Exploring Assistive Technology

Last term students at Life Sciences UTC attended a presentation hosted by an inspiring composer and musician from Liverpool.

Mark Rowland has suffered from severe cerebral palsy since birth and lives independently in Sefton Park with his carers. He has pursued his passion for music throughout his life and now works with local school groups to share his talent and knowledge across the city. Mark has performed with Jools Holland and composed a track with DJ Fresh as part of the MindTunes project in partnership with Smirnoff.

Mark visited Life Sciences UTC and met with Sixth Form Healthcare students and Year 10 students studying Psychology. He explored non-verbal communication in a care setting and invited students to interact using both the assistive technology he uses daily and a manual way using letter boards.

Throughout the session the group discussed communication technology, including Mark’s Tobi II eye-gaze controlled communication computer and the challenges he faces including accessibility, interfaces and cost. Students were challenged to think about problems Mark may face and how he could overcome them using technology.

The session offered an incredible insight into Mark’s life and success as a composer and students were inspired by his journey. Mark said:

“I love to get involved in projects which help to change people’s presumptions about disability. If I can increase their awareness of real-life situations and increase their enjoyment working with people who have barriers then it’s worthwhile. I hope it improves their knowledge and gives them ideas to use to improve their community. I look forward to working with students at Life Sciences UTC on solutions in the future.”

Daniel C from Year 13 said:

“Seeing Mark’s presentation on how disabled people use technology to make their lives easier and achieve their goals in life really motivated me to want to help explore new ways their lives and meeting their goals in life can be made easier. Technology has come so far in supporting disabled to live normal lives whilst breaking down the barrier that surrounds the idea that people with disabilities cannot contribute to society in the same way as others.”

Listen to the track ‘Mindtunes’, which was produced by Mark and DJ Fresh below. All proceeds from the track support Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for disabled people.