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Search results for the Tag keyword: access
By Stuart Aitken on Friday 1st March, 2013 at 12:14pm
CALL Scotland contributed to the EU project ICT for Inclusion, providing the EU Agency team with a snapshot Scotland-wide perspective. The project, managed by the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education used a country survey to collect information on five areas. These explored both policy frameworks for ICT for Inclusion as well as current practice.
The five themes, reflecting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), are:
- ICT should be considered as a key tool for promoting equity in educational opportunities.
- Access to appropriate ICTs should be considered an entitlement.
- Training of educational staff in the use of general and specialist ICT must be considered a priority area.
- The promotion of ICT research and development requires a multi-stakeholder approach.
- Data collection and monitoring in the use of ICT in inclusion should be considered an area requiring attention at all levels of educational provision.
The CALL report Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Inclusion - Scotland is very much a snapshot and we would be delighted to receive feedback from others.The ICT4i project will in future present detailed case studies from which they will highlight best practice in ICT for Inclusion at the European level.
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By Sally Millar on Monday 27th February, 2012 at 1:09pm
There is no real shortage of switch accessible software for those children with complex additional support needs - whether due to physical difficulties or learning difficulties – who are unable to use a traditional keyboard and mouse. But do we choose, introduce, teach and use the right software in the right way, at the right time, to suit each highly individual child, and to help them develop their skills and progress towards their full potential?
Maybe not. Sadly, we can still often see a child sitting in school, year–in-year-out with the same software, “practising his switch”. If it hasnt worked by now, we should be looking at how WE have set up the task, not blaming it all on the child! What are we missing? How could we do things differently?
These days, more and more software at the early years and complex learning difficulty level is designed only for mouse and/ or touch screen use. But many learners cannot use this effectively either. We see children in school batting ineffectually with their hands at a screen. On assessment, they often have cause and effect understanding long established but have not been able to move on from single hit software, because of access & control issues. Switch access might reduce the physical demand and let the child move on to tasks more suited to his / her cognitive abilities.
This CALL course on 8th March 2012 aims to unpick these issues and will provide insights and, ideas, tools and resources to help us to do a better job with these learners. We are very lucky to have secured the time of the famous Ian Bean to lead this course, in CALL. Ian is the author of the much-loved Priory Woods switch music videos, and is now working as an independent consultant. Ian is not a product salesman but an experienced teacher of children with profound & multiple / or severe and complex additional support needs. He is the author of the Switch Progression Roadmap, and a highly recommended trainer. CALL provides laptops so that everyone can have plenty hands-on, with expert support if needed.
Lastly, there are iPads. Everyone seems to want to use them, in spite of their high distractability factor, and regardless of whether particular children can control them effectively or not! There are many low-cost fun Apps for learners at a sensory / cause and effect level. There are a very few scanning (Bluetooth) switch operated communication Apps. We will look at these on the course (though not in huge detail as this is not the CALL course on iPads, thats later in the year).
Do please take the time to look up the full blurb about this course. There are still places available and you will get a lovely lunch and a goody-bag of resources put together by both Ian Bean and CALL. Phone 0131 651 6236 or book online here.
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By Allan Wilson on Thursday 27th October, 2011 at 5:03pm
Some people struggle to use a standard mouse on a computer, so various alternatives have been devised over the years, including track balls, joysticks and trackpads. The CALL Loan Bank of Equipment and Resources includes many examples of these alternatives. Additional funding from the Scottish Government recently gave us an opportunity to update and expand our stock of equipment for people who "hate those meeces to pieces"! Here's information about some of the new devices that we now have available for loan:
Single Button Mouse
Teachers of young pupils with additional support needs sometimes come to us looking for a solution to suit a pupil who keeps hitting the right-button of a PC mouse, by accident or design, potentially causing major disruption to an activity. There are various solutions, including 'surgery' to remove the micro-switch beneath the right-button, and various software solutions to disable the button. These can be awkward if different people use the computer and some want to be able to access the right-button. In the past we would sometimes recommend the use of a Mac mouse (the original iMac mouse was particularly suitable) as they only have one button, but in recent years the Mac mouse has become more complicated with the addition of a scroll button and other features. The Chester Single Button Mouse is a simple, small mouse with a single button, designed specifically for young children who can benefit from a simplified mouse. It has a USB connector which allows it to be quickly plugged into the computer and removed when no longer required.
A trackball can be seen as an 'upside down' mouse, with the ball on the top of a solid base. The ball is usually moved by the fingers or the hand, though it can be moved by whichever part of the body the user is best able to control it with. The most frequently borrowed trackball that we have is the KidTRAC / MaxTRAC. The KidTRAC has coloured coordinated buttons, including a 'drag lock' button which makes it easier to move objects about on the computer screen. It is possible to replace all or any single button with a switch to separate the 'cursor movement' and 'button press' activities, reducing frustration for many users with poor motor control. We purchased additional units with USB connectors to increase their availability.
We have also added a BIGtrack and the IT Roll Starter Pack to the Loan Bank. The BIGtrack is an upgraded version of the old KidTrack, now incorporating sockets allowing switches to be used in place of its buttons. It has a large (3" diameter) ball and is aimed at young children.The IT Roll is a wireless trackball, with accompanying receiver, which would be particularly suitable for use with an interactive whiteboard.
A joystick can be a useful alternative to the mouse, particularly as many children are used to using (or seeing) a joystick to control a wheelchair or a computer game. (Note that you can't use a 'games' joystick to replace a mouse without a lot of fiddling with specialist software.) A number of specialist joysticks are available. The one that we have found most popular in the past is the Roller Joystick II, so we've added a couple to the Loan Bank. It comes with a choice of handles - a standard joystick, a T-bar, or a sponge ball.
We've added an Optima Joystick and a Mini PointIt joystick to the Loan Bank. The Optimax is a wireless joystick, similar to the Roller Joystick, though with a lower profile. The Mini PointIt is a small, accurate joystick, suitable for somebody with limited movement, but fine motor control.
Digitising Pad / Tablet
The digitising pad is a device with a smooth reactive surface that can be used to control the mouse pointer by finger (like the pad on most laptops) or with a finger. Finger control can be suitable for someone with limited movement, while the use of a stylus can sometimes help a person with RSI-related conditions arising from overuse of a mouse. The Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch Tablet can be used with either a finger or a stylus.
This article has focused on some of the new additions to the CALL Loan Bank. Go to the CALL Equipment Bank and search for 'Mouse or Alternative' to see some of the other options that we have available. If you are looking to find out about commercial options currently available, we suggest looking at the Inclusive Technology, QED and Keytools web sites.
Using the CALL Equipment Bank
The CALL Loan Bank contains a wide range of equipment that can be used to support the communication needs of people with disabilities. Equipment available for loan includes:
- simple communication aids
- complex communication aids (note that in some cases these can only be borrowed if adequate speech therapy support is available for the loan)
- switches, interfaces and mounting systems
- specialist mouse and keyboard alternatives
- reading and writing aids
- switch-accessible toys
Loans are made for evaluation purposes and generally last for up to two months. There is no charge for loans. Most loans are made to Scottish schools for use by pupils with additional support needs, but the loan bank can also be used to support adults with disabilities in the community in Scotland. Further information is available in the Equipment Bank section of this web site.
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By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 31st August, 2010 at 4:39pm
During the early part of 2009 we spent some time comparing different text-to-speech utilities that could be be used to read text aloud from web sites and published our conclusions in our Reading the Web information sheet. At the time, we found the best option was to use the free Click Speak utility with Firefox. There wasn't an option for Internet Explorer that we were totally happy to recommend: Read and Write Gold worked well, but is expensive, while most of the low cost / free utilities had some feature that we were not happy with. There have been a few developments over the past year so it is worth providing a short update here, prior to revising the information sheet.
Firstly, a couple of web browsers now have text-to-speech facilities embedded within the program. On the Apple Mac, Safari users can now access a pretty primitive text to speech facility by highlighting the text to be read and using the mouse to select - Edit - Speech - Start Speaking. The computer will now speak the text using its default voice. There are a couple of text-to-speech extensions for Google Chrome, Read Me Please! and Chrome Page Reader, but we couldn't get either to work!
A Solution for Internet Explorer?
We recently came across a nice little utility, Panopreter, that can be used to read out files in a variety of formats and can also create MP3 / WAV sound files from text. Two versions of the program are available, Basic and Plus. The Basic version is free and can be used to read text files out aloud, or to create MP3 files. Unfortunately, the text files cannot be seen as they are being read, which limits the use of this program. The Plus version, costing $29.95, is much more useful. Text is visible as it is read, with each word being highlighted as it is spoken and the program can even handle PDF files. The Plus version also adds a toolbar to Internet Explorer, which provides options for either an entire web page, or selected text to be read out loud. Individual words are highlighted as they are spoken. It is also possible to use the Panopreter Plus to convert a web page into an MP3 / WAV file that can be played back by an MP3 player. In terms of value for money and ease of use, Panopreter Plus is probably the best option currently available for reading text from Internet Explorer.
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By Sally Millar on Monday 21st June, 2010 at 2:51pm
Amongst the new things seen at ICT and Inclusion last week were AbilityWorld's new Uni-tech Voice Symbol and Voice Ink. Whats innovative is that the special software prints sound as well as symbols and words on to paper (ordinary paper and normal colour printer cartridge). When the user touches the printed word or symbol on the paper with the special Voice Pen, it speaks (choice of synthetic voices). It can also play music/sound files or recorded voice.
With the Voice Ink software, when the user touches each word (or sentence, paragraph or whole page, depending on how the settings you choose) it speaks out, so you can use it just to check you've correctly read a few 'sticky' words, or to read whole work sheets, etc. A true 'talking book'.
The Voice Symbol communication software lets you make symbol boards or book pages, and record personalised messages, so it is a low-tech system that speaks as well! It also works through laminate.
The system is not exactly cheap, but comparable in price to some other recorded voice communication aids. Once you've got the software you can add more V-pens for more users at a reasonable price.
There is a link on the Ability World website to video clips on YouTube where you can see the Uni-tech system in use (albeit largely in Taiwanese...).
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By Allan Wilson on Monday 18th January, 2010 at 10:59am
Were you lucky enough to get an iPhone or an iPod Touch for Christmas? Perhaps your school was able to scrape together funds to buy one?
In addition to all the music and videos that you can download from iTunes, you'll find a bewildering array of apps that you can use, covering everything from tuning a guitar to tantalising your tastebuds with a Jamie Oliver recipe.
There is an increasing number of excellent, low-cost apps available to support children (and adults) with additional support needs or disabilities.
Sally Millar blogged last year on the excellent Proloquo2Go, which provides a full AAC system with over 7,000 symbols and high quality voices. There are now additional apps to support communication, including:
- iConverse - a simple app combining speech and symbols with a focus on expressing basic everyday needs. It costs £5.99.
- Look2Learn - AAC, a basic, low cost (£14.99) app that combines the use of photographs with pre-recorded speech to help someone express their wants and needs.
- MyTalk - Another low-cost (£21.49) communication app combining symbols with speech output. Pages can be created and stored online, using a public image library with over 1,000 symbols.
- Speak it! - this is a basic text-to-speech app, costing £1.19. It can read out text as it is typed into the device, or can be used to read out existing text, e.g. from a web site
- Voice4U - this comes with 130 pre-loaded icons and high quality speech output. You can add your own photos and icons to personalise the system. It costs £17.99.
These apps all come from a comprehensive list of 'iPhone and iPod Touch Apps for (Special) Education' by Eric Sailers, an American speech-language pathologist. The list contains over 150 apps categorised under the headings Communication; Organization; Reading; Writing; Math; Music; Songs; Art; Games; Assistive Technology.
One interesting app that Eric missed from his list is iMocon, an App that allows an iPhone/iPod Touch to be used as a remote control for a computer by emulating the mouse. It costs £1.79.
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By Sally Millar on Sunday 16th August, 2009 at 1:32pm
Simple games that can be operated by switch(es) or space bar are important for children who cannot easily access and play 'ordinary' computer games. CALL Family Fun Switch Games will lead you to a huge stock of FREE and fun switch accessible resources (list created by Alan Stewart and CALL Scotland) Enjoy! Do please let CALL know (or sign up as a guest and add your own) if you know of any we've missed!