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News from the NDIS New World Conference: Disability In The 21st Century

Matthew, Catherine and Carl from Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) attended the NDIS New World Conference: Disability In The 21st Century in Brisbane this October. The conference was about how technology could be used by people with disability now and in the future.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) wants people with disability to use technology to make the most of their abilities. This type of technology is often called Assistive Technology. Assistive Technology can allow people with disability to be more independent and live the life they want to live. The conference talked about how the right technology can help people with disability do things like:

  • get jobs
  • stay healthy
  • access their community
  • form relationships, and
  • increase their education.



Important people from the NDIS spoke at the conference. This included Bruce Bonyhady AM, Chairman of the NDIA Board; and Professor Rhonda Galbally AO, Member of the NDIA Board and Principal Member of the NDIA Independent Advisory Council (IAC). They talked about how the NDIS is going, and their excitement about its future. AFDO CEO, Matthew Wright, was the Master of Ceremonies (MC) in the morning session on the second day of the conference. He spoke about how technology has helped him personally and professionally as a proud Deaf man who is part of Australia’s signing Deaf community. Karni Liddell was the first person to speak at the conference. She told a story about proving her childhood doctor wrong. Karni’s doctor told her parents exercise would be bad for her health. Instead she grew up to be a successful Paralympic athlete!


Universal design

The conference had speakers from large international companies famous for their technology. Speakers from Microsoft, Apple and IBM all talked about how they create technology that makes people’s lives easier. A lot of people talked about ‘Universal Design’. Universal design means a product or service has been designed thoughtfully and results in technology that is not just designed for people with disability. Some speakers at the conference called Universal Design ‘inclusive design’. This is because the technology can be used by everyone, and is inclusive of people with disability.


Digital Dreams

Screenshot of Carl talking at the Digital Dreams session.People with disability were the stars of the ‘Digital Dreams’ sessions. They presented their ideas for new technology, or new uses of technology, that would help solve some frustrations in their lives. Carl from Disability Loop was one of the speakers. A group of experts listened to the ideas and shared their thoughts. People in the audience and people watching it online appeared to be happy with the sessions. The sessions showed that the NDIS is interested in working with people with disability and the community to come up with creative solutions to real problems.


Who else was there?

Many service providers, community organisations and companies hosted stalls at the conference. In between sessions, people with disability, their families, and people working in the industry could visit these stalls and learn about the latest products and services. Interesting technology included a video game that used virtual reality glasses to teach people how to deal with different social situations who can find social situations difficult (for example, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder). The Apple Accessible House demonstrated products that could be used to improve the independence of people with disability.


Conference dinner

The NDIS conference dinner was also a great way for people to meet new people and catch up with old friends. There was a ‘Pitch Competition’ during the dinner. Three new companies competed with each other and shared details on how they would improve the lives of people with disability. People at the dinner, along with the judges, voted for their favourite company. Ability Mate won this competition. Ability Mate connects people with disability with creative people who own and use 3D printers. These people can then build customised Assistive Technology using their 3D printers at a lower price.


Future conferences

We hope the NDIS found the conference a success. Disability Loop found the NDIS conference exciting and useful. The technology focus of the conference was thought-provoking. However, this made it very complicated at times. We would love future conferences to be even more inclusive of people with intellectual disability.


Watch the highlight video below: NDIS New World Conference wrap-up. Download the transcript (DOC 30KB)



Visit the NDIS New World Conference: Disability in the 21st Century website

Visit the NDIS wrap up page, which includes links, video and photos

Innovative Technology Key to NDIS
Pro Bono News, November 5

Tech shift for people with disabilities
Herald Sun, October 28 

Disability is no tragedy, advocate says
The Courier Mail, October 28 

Disability scheme will ‘drive innovation for all’
The Australian, October 27 

Late brother’s battles inspire drive for online disability aid
The Australian, October 23 

Technology liberates a mind from physical bars
The Australian, October 09 

Start-Ups to Pitch NDIS Conference
Pro Bono News, September 23