A centre that provides assessment, training and information on assistive technology for people with disabilities – including learning disabilities – is to close after having its funding cut (10th April 2012).

The ACE Centre in Oxford, which provides support for people living in Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Bedfordshire, Devon and Guernsey who require augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) provision to be able to communicate effectively, will close at the end of June.

Since it opened in 1984, The ACE Centre has provided support for some 5,000 people who struggle to communicate, by assessing their needs and recommending the right technology that enables them to speak, write and access education. The Centre also provides training and free information services for parents, carers and professionals within education and health services.  

AAC includes methods of communication that can support or replace the more familiar methods of speech and writing when these are impaired. It includes unaided systems such as signing and gesture, as well as aided techniques ranging from picture charts and paper-based systems to the computer technologies. AAC can help someone understand communication, as well as a means of expression. 

 A recent AAC Report to the Government’s Communication Council by former communication champion, Jean Gross CBE, found that there is a significant under-provision of local and regional AAC services with a pressing need to build capacity within the sector to ensure its sustainability.

Bill Nimmo, a trustee at the ACE Centre, said: “Vital services like ours that provide so much support through high levels of expert knowledge and understanding of people’s needs cannot be allowed to close and we ask the Government to urgently review the sustainability of these essential  services.

“The ACE Centre Advisory Trust staff and trustees are deeply saddened that the Centre is scheduled to close at the end of June. Despite significant efforts to ensure the sustainability and future of our Centre, we are unable to continue to operate in the current financial climate.“The ACE Centre leaves a considerable legacy for children, young people and adults with complex communication needs, of which we are immensely proud.”