AbleLink Technologies' ATLAS Survey Service Wins National Award for Health Care Technology for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

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The United Kingdom’s PEN National awards recognizes the My Health My Say app, developed with AbleLink’s innovative ATLAS system, for enabling people with intellectual disabilities with the ability to communicate their patient experience. To date, patients with intellectual disabilities have struggled to fully understand the care they are receiving or to fully engage with their healthcare professional to provide immediate feedback on their experience.

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Innovations from AbleLink Technologies have once again brought recognition to AbleLink as a leader in helping to improve the lives of people with cognitive disabilities – this time at the Patient Experience National Awards (PENNA) held last month in England, as winner of the Access to Information category. The PENNA awards “recognize and celebrate the delivery of outstanding patient experience by those involved in the healthcare industry who are bucking the trend and leading the way for future success in their field.”

Research has shown that patients with intellectual disabilities may not be able to fully understand the care they are receiving or fully engage with their healthcare professional to provide feedback on their experience. My Health, My Say was a project led and funded by the Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust. Previously, physicians only received feedback annually from the Friends and Family (FFT) survey developed by the Trust. This paper-based survey required staff to read and often explain the questions and possible answers to patients who could not read or understand the often-complex questions and potential answers. This process also had the potential to unintentionally influence the responses.

The My Health, My Say project was initiated to investigate how the NHS Friends and Family Test could be made more accessible for people with intellectual disabilities by utilizing a multimedia iPad application developed through cooperation between the RIX Centre, the Westchester Institute for Human Development and AbleLink Technologies. The My Health, My Say app was developed by AbleLink using their cognitively accessible survey system, ATLAS, which was enhanced to support this project. Rix Research employed the RIX co-production approach of working in close collaboration with a group of people with intellectual disabilities as user testers and co-researchers throughout the development process to provide input and direction on development of the app.

The My Health, My Say app was awarded first place in the Access to Information category for dramatically improving the ability for individuals with cognitive disabilities to provide feedback on their patient experience. Dr. Roman Raczka of the Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust (NHS), and one of the visionaries of the My Health, My Say project, explains: “This method provides a way to ask the questions and explain the possible answers in a way that was easy to independently understand.” The App uses a variety of media, such as cartoons, voices, faces, digital audio and graphics to help engage patients and enable them to respond to the questions independently without the assistance of others, as was often required previously.

Dan Davies, AbleLink’s Founder and President, summarized the teamwork involved in this project: “While exploring various person-centered solutions for NHS, Andy Minnion, Director of Rix Research, approached colleagues at the Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD) who have been instrumental partners in developing our iPad survey technology. WIHD’s Dr. David O’Hara immediately recognized that our ATLAS technology was an excellent match for the project. With direction from Andy and the Rix Centre, we enhanced our ATLAS system and created My Health, My Say specifically to support the goal of NHS and the Central London Community Healthcare team to investigate innovative new approaches for improving patient experience feedback mechanisms with their Friends and Family Test (FFT).”

According to Dr. Tim Spicer, a GP also at NHS, “You need a feedback mechanism to improve the quality of the care you are delivering, and this methodology makes this feedback accessible…and the results instantly available.” The critical finding was that patients quickly adapted to the iPad app approach, were more engaged in the process and preferred the iPad survey method to paper, or having staff explain the questions and answers. Dr. Spicer concluded, “If it were up to me I would extend this to all my patients.”

For more information on the My Health, My Say project, contact the Rix Centre at

For more information about ATLAS or AbleLink’s other cognitive technology research projects, visit


About NHS, the FFT, and My Health My Say
The Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust provides a wide range of nursing and healthcare services to approximately one million people in England. The NHS friends and family test (FFT) gives every patient the opportunity to provide feedback directly to their healthcare professionals on their care and treatment.

About Andy Minnion and the Rix Centre:
The Rix Centre is a British charitable research and development group, headed by Andy Minnion. Based at the University of East London, the Rix Centre explores the uses of new media technology for the benefit of the learning disability community. It has developed multimedia technologies and courses to support those with learning disabilities and their careers.

About AbleLink Technologies, Inc.
Daniel K. Davies founded AbleLink Technologies, Inc. in 1997 with the mission to research and develop innovative cognitive support technologies that enable people with cognitive limitations to live more independent and self-determined lives. AbleLink’s products are the results of 18 years of Research and Development that explores the application of technology solutions to real-world barriers. For more information, please visit, or request additional information by emailing info(at)ablelinktech(dot)com.

About AbleLink’s ATLAS accessible survey service:
AbleLink's Accessible Testing, Learning & Assessment System (ATLAS), is a research-based, cognitively accessible survey system that enables individuals with cognitive disabilities to complete tests and surveys in a more self-determined manner. Survey respondents navigate through the self-directed test or survey by simply responding to each question, which is read to them with a natural voice, and selecting from the available responses, which also can contain pictures and audio playback to enhance accessibility. ATLAS is the result of over five years of research and development focused specifically on accessible survey design for individuals with cognitive disabilities conducted in collaboration with the University of Kansas's Beach Center on Disability ( and the Westchester Institute for Human Development. For more information on ATLAS and how the Westchester Institute for Human Development is using ATLAS in a similar way, see:

About David O’Hara and the Westchester Institute for Human Development
The Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD; is one of 67 University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities through education, service, and research. The Institute works to advance policies and practices that ensure the health and self-determination among people of all ages with disabilities, and the safety and well-being of vulnerable children. David O’Hara, Ph.D., is WIHD’s Chief Operating Officer, and was recently selected as a Health Information Technology (HIT) Fellow by the Office of the National Coordinator of HIT at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more, see:

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Rich Herold
since: 03/2011
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