Communication Matters, the national charity which is part of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC), is holding their Annual Conference, for the fifth successive year, at the University of Leeds from Sunday 10th – Tuesday 12th September 2017.

Communication Matters National AAC Conference (CM2017) is the UK’s leading annual Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) event and sees over 400 attendees come together to partake in workshops, talks and learn about advances in technology and research.

MEETinLEEDS, the conference office for the University of Leeds, will be providing event space for the conference, including the supplier exhibition which will be held in Parkinson Court. The University is also providing accommodation at the University’s flagship campus accommodation,  Storm Jameson Court, a hall of residence which carries the highest possible accreditation under all categories of the National Accessible Scheme (NAS), with 20 fully accessible bedrooms (and the Gold Award for Sustainable Green Tourism).

The keynote speakers at this year’s conference are Lisa Simpson, a Liverpool based choreographer/workshop leader and Associate Professor Bronwyn Hemsley.

Lisa has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and no verbal communication, therefore she choreographs using the Simpson Board, an inexpensive but priceless tool that enables disabled people to choreograph their own work. Bronwyn is a speech pathologist and clinical researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia. Her research since 2014 has focussed on the use of Information Communication Technologies for people who uses AAC including the use of personally controlled electronic health records and social media.

In addition to the educational and exhibition elements of the conference, there will be the presentation of the Alan Martin Award – to an AAC user who has made a significant contribution to the Creative Arts, there is a very strong field of eight nominees. This year also sees the inaugural presentation of the Jamie Munro Inspiration Award to someone who is inspirational in the world of AAC – an AAC user, an inventor, therapist, designer, teacher or a supplier.

The social programme plays an important role in a Communication Matters and this year headlined by one of the charity’s patrons – Lee Ridley aka Lost Voice Guy, an award-winning British stand-up comedian who, as a result of complications of cerebral palsy, is unable to speak.

The charity’s main office has been based in Leeds since 2015.

The charity is now looking to encourage local 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 UK’ project, where Communication Matters will train local businesses in appropriate interactions with AAC users.

Speaking ahead of CM2017, Ruth McMorran, Co: Chair of Communication Matters said: “Communication Matters is looking forward to holding our annual conference at the University of Leeds in September 2017 for the fifth time. The layout of the campus at Leeds is ideal for us with the residential accommodation, refectory, exhibition area, lecture theatres and seminar rooms all located close together. Many of our delegates are wheelchair users and the site is easily navigated and provides accessible routes to all buildings. The MEETinLEEDS team work extremely hard to ensure that each conference is better than the one before.”

Anthony Lowe, MEETinLEEDS commented: “It is good to have the opportunity to work in collaboration with the Trustees from Communication Matters and to look every year at different ways of using our space to accommodate a range of access requirements.
This year we have thought about the benefits of CM being based in Leeds and we are delighted that we have been able to extend the opening of the Supplier Exhibition allowing members of the public, NHS, and education staff to visit this, the largest Exhibition of AAC resources in the UK.”