users to become members of Communication Matters. They are also looking for interest from both the public and private sectors in the city to become involved in and support initiatives such as the ‘Communication Access for All’ project, where CM will train local businesses in appropriate interactions with AAC users.

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