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New Equipment at CALL: Tobii Communication Devices

By Joanna Courtney on Monday 22nd August, 2011 at 10:19am

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Tobii Communication Devices

Tobii are best known for their 'MyTobii' eye gaze technology, but actually make a range of devices

  • the original P10 eyegaze computer
  • the new C12 and  C15 communication aids
  • CEye eye gaze control unit (for use with C12 and C15)
  • the PCEye control unit for eye gaze access to a computer
  • portable communication aid called the C8 (no eye gaze access)
  • medium tech aid with recorded speech called the S32

CALL have recently purchased this whole range of devices, which are available on 'restricted loan' to assessment clients and will also be used for demonstrations and training.

The following few blogs will give an overview of each of the devices, what they can do and who they may be suitable for.

Tobii C8 communication aid

The Tobii C8 is a computer based communication aid with an 8.4 inch (20.5cm) touchscreen. It is lightweight (1.8kg) and powerful and can be used either as a portable or wheelchair mounted device. It has long battery life ( 6hrs ) and also has hot swappable batteries so you can charge the device without having to turn it off and take it away from the user. The interchangeable coloured side panels make it easy to customise (green, pink, blue, purple) and the two powerful stereo speakers give the C8 great sound quality. It has a stand and a removable carry strap, but no built-in handle.

The main difference between the C8 and the larger C12 and C15 devices is that it has 2 speakers (they have 4) and that while the C8 can be used with a variety of access methods (direct touch, 1 and 2 switch, joystick, etc)  it cannot accommodate eye gaze access (whereas the C12 and C15 can).

This device could be suitable for users who need a light-weight portable device with synthetic speech and who would like to use additional Windows based software and Sapi 5 Scottish voices, which cannot be used with designated communication devices at a similar level e.g. Vantage Lite.

The C8 comes with Tobii Communicator Standard edition package, which includes several communication programs allowing communication using text or with over 15,000 Symbolstix symbols. The CALL device includes the upgrade, Tobii Communicator Premium, which includes email, text messaging and environmental control. Acapela voices are included with the device and you can also use recorded speech, if required. The device also has a built-in camera so that the user can take photos and use them on their communication pages.

As the C8 is Windows 7 based, other communication software can also be installed and CALL's C8 has the Grid 2 as an alternative option to Tobii Communicator. Being Windows based also means that Sapi 5 voices like 'Scottish Heather' and the soon to be released 'Scottish Stuart' voice are installed on this device ready for use, as well as on the C12 and C15.

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New equipment at CALL: Toshiba NB250 Netbook

By Robert Stewart on Wednesday 17th August, 2011 at 08:33am

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CALL now has a large bank of netbooks and our latest edition is the Toshiba NB250. A good little netbook which is light weight, cheap (225 via the Procurement Scotland contract), long 8 hour battery life and relatively fast if you are using one or two programs. Note that netbooks are not designed for multi tasking and so wont handle lots of programs running at the same time. This is because of the Intel Atom processor which is limited due to heat output in such a small package. CALL has installed Windows XP on all the netbooks since even Windows 7 (starter) is extremely sluggish due to the type of processor.

Basic specification:

  • 1Gb Ram;
  • 160Gb Hard Drive;
  • Windows XP Pro;
  • 10.1" screen;
  • 6 cell battery (up to 8 hour batter life);
  • 1.33Kg weight.

They are particularly practical in schools because they:

  • are small and light and easy to carry around;
  • don’t take up much space on the desk, so you have room for books and resources;
  • have a long battery life, freeing you from mains power;
  • are a bit more cool than AlphaSmarts.

They don’t suit everyone: the keyboard may be too small and cramped for some people and the small 10 screen may be too small for people with visual difficulties.

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Cereproc Featured on BBC Radio 4

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 10th August, 2011 at 9:33am

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Cereproc, producers of The Scottish Voice, Heather were featured in Radio 4's 'Giving the Critic Back his Voice' on  August 9th. Cereproc came to worldwide attention last year when they produced a new voice for American film critic Roger Ebert. They have now produced a voice for Aberdeen-based Mike Arnott, who has Motor Neurone Disease and who wanted his children to still be able to hear his 'real' voice if he is unable to speak as his condition develops.

The programme also describes the use of the Heather voice in Scotland. CALL's Joanna Courtney describes the importance of being able to speak with a Scottish voice, like Heather, for children with communication difficulties in Scotland: "Its a lot more of a friendly and familiar sounding voice. What we've found is that a lot of younger children - even boys - would rather have the Scottish Heather voice than the American voice, and especially the very posh English voices that you can get."

Cereproc have recently been developing a male Scottish voice, which should be available in September.

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The case against Assistive Technology

By Sally Millar on Monday 8th August, 2011 at 6:16pm

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Here's a wee film called 'The Case Against Assistive Technology' to get everyone going at the beginning of the new session.

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iVona MiniReader - Free Text-to-Speech Program for Windows

By Allan Wilson on Monday 8th August, 2011 at 5:06pm

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iVona MiniReader is a free text-to-speech program for Windows PCs, very similar to the free NaturalReader program (but without the irritating 'advert' every time you open the program). Like NaturalReader, iVona MiniReader works as a toolbar that floats on the desktop of your computer, ready to be called upon as required. To speak text, simply select it with your mouse and click on the 'play' button on the toolbar. It doesn't provide fancy highlighting of individual words as they are spoken, as provided by programs like WordTalk and Read and Write Gold, but if you are just wanting to listen to a piece of text read by your computer, it is just the job! It is particularly good for reading text from web pages, but will speak any text that you can select with your mouse.

iVona MiniReader is designed to be used by the excellent iVona voices (the British English voices are a bit 'plummy', but the Welsh male voice, Geraint, is particularly good), but can also be used by any SAPI 5 computer voice, e.g. The Scottish Voice, Heather (soon to be joined by Stuart). The iVona voices are currently priced at 39 for one, 69 for two.

The toolbar can be used 'full-size', which includes options to choose the voice, speed and volume, or 'cut down' to display just the Play and Pause buttons. The buttons are smaller than the equivalents in NaturalReader - good if you are looking for a discreet tool, less good if your targeting skills are less than perfect.

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Hacking Autism

By Allan Wilson on Monday 8th August, 2011 at 3:10pm

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Hacking Autism is a web site which brings together a volunteer group of software developers and specialists in autism with the intention of creating apps for iPads and other touch-enabled devices that can be used by people with an autism spectrum disorder.

The site currently contains suggested apps to which children with ASD have responded well. These include Proloquo2go, Pictello, Soundtastic and iReward, along with many more. Parents of children with ASD are invited to suggest features they would like to see in future apps. You can also look at some of the ideas that have already been suggested and comment upon them.

This could be your opportunity to have an influence on the development of forthcoming apps for the iPad and other devices!

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PCS (Boardmaker symbols) App coming soon

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 2nd August, 2011 at 9:59am

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Aha!  Mayer Johnson are publishing an app for iPad and iPod / iPhone,  iOS 3.1.3 and above

It's coming 'soon'. It will be free.

It sounds like it will be especially useful for learning new symbols, and for practising, familiarising and and consolidating knowledge of symbols and their meanings.  May be especially popular as 'homework' with parents and also sounds like some quite fun games (bingo matching etc.),  Could also be valuable as a trainer for working on mastery of that 'iPad flick'.

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Autobiography of a person who uses AAC

By Sally Millar on Monday 25th July, 2011 at 11:56am

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You may be interested to read the newly published autobiography called Ghost Boy of Martin Pistorius who lost his speech at 12 years old. He uses AAC and has succeeded well in life both personally and professionally.

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Daisy Books now on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 20th July, 2011 at 7:06pm

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We are pleased to say that there are now 59 books in Daisy format availlable from the Books for All Scotland Database. These books were produced by Kim Walker and Jamie Cutherbertson and the team at RNIB Scotland Transcription Centre in Glasgow with Scottish Government funding and we are grateful to them for sharing these Accessible Books via the Database. Thanks also to Patricia Carroll, Jennifer MacDougall and Anne Beverdige at LTS for liaising with RNIB to obtain the books.

What are Daisy books are why would you be interested in them?

These Daisy books give you both text and synchronised human narration, so for novels especially, this can be a more pleasant and engaging reading experience than using a computer (even with Heather!) to read the text. Across the Barricades, by Joan Lingard, for example, which is set in Northern Ireland, is narrated by a reader with an Irish accent. The Daisy talking book format was originally developed for people with visual impairment, but Daisy books are also very accessible for anyone with a print disability because they (should) have built-in structure for easy navigation; the reader software has keyboard shortcuts for readers with visual or physical impairments, and readers with visual or learning difficulties or dyslexia can read the books using either the recorded narration (if provided in the book) or text-to-speech.

How can I read the Daisy books?

You can read Daisy books on lots of different devices. On a Windows PC, for example, you can use the free Amis Reader. This gives you control over font size and colours, keyboard control, and it highlights the text as it is read out. Another popular Daisy book reader is Dolphin's EasyReader.Or if you have an iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone, you can use a Daisy book reader such as Read2Go, InDaisy or DaisyWorm to play the Daisy book.

You can also listen to the Daisy audio with a Daisy audio player.

If you want to find out more about Daisy books visit the Daisy Consortium web site. In the meantime, happy reading!

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Paul Nisbet receives University of Edinburgh Principal's Medal

By Stuart Aitken on Friday 8th July, 2011 at 9:05am

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Paul Nisbet dressed in kilt and ceremonial robe is handed medal by university Vice-Chancellor and Principal. CALL staff were delighted and proud that Paul Nisbet, Joint Co-ordinator at CALL, was awarded the 2011 Principal's Medal at a special University of Edinburgh graduation ceremony. The award is in recognition of Paul's magnificent contribution for his services to the Scottish education community, and beyond. Sir Tim O'Shea, the University's Vice-Chancellor and Principal is shown presenting Paul with his medal.

In his acceptance speech to an audience of newly qualified teachers receiving their diplomas Paul drew attention to the work of CALL Scotland, contributions to enhance the lives of children, young people and adults with disabilities or who have additional support needs. That work has taken place over many years since CALL was established in 1983.

In addition to his regular work as a leading member of the CALL team, using assistive technology and computer software to support many hundreds of pupils in Scottish schools, Paul has taken a leading role in a number of innovative developments:

  • In the 1980s he designed the original CALLbox and many other interfaces which allowed children with severe disabilities to interact with a computer for the first time.
  • He helped develop the Smart Wheelchair, a computer-controlled wheelchair for children with severe and multiple disabilities, now manufactured in the UK by Smile Rehab.
  • He worked in partnership with the Scottish Qualifications Authority on the introduction of Adapted Digital Exams - digital versions of exams for young people who are intellectually capable of passing, but are unable to use the traditional written format. Hundreds of children have used these digital papers to sit national exams - a world first for Scotland!
  • He encouraged the development of WordTalk, an internationally-recognised text-to-speech reader for Microsoft Word that helps tens of thousands of people with reading difficulties.
  • He has led the Books for All developments in Scotland, making books and print materials more accessible for people with a print disability.

Further information on the award can be found on The University of Edinburgh web site.

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New Phonics boy on the block

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 22nd June, 2011 at 4:06pm

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Maybe everyone else already knows about Mr Thorne, but I didn't (Thanks for the tip, Angie McC!!)  Wonderful website with videos. It's aimed at teaching / reinforcing synthetic phonics to young children (and parents) but also useful for older children as it's not too babyish (well, OK, giraffe puppet --but cute!) but he's a trendy young guy so acceptable to girls and and a good role model for boys. There are over 200 separate 'lessons' all carefully organised into the appropriate Phonics 'Phase'. Also found in the iTunes Apps store (a range of cheap and useful iPad Apps), on YouTube, iPlayer, DVD and on Twitter.  Have a look!

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New! Summer ContAACt newsletter

By Joanna Courtney on Tuesday 21st June, 2011 at 2:54pm

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  The New issue of the ContAACt newsletter is out now!

                                Read all about:

  •  The 'Hello' Campaign and the National Year of Communication
  •  AAC Events across Scotland
  •  What's New in AAC
  •  The latest on the AAC Campaign in Scotland
  •  The views of people who use AAC

 and much more!

 Go to /Resources/Newsletters/ContAACt/ to read it online or to download a copy

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The Scottish Male Voice is chosen!

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 14th June, 2011 at 3:54pm

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Well the votes are in and we can now reveal that the winner is....... SPA!

We emailed samples of six male voices out to people who had downloaded Heather, to key contacts in local authorities, FE colleges and Universities, to ICTSLS, members of SICTDG, members of Augmentative Communication in Practice Scotland, and to children and young people who use Assistive Technology.

We received feedback, comments and scores from 82 people. SPA got the highest overall score, and was also the voice that most people preferred as the first and second choice.

 

SPA went into the recording studio a few weeks ago to start recording about 30 hours worth of reading, and we understand that he has just finished the recording. It will take CereProc a few weeks to process the recordings and create the voice, and we hope to have it available for download from our Scottish Voice web site by the start of the new school term.

We now need a name... and we might have a vote for that too... so watch this space.

Thanks to everyone who listened to the voices and gave us the feedback.

Paul

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Don't Miss ICT and Inclusion!

By Allan Wilson on Monday 13th June, 2011 at 5:28pm

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You can still book online to attend this week's ICT and Inclusion events in Edinburgh (Wednesday 15th June) and Glasgow (Thursday 16th), though it is too late to be certain of a free lunch! ICT and Inclusion, organised by CALL in conjunction with the BRITE Centre and JISC Regional Support Centre, Scotland North and East, brings together more than 20 of the UK's leading suppliers of software and technology to support learners with additional support needs in schools, colleges and universities

Following a couple of late cancellations there have been some changes to the programme for the days, with a small number of presentations being repeated in Edinburgh:

  • QED will be demonstrating the new Tobii PC-Eye eye gaze system (also on the Smartbox stand), though they still hope to have a switch-accessible Kindle on display. 
  • Forcetenco will be previewing VOICEYE, a free app for reading documents, that could be a very useful tool for people with a visual impairment, or dyslexia;
  • Pass IT On / U Can Do IT will be giving away free CDs of public domain software at their talk in Edinburgh.
There will still be 25 stalls to visit in Edinburgh, and 24 in Glasgow - more than ever before.Don't miss the presentations by our guest speakers from Higher and Further Education, and from schools in Glasgow - these presentations are always highlights of the day!

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Only one week to go until ICT and Inclusion - have you booked in, yet?

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 7th June, 2011 at 3:18pm

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The ICT and Inclusion Day is always a really useful and enjoyable day, so if you can possibly come along, you should!  Book now in case it gets booked out.   It's completely FREE and you are given refreshments and lunch for nothing. You will see ALL the latest hardware and software and hear practical, information-packed (and SHORT) presentations on your choice of topics all geared towards learners with additional support for learning needs. You can focus on  school and  / or Further Education. You will meet and network with colleagues and interesting new contacts including presenters and suppliers. Don't miss it.

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