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Mr Bright has had a very exciting day..

What was I doing out of school today? Well, I’ve been at the Natspec TechAbility Conference 2019 in Birmingham. This is an annual event I always like to take part in as a member of the Karten Network. It was at the 2018 conference where I really started to get my teeth into the whole VR revolution and we now have our own VR simulator, ClassVR and Oculus Rift and Go at our Medtia building, which was funded by the Ian Karten Charitable Trust.

  • Natspec is the membership association which offers specialist further education and training for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.
  • TechAbility is an Assistive Technology support service, which aim to improve outcomes for learners with SEND.

Today’s conference focus was on raising standards of Assistive Technology and it has been fantastic!!

I’ve been to a wide range of sessions…

  • I found a really useful poster which I have scanned which shows the different ways we can use the accessibility features of different technology. Take a look:

  • Janice Murray, Professor of Communication Disability (AAC), Manchester Metropolitan University, gave a very interesting keynote presentation raising the importance of getting right the three stages of AAC:
    • Device – Software – Vocabulary Package
  • Sal Cooke OBE, IKCT Trustee, British Assistive Technology Association Council Member ~ I loved Sal’s passion for the Ian Karten Charitable Trust and The Karten Network. So much is happening across the country at the different Karten Centres. Karten have funded our post-16 students and enabled our video production, printing production and 4D suite hubs so we are extremely appreciative of all the charitable work they do. We are in fact filming a year-long promotional video for the Karten Network visiting their different centres.
  • Neil Beck, TechAbility and National Star College ~ Neil had a really interactive session where he used the Vevox app to gain instant survey feedback from attendees. There’s so much to consider when thinking about Assistive Technology. TechAbility have categories of TechAbility Standards, here are just a few:
    • Assessment:
      Trained staff, Standardised Assessment, Review Point, Appropriate Environment, Accessible Documentation, Appropriate Equipment
    • Access skills:
      Touch-typing, Icon Shortcuts, Software from Startup, Customise, Keyboard shortcuts, Accessible Log-ins
    • Delivery:
      Appropriate Support Programme, Trans-disciplinary working, take account of YP access methods, Accessible course materials
    • Tools:
      Cause and effect, Physical access, Text-to-Speech, Text Prediction, Speech and Dictation, Physical environment, Auditory Navigation, Zoom functions, Screen-readers
    • Visual methods of working:
      Social Stories, Symbols, Sequencing, Mind-mapping
  • Rohan Slaughter, JISC talked about Implementing Assistive Technology within colleges. He really highlighted the need to have a student-centred approach.
  • Hannah Golding, from Treloar College, held a session about demystifying switches and really emphasised the importance of starting with the question; WHY? This is so important. We have been doing so much work around knowing what the aspirational destination outcomes of our pupils are and this applies to the use of switches too. We need to know what our end-goal is before we can move forward. This might be how to control a wheelchair or scan a communication aid but its important to know why we are using switches first. Hannah also talked about the 4 different switch skills:
    • Cause and Effect, Switch timing, Switch Scanning, Press and Hold.

I’ve had a fantastic day, attended some really interesting sessions, liaised with a wide range of specialists and I haven’t even mentioned the robotic arm, the audio pen or the eye control..

So, to summarise…..

We are in a really exciting time with the introduction of the 1:1 iPad but technology is constantly developing too. We are currently exploring assistive technology equipment such as Bluetooth switches, Bluetooth touch pads/roller balls, wheelchair mounting options and accessibility settings on the device, to name just a few.

However, exploring the devices is great but we need to ensure the assistive technology (AT) starts with the young person and that we assess and personalise AT for each young person. We are working with colleagues from ACE, Boardmaker, Speech and Language, Visual Impairment and Hearing Impairment in order to assess each young person.

We are already doing a lot of work but there is so much work ahead – I cannot wait to see how much progress we can make with the use of Assistive Technology!

Mr Bright


St Martins Road, Fitton Hill, Oldham, OL8 2PZ

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