Hamilton Hill: former aerial skier develops AT Chat to help people living with disabilities access information


AT Chat development team members Danielle Loizou-Lake and Jocelyn Franciscus.
AT Chat development team members Danielle Loizou-Lake and Jocelyn Franciscus.

AERIAL skier Danielle Loizou-Lake spent five years learning to walk again after an accident on the slopes left her with a spinal cord injury.

The Hamilton Hill resident was on an aerial training jump at Mt Buller in Victoria when she misjudged the jump, landing on her neck from about 8m high.

Loizou-Lake fractured two vertebrae and parts became lodged in her spinal cord, partially severing it.

She was airlifted to Melbourne where she underwent emergency surgery.

“I was a gymnast from the age of 5, becoming competitive in my early teens and winning some state titles,” Loizou-Lake said.

“I had been skiing from the same age and at 18 I moved to the snow full time to focus on the sport.

“My goal was the X-Games, big air competitions and half pipe but I unfortunately had my accident before I was able to participate in any.”

After her injury, Loizou-Lake required a range of mobility aids and orthotics to walk and found navigating the vast choices and amount of information available difficult and scary.

Inspired by the experience, Loizou-Lake and others living with a disability have developed an integrated website called AT Chat.

AT Chat aims to improve how people access information about assisted technology, using practical and engaging real life examples.

“The content AT Chat creates demonstrates people with disability using their AT in common, everyday situations without stereotypes or stigmatising content,” Loizou-Lake said.

“We show people living their lives; at university, a local sporting club or trendy bar.

“It’s important to take the time to create content that shows people using a wide range of AT to support their interests as we know how important that is and the difference it can make.”

AT Chat has been designed with input from more than 300 people with disability across WA.

The project’s Facebook page started releasing ‘user led’ video content late last month and has already attracted 1000 followers.

“The weekly stories and information encourage other people with disability to see what is available for them to consider in a fun and contemporary style,” Loizou-Lake said.

“This is supported by ‘Chatterbox’ a Facebook group to share knowledge and experience about AT.”

AT Chat officially launched this month.

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