Meet the expert: IT consultant and assistive technology trainer Ted Pratt
With nearly 40-years’ experience in software development, Ted Pratt played a leading role in the growth of MKC Computers, suppliers of Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) funded IT solutions. He now has his own IT consultancy company, TP Consultancy, and provides training to DSA assessors in his new role as a Sonocent Associate.
Here we talk to Ted about his career and his advice for anyone who provides assistive technology support to students via the DSA process.
What are the three most important things you’ve learned in your career in the DSA?
- You have to listen a lot and empathise with people. It’s important to understand what they want and how they want it delivered.
- Presenting can be hard because you have a mixed audience. Some won’t know the product, but some will know it very well. But I will always start with the basics to ensure that everyone has a good understanding of the core applications before I go deeper.
- Always ask for feedback. I am always learning and am quite open about that.
What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Moving MKC Computers in the DSA market from an unknown company to a £3m turnover within three-and-a-half years. It involved all my skills: all my marketing skills, all my business development skills and all my interpersonal skills.
What is the most exciting development in assistive technology during your time in the industry?
Text-to-speech technologies. I’ve followed the development of those through right from the early IBM days. I’ve always been fascinated by the way that developers have made it possible for very disabled people to communicate.
What was it that sparked your passion for assistive technology?
Obviously, it’s nice to know that you are in a business where you are helping people who are in real need. That’s really important.
What is your one piece of advice to anyone who trains students or professionals in the use of assistive technology?
I think you have to make it a two-way thing. You have to listen a lot and give the person you are training time for feedback. Rather than just firing information out, I love feedback and questions. So whenever I am training I will always give permission at the beginning to interrupt me with questions at any point during the session.
What one big thing could be done to improve the support provided to students with disabilities?
I think it is wrong that we still have students who have to wait until they get to university to be diagnosed with dyslexia. I think it should be done at a much earlier stage. They should be helped during their general schooling. It must be incredibly frustrating for dyslexic students to go through school and A levels without support before, finally, being told that they can receive help when they start university. That’s never made any sense to me; it’s very sad.
Who inspires you?
A guy called David Edwards, who is also a Sonocent Associate.
David approached me several years ago and said he would like to do some assistive software training for my company. It turned out that he had trained as a chartered accountant and, upon qualifying, had discovered that he was severely dyslexic. At that stage he was introduced to several assistive technology packages, and his words to me were that ‘it was like a switch had been flicked’ and that where everything had been dark it was suddenly bright.
David decided that he would like to help other people, and I took him on as a trainer. Obviously, this meant making big financial sacrifices, because he wasn’t making nearly as much as he could as a chartered accountant. It’s a really nice story, and all the feedback I have had from the people who he trains is very positive, because he actually uses the software himself and it has made such a difference to his own life.
Read more about Ted Pratt’s work at www.tpconsultancy.co.uk
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