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By Sally Millar on Thursday 2nd May, 2013 at 7:07pm

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I've worked in CALL for 30 years - yes,  I know, how scary is that! - and I have only once or twice ever before seen this super-rare sight- three CALL guys in a suit. (Well, in three different suits, to be precise....) - on their way to a posh party at Edinburgh Castle, with Dyslexia Scotland, and Alex Salmond.


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Kindle now has text-to-speech on iPad, iPod, iPhone

By Stuart Aitken on Thursday 2nd May, 2013 at 4:41pm

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May Day brought a nice surprise for Kindle readers who use the app on their iOS. Now Kindle books can be read using text-to-speech on an iPad, iPhone or iPod. Before this update it’s always been a bit frustrating for readers of Kindle books to find that there was no way to listen to their collection on an iPad. Blind and visually impaired people who already had purchased Kindle books found that if they downloaded their Kindle books to an iPad it wasn’t possible to use the built-in features offered by VoiceOver. It wasn’t even possible to use the Speak Selection feature to select a word or chunk of text to have it read out. Now it is possible to use VoiceOver (not Speak Selection though).

Kindle Reader uses VoiceOver so if you want to use Kindle’s text-to-speech functions VoiceOver needs to be installed and running. To do this go to:

 Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > On.

VoiceOver is designed to allow blind and visually impaired people to access iOS So when it is running you activate apps in a slightly different way than the standard iOS approach. Mostly this involves a double tap instead of single tap (which makes sense, after all a blind or visually impaired person will want to check the right app is selected (single tap), before activating that app (double tap). Thereafter, use of text-to-speech is pretty straightforward and quite powerful.

  • In Kindle Library with VoiceOver on, tap once on a book to have full spoken information about each title, author and whether the book is installed. Double tap to open the book and start reading from where you left off.
  • Use a two finger swipe down to start continuous reading from top of page.
  • Use a single two finger tap while reading to pause. Two finger tap once again to resume.
  • Single finger tap selects a line of text and reads under the finger. (Like Speak Selection only it gives context too.) Single finger tap anywhere to read that line. Two finger tap to return to library.
  • Suppose you are in single line reading at a time (e.g. for meaning), and you want to return to continuous reading. Simply do a two finger swipe down to resume continuous reading.
  • Three finger swipe right to left to move to next page, or left to right to go to previous page.

All of these options are clearly spoken out.

What does it allow you to read?

Kindle titles will work. However, Word documents, PDF documents will not offer text-to-speech (many other apps do offer this functionality).

The big advantage is in being able to read your Kindle formatted books using text-to-speech.

Can you use other voices?

While t is not at all obvious how to do it is still possible to change the voice used in text-to-speech with the Kindle. The secret is to think about how you would give access to this facility to a blind or visually impaired person. You would do it from within VoiceOver. Here’s how to do it using the Language Rotor.

Setup is atwo stage process. First, you set up the languages you want to make available from within VoiceOver. Second with Voiceover activated, select the languages from the rotor you previously set up.

Turn on voices to be selected from in Language Rotor. 

General > Settings > Accessibility > Language Rotor (below Rotor)

Tap to select each of the languages you want to use as options e.g. US English, British English, Irish English.

Tap VoiceOver (at top of screen) to come out of Language Rotor.

Now you will want to select the chosen language or dialect. You do this with VoiceOver On.

  • Turn on VoiceOver as before General > Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > On
  • Launch Kindle with VoiceOver On.
  • Tap and rotate two fingers on the screen clockwise to turn on Rotor and the command available is spoken. (e.g. Characters, Words, Line etc.)
  • Repeat the movement until it says Language you’re ready now.
  • Do a one finger slide down, it will speak out the first voice you selected as an option. Repeat the rotor action until you reach the dialect or voice that you want. That is now selected. 
Now a two-finger swipe down will speak out in your preferred voice.

Now Apple if we could only have the Scottish Voices available from within the Languages available not just in the apps but across the whole system. That would be great!


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By Sally Millar on Monday 29th April, 2013 at 1:05pm

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As the summer approaches at a startling speed   - well, time-wise, if not weather-wise- the issue of transition looms large for many pupils, schools and families. Hopefully, plans will have started well in advance.

Going Places: Transition Scheme Supporting Children with Additional Needs into Secondary School (book and CD) is a resource that comes highly recommended, which sets out how schools can plan and prepare for transition into mainstream Secondary, for children with ASN.

Going Places (36.99) is written by Carolyn Gelenter and Nadine Prescott, and is published by Speechmark. It is available from WH Smith (cheapest), Amazon and other bookshops.


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Apps for getting text from an image

By Allan Wilson on Friday 19th April, 2013 at 4:44pm

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Image of advertisement from Times Educational SupplementI was asked earlier this week for advice on an app that would allow somebody to take a photograph of some text with an iPad and then convert the image into editable text that could be read back. This is equivalent to scanning a paper document and processing the image with an optical character recognition (OCR) program to create a text file, which can then be read back using text-to-speech software on a computer.

Prizmo or TextGrabber + Translator?

Normally I recommend Prizmo (6.99) for a task like this as it generally produces pretty decent results, provided that the lighting is good and the iPad is kept steady, but I read a recommendation for TextGrabber + Translator (0.69) a couple of days ago so I decided to compare them.

They were both originally designed for the iPhone, but work perfectly well on the iPad 3. When you search for them in the App Store you have to look among the iPhone, rather than the iPad apps. When you first open either of them, they'll only occupy a small part of the screen (equivalent to an iPhone display), but you can enlarge this by tapping on a small circular button marked 2X at the bottom right of the display.

I used both apps to take a picture of a page featuring an advertisement from today's Times Educational Supplement Scotland. and then used the OCR software within each app to convert the text on the page into editable text on the iPad. Prizmo only attempted to convert the black text, rather than white text on a coloured background. There were a couple of mistakes in the main body of the text, but it did surprisingly well when it attempted the very small Terms and Conditions text at the bottom of the page - there were a few mistakes, but the text was recognisable, which I found astonishing given the size of the original text. TextGrabber managed to cope with white text on a coloured background and was perfect in the main body of the text, but the small Terms and Conditions text was unrecognisable.

Reading Text Out Loud

When it came to speaking the text out, Prizmo uses its own text-to-speech system, allowing the text to be read out by pretty decent voices (for which you have to pay separately, typically 1.99 per voice). TextGrabber uses the built-in Apple Speak Selection system so the voice options are a little more restricted. This has to be turned on in the Accessibility Settings - Tap on the Settings icon, select General and scroll down to Accessibility to make sure that Speak Selection is turned on. You should then be given an option to Speak any text you select.

Translating Text

Prizmo and ScreenGrabber + Translate can translate from English into a wide range of foreign languages, which can then be read back in the appropriate language if you have a  suitable voice installed. The translations are not perfect, but good enough to get an idea of what the text is about.

Text scanned and translated by TextGrabber + TranslaterI think I would now lean towards TextGrabber - it is cheaper, slightly less complicated, and the OCR (conversion from an image into text) seems to be slightly more accurate.

There are, of course, other apps that can be used to do this.


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Free exhibition: ICT and Inclusion 2013

By Robert Stewart on Tuesday 16th April, 2013 at 4:49pm

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CALL Scotland has been organising the FREE annual ICT and Inclusion road-show since 2001. It provides people with an opportunity to see and compare the latest software and technology to support students with additional support needs from most of the leading UK companies.

Location and dates for the exhibitions are:

  • CALL Scotland, Edinburgh - 18 June 2013
  • Thistle Hotel, Glasgow - 19 June 2013

Suppliers will describe their key products in timetabled sessions and there will also be short presentations by staff from CALL Scotland.

The exhibitions will be open from 9.00 am until 4.00 pm.

Free Lunch! A free buffet lunch is provided at each of the three venues. It is therefore important that people register for the exhibition in advance so we have an idea of numbers before the day. Please indicate when you book a place if you wish to stay for lunch.

To find out more and to book online, go to the ICT and Inclusion web page or telephone CALL Scotland on 0131 651 6235 to book a place.


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An Open Letter to the Parent of a Child with Speech Delays

By Sally Millar on Monday 8th April, 2013 at 3:54pm

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Once again, the piercingly true words of a parent - therapists and teachers take note!

Dana Nieder, parent of Maya, urging parents and professionals not to 'wait and see' but to plunge in, as soon as possible, to the world of full strength AAC .

There is no time to waste - and there is nowhere for professionals to hide, these days, when the internet can provide such vast resources of information.

It's great that a parent is writing this stuff, because maybe other parents  - and let's be honest, there are many who are frustratingly reluctant to consider any alternative to speech, and just don't 'get' the importance of developing underlying language, and interactive communication skills - will accept it better from another parent than from a professional.

We all want the best for the child, but communication and language are complex functions and skills and there is no quick and easy solution. Both parents and professionals are needed to put all this together. And it's not just about speech and language therapists, who may see the child for a few hours over several months, but for school staff who see him/her for several hours every weekday........


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Best Simple Music Player App

By Joanna Courtney on Thursday 4th April, 2013 at 4:16pm

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Does your child like music? Do they love wading through your iPad music library to find their favourite tunes, perhaps deleting your favourites on the way?!

Help is at hand, from a cool little app called Kidzik and it only costs 1.49!

The app allows you to create a bespoke music library for your child, by first making a 'Kidzik' playlist in the iTunes Music Player app on your device.

The Kidzik app then 'picks up' the playlist automatically and presents it as a choice of album cover artwork choices.

The user then touches the album to select the single song or songs from that album and that's it!

They can play or pause by touching the selected album in the 'apple.' They can also choose tracks by touching the different colours of the 'worm.' The same colour will always be linked to the same song, so that the user will know that the 'green' song is their favourite, for example.

Really nice simple interface and great how it uses the album artwork for the choices, rather than cartoons, numbers or random shapes like the other music player apps I've come across.

Would be even better if it was switch accessible.....


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Top Interactive Story App, and top book!

By Sally Millar on Monday 1st April, 2013 at 3:06pm

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Wow! just wanted to share info about the stunning interactive story App for iPad that I just stumbled across - The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore.

To me, this is what an interactive story App should be like - all the best of both a short film and a story book , somehow brilliantly integrated.

You can just read and listen to the story - fabulous graphics, bit retro, plus music  - or each page has interactive features that you can explore  - when you do, they somehow make the page turn into an animated movie.

This multiple award-winning animation by William Joyce and filmmakers (some from Pixar  - who, let's face it -  know what they are doing!) - is a beautiful tale about the value of stories. It's not exactly a 'starter level' story, but it's very accessible and the interactivity enhances engagement.

It comes with 'extras' -  a short film and a 'Making of this App' and it somehow incorporates both the Wizard of Oz and hurricane Katrina & Sandy with resonances of Up! and other well-known tales and films.

You can change most of the settings re audio, text, music etc. but unfortunately there is no alternative to a 'swipe' for turning the page. 

Well worth 2.99 anyway. Take a peek! (Also available as a real book or for Kindle - dearer, of course)

AND......while we're at it - here is a must-buy book-type book.  Charming! A gem! Guaranteed to make you smile,  and also effective to help children think about the differences between books and other forms of story formats 'It's a Book' by Lane Smith published by MacMillan Childrens Books AND - ironically - it even comes with an animated video trailer!


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Assembly of an iPad Mounting for a Wheelchair

By Robert Stewart on Tuesday 26th March, 2013 at 9:37am

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I've put together a video and uploaded it to YouTube which shows how to mount an iPad to a wheelchair using components supplied by an American company called RAM Mount (which are available to purchase here in the UK).

There are also captions available on this video.


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Digital jotter for the iPad

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 22nd March, 2013 at 3:16pm

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Recently I met a learner in first year in secondary school with a physical disability . She doesn't have the strength to hold books and turn pages, and she gets very tired handwriting. After due assessment and consideration of various devices we all concluded that an iPad was most suitable device for her physically: it's small and light enough for her to handle, and she rests it on her knees and against a desk, so that her hands are in her lap, which reduces fatigue. The iPad on-screen keyboard is just the right size for her to type on without stretching, and since it's touch-sensitive, it seems to require less effort than a physical keyboard.

Essentially, she wants to use the iPad for everything: reading textbooks and resources; completing homework and assessments; taking notes in class; etc etc

So, next questions are:

  • which apps should she use for different tasks and purposes in school?
  • where can she get digital textbooks?
  • how does she receive and send materials to and from teachers?
These seem to be fairly basic and common questions, so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts and findings.

For general note-taking in class ('digital jotters'), I looked at quite a few note-taking apps including the built-in Notes, Daily Notes, EverNote and Note Taker HD, to name but a few, and I  liked the look of Notability, which lets you:

  • Create notes that can contain formatted text, hand writing and drawings (with pencil and pen), sound recordings, photos (either from the camera roll, or taken and inserted directly), clippings from the web, and drawings.
  • Organise your notes into categories and subjects. 
  • Use different paper backgrounds (different colours, lined, square paper).
  • Search your notes.
  • Import and annotate PDFs.
  • Save your notes in cloud service such as DropBox and Google Drive.
  • Send your notes to other apps, and by email, as PDF or RTF. 

It looks ideal for taking notes in class, for gathering and sorting information for topic or research, and for writing short assignments. (In fact, I'm now using it myself for all my note-taking on the iPad.)

There are a few things which could be better with Notability:

  • ‘Speak Selection’ does not work and so you can’t read your notes with text-to-speech.
  • Text cannot be inserted directly on top of a PDF, so you can’t use it very easily to type answers into PDF exams, assessments or homework.
  • It does not have ‘snap to grid’ for easily drawing straight lines. 
  • You cannot easily edit your notes on a desktop or laptop computer: you can only save them as PDF, RTF or text. (For me, if it could share and sync notes with Microsoft OneNote, it would be perfect.)

But of the apps I looked at, and read about, it looks ideal for the secondary school context.

For word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, and particularly for importing and exporting Microsoft Office files, we suggested Apple's own Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

For reading textbooks in PDF (e.g. Hodder Gibson books from us, or scanned books from the Books for All Database), we went for PDF Expert, which has good study and search facilities, and lots of tools for annotation and commenting. It's also good for completing assessments such as the SQA Digital Question Papers. (Why PDF Expert in particular rather than others? While you can read PDFs with iBooks on the iPad, you can't annotate them; the free Adobe Reader app does let you annotate, but PDF Expert has better file management; and I liked PDF Expert's text annotate tool better than iAnnotate's, because you can type directly on the PDF rather than into a separate text field. (iAnnotate has features that PDF Expert doesn't, though, such as voice comments so pupils and staff can record audio notes into the PDF.)

For sharing work with staff, the only practical method in the school at this time is use of email, which is better than nothing but not as good as a file transfer/sharing method such as Edmodo, Dropbox or Google Drive. (The school doesn't use Glow.)

Feedback from the learner about these apps is so far very positive, so we'll see how they work out over time.

How about you? Which apps and techniques have you found helpful in a mainstream secondary context?


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New: 'Tobii PCEye Go' and 'Inclusive Eye Gaze Learning Curve'

By Gillian McNeill on Friday 22nd March, 2013 at 2:36pm

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Tobii PCEye Go

Tobii, the world leader in eye gaze and eye control technology, has just announced their most recent Windows computer access product the PCEye Go (Cost 2995). This replaces the PCEye and is 85% smaller (dimensions are 184 x 28 x 23 mm), powered with a single USB connection (no need to be plugged into the mains, making it a portable eye gaze solution) and is easy to use with either a standard monitor or laptop screen.

The PCEye Go has a simple mount with a slim magnetic mounting plate which is taped onto the bottom section of the monitor surround. This plate is designed to remain in place permanently, but given its slim design, should not interfere when laptop screens are closed.

Tobii’s product information describes the PCEye Go as being most suitable for monitor sizes under 19, but can be used with those up to 24.

Once we get our hands on one here at CALL Scotland, I’ll be keen to try it out with our different PCs including netbooks and tablets, with the potential for an even more portable communication solution for AAC users!

For those wishing to use eye gaze with a larger monitor, such as within a classroom environment, Tobii have announced that the PCEye Pro will be available later in the year. This is more than twice the length (dimensions are 400 x 28 x 23 mm) making it more suitable than the PC Eye Go for monitors sized 20 or larger, but is described as having an excellent suitability across a wide range of monitor sizes.

In the meantime, the PCEye Go ought to suit the requirements of most eye gaze users, whether a single user transporting between home and school/college/workplace, or swapping between users on the same site with different computers.


Inclusive Eye Gaze Learning Curve

Inclusive Technology, suppliers of special educational needs software, has just circulated details of a brand new Windows software suite, Inclusive Eye Gaze Learning Curve, described as:

"a collection of over 54 fun and engaging interactive activities specially created to teach early eye gaze access and develop choice making skills. This collection takes children on the learning curve from assessment and cause and effect understanding through to using eye gaze for communication, learning and leisure".

Useful for teachers and therapists as an eye gaze assessment and teaching tool, the suite comprises 3 CDs, titled Attention and Looking, Exploring and Playing, and Choosing and Learning. Together they are designed to help children to progress from their first steps in using eye gaze, by improving accuracy and understanding of eye gaze, in preparation for using communication and learning software.

With Inclusive Tecnology's excellent track record in providing hardware and software to help people with special needs, this ought to prove another valuable resource for a variety for professionals. 

Can't wait to try this out too!

Cost: 150 for each CD or all 3 for 399.


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Scottish Book Awards, 2012

By Allan Wilson on Thursday 7th March, 2013 at 3:42pm

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Congratulations to the winners of the Scottish Book Awards for 2012, which were announced today in Dundee. The winners were:

  • 3 - 7 years - John Fardell for The Day Louis Got Eaten
  • 8 - 11 years - Jonathan Meres for The World of Norm: May Contain Nuts
  • 12 - 16 years - Barry Hutchison for The 13th Horseman

Over 30,000 children in schools throughout Scotland voted for their favourite new book to decide the winner of each category.

CALL Scotland's Books for All project provided copies of the books in electronic accessible formats for 55 pupils with a print disability in schools throughout Scotland to allow them to join their friends in voting for their favourite book.


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Augmentative Communication News - a great resource, now free!

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 6th March, 2013 at 10:01am

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The entire archive of Sarah Blackstone's superb 'Augmentative Communication News' newsletter is now available free online.

The newsletter, typically 8 - 12 pages in length, was published 6 times a year for over 20 years between 1988 and 2009. Each issue would focus on a particular topic, e.g. Using AAC in a classroom, AAC in the Intensive Care Unit, gathering together current research and resources on the topic.

This valuable resource has now been made available for people to download free from the Augmentative Communication Inc web site. Given the passage of time and changing technology, some of the information may now be a little out f date, but the principles on which it was based are still sound and very relevant. Many of the individual newsletters can still be regarded as the best sources of information on their topic.

Sarah Blackstone deserves the thanks of the entire AAC community for her years of work on the newsletter, and for making it available to all.


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Comparison of AAC Apps

By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 5th March, 2013 at 4:35pm

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Carol Paige from the South Carolina Assistive Technology Programme has compiled a pretty comprehensive chart comparing various apps that can be used for augmentative and alternative communication. It will be very useful, but you might need a magnifying glass to read a printed copy!The same site has a number of other useful lists of apps, including:

  • Apps that make life easier
  • Concept Mapping Apps
  • Note Taking Apps
  • Reading / Writing Apps
  • Voice to Text Apps
  • Web Browser Apps
  • Word Prediction Apps
  • ... and lots more!


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Load2Learn database of accessible textbooks is now free!

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 5th March, 2013 at 10:08am

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Load2Learn is a database of downloadable accessible textbooks and images that has been set up by RNIB and Dyslexia Action with funding from the Department for Education. It's similar to the Books for All Database (we gave them some input and it's actually hosted by Scran, same as B4A) but when it was first set up, there was a membership subscription. Happily, it's now FREE! and so anyone who is working in schools with print-disabled pupils should join immediately and start getting access to more accessible titles.

To join, one member of staff in a school or service applies for membership to create a School group and then invites other staff to join the group. Then members of the group can search for and download books and images.

Since it's funded by the Department for Education, many of the secondary school books are the (English and Welsh) National Curriculum - AQA, GCSE etc - and so not relevant for most Scottish schools, but there are also many titles which are.

For example, Nelson Thornes have made a lot of their books available as PDFs - New Maths in Action; Scientifica, and there are many novels and primary textbooks available too.

Recently I was looking for accessible digital copies of Kes and Blood Brothers for a pupil and neither were available on B4A or Seeing Ear, but both are on Load2Learn.

The Load2Learn titles are offered in a range of different formats:

  • PDFs, which look just like the paper book and so will suit some learners;
  • Word files, which can be read on screen or converted into other formats such as Large print or Braille;
  • ePUB, which can be read on iPads, tablets and smartphones;
  • audio books. 
So we now have three sources of books in accessible formats for schools in Scotland:

plus of course commercial eBook venders such as Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith and the iBook Store.


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