I write today to let you know that we are cancelling the 2020 Assistive Technology Conference of New England.  The conference, which began in 1988, is the highlight if the year for myself and the staff of TechACCESS. In our 32-year history, there have only been 2 years where the conference was not held. This year we reluctantly add to that total. It was not an easy decision. Please allow me to explain.

As many of you know, ATCNE is hosted by TechACCESS. As a staff of 5 we enjoy the challenge and the reward of putting together this 2-day event every November. Our goal is to make each conference better than the last. With you, our attendees, presenters, vendors, Expo participants and volunteers, we enjoy success with that goal year after year. It is a welcome challenge to take on while continuing our daily work of providing direct services to individuals with disabilities in RI and MA. 

Right now, we all find ourselves facing new challenges with assistive technology service delivery.  Our current priority is finding the best ways to support our families and clients using assistive technology in this new environment of distance learning and remote services. The same is no doubt true for you. As much as we want to, we are not able to give the conference the focus it needs at this time. Delivering services needs to be our priority and the place where our energy is singularly focused right now – and for the foreseeable future. 

There is uncertainty about what the landscape of education will look like when we all emerge from our homes and join each other in the settings where we normally do our work. The way services are delivered to individuals with disabilities will undoubtedly be changed. There will likely be new skills, techniques, and approaches developed as a result of our current circumstances. Knowing that, it is difficult to estimate what content will be needed by you as educators, therapists, VR counselors, and family members. 

Finally, it is difficult to anticipate how we will all feel about traveling and being together in crowds by the fall. One of the best parts of ATCNE is being together with old friends and making new friends. Given the current scale of daily change, it’s hard to know what November will look like and if gathering together like we do each year will feel like the right decision. 

To address your professional development needs, we will be hosting several full-day workshops at TechACCESS throughout the 2020-2021 school year. They will be on a variety of topics that would have been covered during ATCNE and will be limited to 15 people. We will wait to develop that schedule until we have a better understanding of what your needs and the needs of the individuals we serve are in our “new normal”. 

We are disappointed and will miss learning with all of you in November. As I said earlier, ATCNE truly is the highlight of our year. Know that we will be back – and better than ever – in 2021.

Kelly Charlebois
Executive Director

TechACCESS of RI | www.techaccess-ri.org