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iPad Apps for Dyslexia

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 6th November, 2013 at 3:42pm

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Wheel of iPad Apps for Learners with DyslexiaWe have produced a 'Wheel' of iPad Apps for Dyslexia / Reading and Writing Difficulties as a visual aid and reminder for some of the many apps that are available to support learners with dyslexia. It is designed to be used as an A3 poster, but the electronic PDF version is also useful as it links directly to the various apps that we have included.

It is impossible to include every app that can be useful for learners with dyslexia so we have only included a small representative group for each category. We are happy to take suggestions for other apps that could be included in later versions of the Wheel and will give them our consideration. Many apps can be useful in more than one category, but we have chosen to use just one particularly representative category for these apps, in order to make space available to include other apps.

This ‘wheel of apps’ for dyslexia is inspired by previous visual representations of apps:

These can all be found on the Apps4Stages web site.

iPad Dyslexia Toolkit for Teaching and Learning

iPad Apps for Dyslexia / Reading and Writing Difficulties leads in to a new book that CALL will be publishing early in the New Year. iPad Dyslexia Toolkit for Teaching and Learning will provide detailed descriptions of apps that can be useful for learners with dyslexia, along with hints, tips and suggested strategies for using them.


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Strategic Commissioning - implementing the Doran Review

By Stuart Aitken on Monday 28th October, 2013 at 5:06pm

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Scottish Government has set up online access so that everyone with an interest can follow progress on how outcomes for children with complex additional support needs are to be improved.The Strategic Commissioning Project web pages provide an overview and reports on how Scottish Government propose to implement the findings of the Doran Review.

The project has five aims including the over-arching one of providing better outcomes for  children and young people with complex additional support needs, through "an improved system of aligning services to needs, and efficient use of public funding".

This piece of work has the potential to have a huge impact on the education and support of children and young people with complex support needs so it is really important that the views of all concerned are heard and can influence future provision.

A couple of useful starting points are to read the Project Initiation Document and the paper submitted on Needs Analysis

Stuart Aitken is a member of the Project Board representing CALL Scotland, Scottish Sensory Centre and Enquire as three nationla centres funded by Scottish Government. Details on membership and other information can be found in the associated documents.

For those who are interested in finding out about the lead up to this implementation phase, Peter Doran's report The Right Help at the Right Time in the Right Place, and Scottish Government's response to that report, Meeting the needs of Scotland's children and young people with complex additional support needs, offer useful background.


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Setting Up Switch Access to an iPad

By Allan Wilson on Thursday 17th October, 2013 at 8:30am

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Setting up Switch Access to an iPadWe had a very interesting time at CALL yesterday afternoon, setting up switch access to an iPad for Mark. He has very limited movement in both hands and has previously borrowed equipment from CALL to try to improve access to his Mac computer. We discussed access to an iPad at the time, but this was just before the release of iOS 7, which provides a range of options for switch access, so we decided to wait for the new iOS.

Prior to the visit, I watched the Ablenet video, iOS 7 Switch Control - Dual Switch Step Scanning Setup and Use, on YouTube and spent some time familiarising myself with switch access to the iPad. I would thoroughly recommend the video which takes you through the process of setting up a user for scanning and selecting with two switches - it is clear, informative and very helpful.

Pretorian Applicator

Mark came into CALL with his iPad and two switches, which we connected to a Pretorian Applicator interface. The Applicator can take up to four 'wired' switches, allowing Mark to use his own switches. Pairing the Applicator to Mark's iPad was straightforward (Settings - Bluetooth - On). It took a few seconds for the iPad to find the interface, but there was no problem in connecting.

We then went into the Accessibility options on the Pad (Settings - General - Accessibility). Before going further, we set up an Accessibility Shortcut for Switch Control (Settings - General - Accessibility - Accessibility Shortcut), so that the iPad can always be taken in and out of switch access by tapping the Home button three times. Next, we set up options for each of Mark's two switches (Settings - General - Accessibility - Switch Control - Switches). Following advice on the Ablenet video, we set up one switch to 'Select Item' and the other to 'Move to Next Item'. We set up a Large Cursor and chose Yellow for Cursor Colour (Settings - General - Accessibility - Switch Control - Switches) to make the scanning highlight more visible.

Mark had previously experimented with using head movements to act as switches, but we had to turn this off as it was interfering with the use of switches. This proved to be a little tricky as the Edit button required for this was partially hidden by an error message at the top of the screen.

Mark very quickly adjusted to use of the switches, scanning through icons with one switch and selecting the app with the second switch, and navigating within apps. It proved to be a little more tricky to get back out of an app, requiring a 'click and hold' with the 'Select' switch to bring up the switch access controls, which includes a 'Home' button.

As the afternoon progressed Mark learned how to use the built-in Siri speech recognition in conjunction with his switches and managed to open Kindle books that he had on his iPad. Turning pages proved to be a little more complicated, but Mark is well on his way to mastering this.

Mark has now borrowed the Pretorian Applicator for evaluation for a few weeks. We're looking forward to hearing how he gets on.

Overall, we were hugely impressed with how well the iPad now works for switch access for a cognitively able adult, who knows exactly what using switches is all about. Definitely a game changer! We'll have to wait a little longer to see how well it works for school children with complex additional support needs.


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ICT Accessibility Essentials and Checklist

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 14th October, 2013 at 12:52pm

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Earlier this year we were asked by colleagues in ICTSLS (ICT for Support for Learning in Scotland - staff with specific responsibility for ICT and ASN across Scotland) to produce some simple recommendations about basic accessibility software that one would expect to find on computers in schools. We created two information sheets: ICT Accessibility Essentials, and an ICT Accessibility Checklist. The Essentials leaflet (see below) lists what we think should be made available on school computers in order to make them accessible for learners with disabilities; the Checklist is a simple audit tool.

The leaflets were shared with ICTSLS and they seemed helpful when the assistive technology specialists in local authorities were discussing and planning with technical staff what should be installed and made available on school computers.

Given the recent and on-going discussion regarding text-to-speech and other software for learners with disabilties, we thought we would share the leaflets more widely.

ICT Accessibility Essentials


All school computers should have:

An Accessibility Profile should have:

  • All of the above.
  • Access to Control Panels (particularly Display, Ease of Access, Keyboard, Mouse & Speech Recognition) so that designated staff can easily and quickly adjust settings for individual pupils, e.g. change default voices and speeds, alter mouse speed and pointers, adjust keyboard settings, change display font sizes and colours, and adjust other accessibility options.
  • Right click enabled.
  • Facility for staff to easily install accessibility software such as:

Education Scotland sell BoardMaker, Co:Writer, Penfriend and Microsoft Office at discounted prices for Scottish schools. Tel. 0141 282 5000. 


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Use of ICT in assessment - an exemplar from Denny High School

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 10th October, 2013 at 6:06pm

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Serendipitously, there are some new assessment exemplars focusing on learners with additional support needs on the National Assessment Resource and the exemplar from Denny High School is relevant to the current discussion regarding appropriate support for learners in assessment of literacy at National 3 and 4. (You will need a Glow login to access the NAR and read the report.) 

To quote from the introduction:

"In this quality-marked exemplar, the learning support base in Denny High School demonstrates an innovative approach to preparing learners for the changes to the new National Qualifications which prohibit the use of a human reader / scribe. By using Ivona minireader software learners are equipped with the skills to access information quickly and independently. This exemplar demonstrates a proactive approach to overcoming barriers to assessment of English and Literacy faced by learners with additional support needs."

(Ivona MiniReader is a free general-purpose text-to-speech program that can read from Word files, PDF, the internet, etc ect).

The report is an interesting read because it describes a systematic process for introducing text-to-speech (TTS) technology to staff, learners and parents. There were 45 S1/2 learners involved in the trial and they and the staff seemed to be enthusiastic about the technology and how it can help them access the curriculum more independently and successfully.    

Another interesting observation is that most of the learners said they were using text-to-speech to support both reading and writing - by reading back their own writing, pupils are more able to identify mistakes and correct their work. 


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Use of ICT to assess reading in National 3 and 4 Literacy Units

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 10th October, 2013 at 12:54pm

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Under Section 96 of the Equality Act, SQA has responsibility to decide what is and is not a ‘reasonable adjustment’ for assessment in the new National Qualifications.

From August 2013, SQA have decided that human readers are not to be regarded as a reasonable adjustment when learners are required to show evidence of their reading skills in SQA National Literacy Units (see

However, the use of ICT is allowed:

“In order to minimise the disadvantage faced by some disabled learners in attaining the National Units in Literacy, the use of word processors and other assistive technologies such as screen readers, spell checkers or speech-recognition software would be acceptable as reasonable adjustments.” (Specification 3 - Literacy Units

Teachers, parents and learners have been asking us how learners can use ICT in assessments and so we have put together a brief guide to the use of ICT in assessment of reading.

We are also writing a guide on the use of ICT in assessment of writing, which we will be make available in a later blog and on our web site, so look back soon.

If you have any comments or suggestions on the guide please get in touch!


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Digital Parenting - A 'Must Read' for Parents

By Sally Millar on Thursday 10th October, 2013 at 10:28am

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Edition 2 of Vodafone's special publication  'Digital Parenting'  is a rich up-to-the-minute resource that should be of great interest to parents anxious to take all possible steps to understand the issues facing children in these  'always connected' times, and to learn about how to improve online security and set appropriate digital boundaries.

This free publication (45 pages) is available in online and .pdf versions and can be shared directly by email, Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Linked In, Google+




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iSlope - good posture and working position for iPad use

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 9th October, 2013 at 9:39am

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Here's a useful product for pupils starting to use iPad in the classroom. With or without a protective case like the Big Grips frame (as pictured), or Gumdrop, Otterbox etc., many users will require an additional stand to raise and tilt the device and hold it steady in position. Rather than pupils hunched, heads down, over flat iPads, we want to encourage good posture, easy access, and a good line of vision to both technology and classroom / teacher/ board etc., 

There are already many forms of writing slope and laptop stand/riser etc.available, at varying prices. This one is a handy compact and lightweight slope that exactly fits the iPad.



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eBooks from public libraries

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 8th October, 2013 at 4:40pm

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Frank Shaw from South Lanarkshire emailed to say that the South Lanarkshire library service now have an eBook and digital audiobook lending facility. To find out more, visit their web site

I took the opportunity to search and update our Books from Libraries page on the Books for All web site, and most of the council library services in Scotland now offer an eBook lending service where you can download and read eBooks (and sometimes audiobooks) on your computer, iPad, tablet, mobile phone etc.

The majority of the services seem to be using Overdrive, The OverDrive books are EPUB format which you can read on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, smart phones etc.

On a computer you read the books with Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). ADE is becoming more accessible in that with the latest version 2.0, the text can now be read using a few text-to-speech tools, and the font size can be increased to about 24 point, but there is only one font and limited colour options. Visit the Quick Guides page to download a guide on ADE.

For iOS, Android and eBook readers or smart phones, you read ebooks and listen to audiobooks using the OverDrive Media Console app.

RNIB also offer useful infornation on the accessibility of different types of eBooks.


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Closing the Gap

By Allan Wilson on Friday 4th October, 2013 at 10:48am

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Just a quick word about the Closing the Gap magazine, for the benefit of our UK readers (and others) who may not be aware of this excellent publication from the USA. Subscriptions are available for overseas readers allowing you to download the magazine, published every two months, in PDF format. The subscription (which also allows access to archived webinars) currently costs $110 for an individual.

Each issue has a number of articles with a general focus on the use of technology to support learners with additional support needs / disabilities, all written by leading practitioners. Most of the articles have an American focus, but the content is always very relevant to a wider audience, and there are occasional contributions from other countries - CALL's Craig Mill recently had an article published in the journal.

The contents of the current issue are fairly typical:

  • Communication and the Use of Tangible Symbols by Lori Dahlquist
  • Teaching with iPads for Students with Multiple and Visual Impairments by Tara Mason
  • The Windows 8 Tablet: The Best of Both Worlds by Elliot Pludwinski
  • A Cure for the Evaluation Report Writing Blues by Chritopher R. Bugaj and Sally Norton-Darr
  • iLOVE Writing: Using the iPad to Support Struggling Writers by Kelly Charlebois
  • DISKOVERIES: eBooks by Joan Tanenhaus
  • Technology Trends: iPad Use and Autism by Penina Rybak




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Paediatric Powered Mobility Workshop 1/11/13

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 3rd October, 2013 at 5:57pm

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Bobath Scotland are running a one day workshop on Powered Mobility for children, led by Ros Livingston and Debbie Field. This is a great opportunity to think and learn about both the evidence base for paediatric powered mobilty and it's importance for children's development and education, and also how to assess for appropriate mobility aids, train users, and measure progress.

Ros previously worked in an Edinburgh special school and with Debbie is now working in Vancouver in Canada. They will be presenting at the European Seating Symposium so save yourself the cost of attending the conference and go to Bobath instead! Read more here, and download the booking form here.

(I was involved with developing the CALL Smart Wheelchair many moons ago and our research showed that powered mobility can have a really powerful impact on opportunities for engagement and on motivation, so I'm very enthusiastic about getting young people mobile - see the Smart Chair pages for a little more information.) 



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Nice new video of P2Go users

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 18th September, 2013 at 10:12am

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Excellent new video released recently by Assistiveware, the Proloquo2Go suppliers.

It features an introduction by the wondeful Jane Farrall (AAC specialist) from Australia, and some nice examples of conversational P2Go use by three highly engaged and communicative iPad-using school pupils. 




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Setting up the iPad for a user of Proloquo2Go

By Sally Millar on Saturday 14th September, 2013 at 4:43pm

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Proloquo2Go is a very popular App for communication, on the iPad.

The developers, Assistiveware, provide a number of excellent support materials  - videos, tutorial, fact sheets, FAQ, forum for discussion and so on, and you are advised to consult these when getting started. 

CALL is not intending to duplicate these, but has made a series of short videos with supplementary hints and tips on setting up the iPad for a P2Go user, especially one who is prone to 'go exploring' on the iPad...

Proloquo2Go: Sally introduces "Getting started "Hints and Tips"

Proloquo2Go 1: Moving and arranging app icons on the desktop

Proloquo2Go 2: Creating Folders and Updating P2Go

Proloquo2Go 3: Setting Restrictions and Guided Access

Proloquo2Go 4: Help and Support

Proloquo2Go 5: Choose a Vocabulary

 (If you can't access YouTube, contact CALL for an alternative link to the videos)

Thanks to Craig for filming and editing these. (The flicker's not his fault!)



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Including All Children in the Scottish Children's Book Awards

By Robert Stewart on Wednesday 11th September, 2013 at 12:21pm

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The Scottish Children's Book Awards is an innovative nationwide reading project in which children and young people from every corner of Scotland read and vote for their favourite Scottish children's books of the year. Last year over an amazing 31,000 votes were cast and children and young people from every local authority in Scotland, from Aberdeen to Dumfries; Shetland to Arran, took part. The awards are run by the Scottish Book Trust.

Children can vote for their favourite book, from a shortlist in each of three categories, either as individual readers or as part of a reading group in a school, library or bookshop. The shortlisted books are:

Early Years (0 - 7 years)

  • Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson
  • What's the Time, Mr Wolf? by Debi Gliori
  • Jumblebum by Chae Strathie and Ben Cort

Younger Readers (8 - 11 years)

  • Black Tide by Caroline Clough
  • The Accidental Time Traveller by Janis Mackay
  • Really Weird by Daniela Sacerdoti

Older Readers (11 - 16 years)

  • The Seeing by Diana Hendry
  • The Book of Doom by Barry Hutchison
  • Ferryman by Claire McFall

But what about disabled children who can't read the books?

CALL Scotland has worked with the Scottish Book Trust and the authors and publishers to create accessible digital versions of the nine shortlisted books. The idea is that children and young people with physical, visual and reading or dyslexic difficulties, who can't read or access the paper books, can read the digital books instead and take part in the awards. For example:
  • children with spinal injury, cerebral palsy or other physical impairments can click a switch or press a key on a computer, to turn pages and read the books by themselves;
  • dyslexic readers or children with visual impairments can change the font size and/or colours on screen, or use text-to-speech software to read the books;
  • the books can be read out by the computer using "Heather" or "Stuart", the high quality Scottish computer voices that is available free for schools and pupils from CALL Scotland's The Scottish Voice web site.
The books are available free of charge. Readers and schools can request accessible digital copies of the book(s) they wish to read via the Books for All website or phoning 0131 651 6236.


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Reasonable adjustment or taught dependency? Reader/scribes and ICT in National assessment of Literacy

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 11th September, 2013 at 12:15pm

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As of August 2013, SQA clarified what is and is not a 'reasonable adjustment'  for learners with disabilities in assessments, and it seems that this has caused a bit of disquiet in some areas of Scottish education.

From speaking to practitioners, I believe that there is a general misunderstanding of the policy and so in this blog I will lay out the situation as I understand it. I'll be writing with some more detailed suggestions and comments over the next few weeks, but for now I want to make some initial observations.

(Disclaimer: we work with SQA as consultants advising on the the use of ICT by learners with additional support needs, but the views expressed here and elsewhere on our web sites and publications are entirely independent. You might also say that we have a vested interest in promoting the use of ICT in assessments. You'd be wrong though. The only interest we have is enabling learners with disabilities in Scotland to have every opportunity to access education and fulfil their potential.)

The policy that seems to be causing most comment concerns the use of readers and scribes in assessment of literacy. SQA say that:

“In relation to the National Literacy Units at all levels: (i) exemption from demonstrating any of the four assessed skills of reading, writing, listening or talking will not be a reasonable adjustment and (ii) using human readers and scribes will not be reasonable adjustments where reading and writing abilities are being explicitly assessed.” (Section 96(7) Equality Act 2010: Specifications on Reasonable Adjustments in National Qualifications in Scotland.

The first thing to point out is that the restriction on reader/scribes only applies to National Literacy Units (and Modern Languages or Gaelic (Learners)) where reading and/or writing are being explicitly assessed. Reader/scribes can be used in all other subjects.

SQA also state that:

“In order to minimise the disadvantage faced by some disabled learners in attaining the National Units in Literacy, the use of word processors and other assistive technologies such as screen readers, spell checkers or speech-recognition software would be acceptable as reasonable adjustments.” (Specification 3 - Literacy Units.

So essentially, the policy is that learners can use ICT but can not use readers or scribes for assessment tasks in National 3, 4, 5 Literacy Units. Is this reasonable? I believe that it is.

Human vs computer readers

In my opinion, a computer reader provides a satisfactory and effective alternative to a human reader. I also believe that the use of a computer reader provides a more consistent and ultimately fairer method of support for learners. I do not believe that pupils with disabilities are disadvantaged by the SQA policy.

With the free Scottish voices, the consistence, intelligibility and quality of the computer speech is excellent. Literacy assessment tasks are likely to be created using a word processor such as Microsoft Word (the exemplars from SQA are all Word files), and there are many free programs (including the Speak facility built in to Word 2007/2010) such as WordTalk, MiniReader, Natural Reader etc etc that can be used to read from Word, in addition to commercial products such as ClaroRead, Read and Write Gold, Penfriend, Co:Writer, etc etc.

Now it's possible that some pupils with complex disabilities might not be able to use the technology – e.g. a pupil with very severe physical disability and significant visual impairment might struggle to control the technology  - but it can be done if the school takes the trouble to organise the reading text and questions in an accessible format.

I think the experience and support offered by computer readers is comparable to human readers, but the computer of course offers the huge advantage of being independent and by teaching learners how to use the technology, it gives learners a useful life skill. Teaching them to rely on a reader doesn't.

Scribing vs writing with ICT

The actual assessment task at National 3 is to:

“3    Write simple, technically accurate texts by:

3.1    Selecting and using appropriate language

3.2    Organising writing appropriately

3.3    Using appropriate spelling, punctuation and grammar”  

(Unit Assessment Support: H23W 73 Literacy (National 3): Package 1: Unit-by-Unit approach, p. 21)

To pass the assessment, the learner has to:

  • "decide who will read your article and use words to suit them;
  • give facts, information and advice;
  • make the article clear and easy to follow (think about things like headings, the order of information, using lists or bullet points);
  • use spelling and punctuation and sentences that make sense.
  • write at least 80 words."

All learners are permitted to use ICT (including a spellchecker) for this writing task. The assessment is not time-limited and is generally expected to be done in class as part of day to day teaching and learning. Learners with disabilities can also use more specialist assistive technologies to generate their 80 words.

I do not believe that restricting the use of scribes for a assessment that is specifically intended to assess a learner’s ability to generate text independently is unreasonable. There will be some learners who will not be able to pass the assessment - for example pupils with severe learning difficulties or complex needs, but they would not be able to tackle the assessment with a scribe either.

So is  a pupil with dyslexia, say, disadvantaged by not being able to use a scribe? I say not. Is it fair that SQA are encouraging use of ICT instead? Absolutely.

I think that the widespread use of scribes for young people in secondary schools actively damages learners. There's a risk of developing 'learned helplessness' and it should be avoided. Teaching learners to rely on human scribes isn't helpful - as I said in a previous blog, it's not successful, not confident, not responsible, not effective and not what schools should be doing. Teaching learners to write independently by whatever means - whether by handwriting, or with ICT, is surely a priority for Scottish education.

Are we really saying that there are significant numbers of young people in the middle of their secondary education who are incapable of writing 80 words independently, by hand or using ICT? If so, there is something seriously amiss with Scottish education. If so, we need to know about it, and one way we'll find out it by assessing learner's writing independently and not disguising lack of ability or effective teaching by using scribes.


I've heard some staff saying that lack of computers or cost of software is a problem, but I really don’t think this is an acceptable argument in 2013. We really need to be teaching young people to use ICT and local authorities and schools must accept that and make adequate provision. As far as the specialist assistive software is concerned, the text reading tools and voices are free, as I said; spellcheckers are built in to standard word processors, and even the more specialist commercial writing support tools are a lot less expensive than paying for scribes.  (I'll look at these tools in a later blog.)

"Reliant on readers", "stuck with scribes", or "independent with ICT"? Let's go for the latter.


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