Some of Our other websites:

Communication and Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities

You are here

Tag

RSS Feed

Author

Tags (Top 20)

Archive

Scottish Children's Book Awards, 2012

By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 3rd July, 2012 at 3:13pm

2 Comments Post a comment Permalink

The shortlisted titles for this year's Scottish Book Awards were announced last week by the Scottish Book Trust. There are three categories for the awards: Bookbug Readers (3 - 7 years); Younger Readers (8 - 11 years) and Older Readers (12 - 16 years). The shortlisted books in each category are:

Bookbug Readers

  • Solomon Crocodile by Catherine Rayner
  • The Day Louis got Eaten by John Fardell
  • Jack and the Flumflum Tree by Julia Donaldson

Younger Readers

  • Out of the Depths by Cathy MacPhail
  • Soldier's Game by James Killgore
  • The World of Norm: May Contain Nuts by Jonathan Meres

Older Readers

  • The 13th Horseman by Barry Hutchison
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  • The Prince who Walked with Lions by Elizabeth Laird

Accessible Versions of the Books

For the fourth year in a row, CALL will be producing accessible versions of the books in a variety of formats for pupils with a print disability who are unable to access traditional book formats. We plan to make the books available in the following formats:

Bookbug Readers

  • Digital files with human narration for Powerpoint and Clicker

Younger Readers and Older Readers

  • Accessible PDF
  • Microsoft Word files, allowing people to convert them to Large Print or Braille
  • Daisy (full text and audio) for iPad
  • Daisy (text only for PC with Amis)

We are currently getting copies of electronic files from the publishers of the books and hope to have the accessible format files ready by the end of the summer.

Taking Part in the Awards Scheme

Pupils in schools throughout Scotland are encouraged to take part in the Awards scheme by voting for their favourite book in their age category. Last year more than 23,000 pupils from throughout Scotland voted for their favourite book. Schools are invited to register to take part by 31st December 2012, with the deadline for voting set as 8th February 2013. Further information is available from the Scottish Book Trust.

Tags:

Share or like this post:

Free online Oxford Reading Tree eBooks from Oxford Owl

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 29th May, 2012 at 3:49pm

13 Comments Post a comment Permalink

I've been meaning to blog about this for ages and have finally got round to it!

The Oxford Owl web site has over 250 free Oxford Reading Tree eBooks for teachers, children and parents to read online. The books have a recorded narration (i.e. human, not computer speech) and you can zoom in and out to make the text and pictures bigger or smaller. Turning the pages is done with a click of a mouse - you can't use the keyboard or switches directly.  You could however point the mouse over the 'next page' button and then use a switch to click, to turn the page.

The books are ideal for using on a whiteboard or for individuals to read on their own computer (but not iPad - the books are Adobe Flash format which don't play on iOS).

There are also some activities for each book (although they didn't work on my computer - no doubt got the wrong version of Java / Flash / other plug in) and the 'Kids Barn' has a lot of information and games about Biff, Chip, Kipper and Floppy and the other characters. 

 

Tags:

Share or like this post:

109 new books on the Books for All Database

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 8th May, 2012 at 12:49pm

1 Comment Post a comment Permalink

 

109 new books have just been added to the Books for All Database. They are all Large Print PDFs which have been created by the VTSS team in Edinburgh, and we are grateful to them for sharing these accessible copies via the Database. 

The books can be downloaded and printed out for pupils with visual difficulties, and they can also be read on screen, which can be helpful to learners with dyslexia and reading difficulties, pupils with physical disabilities who have difficulty holding the paper book and turning pages. 

Learners can read the books on computer using free Adobe Reader software, which lets you zoom in and out to change the size, and adjust the text and page colours. With most of the books, the text can be read out using either the free built-in Adobe Read Out Loud, or other text readers such as Ivona MiniReader, ClaroRead, Co:Writer, Penfriend or PDFaloud.  Pupils can use the Adobe Reader commenting and markup tools to highlight key passages and add their own typed or recorded audio notes. To find out more, take a look at our Video Guides and Quick Guides.

You can find the new books on the Database here. (Note you have to log in to the database see the new books).

 

Tags:

Share or like this post:

More libraries are lending eBooks and downloadble audio books

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 9th March, 2012 at 5:19pm

1 Comment Post a comment Permalink

The eBook revolution continues apace in all sorts of ways, and more Scottish public libraries are joining in by lending eBooks and downloadable audiobooks, for us to borrow and read or listen to on our computers, iPhone or iPad, and Android devices. So far, five local authorities offer eBooks and downloadable audiobooks:

To borrow eBooks and audiobooks you need the OverDrive Media Console program or app on your computer or other device, and computer users also need Adobe Digital Editions to view the eBook. Both OverDrive and Adobe Digital Editions are free.  
I joined the City of Edinburgh eBook library to try it out. I went round to the local library and registered and was given a card with a four digit passcode. I logged on to the library eBook web site, downloaded OverDrive to an iPad, and then clicked the 'Get Books' button on the iPad. I browsed through the books available and decided to borrow The Dyslexic Advantage by Fernette and Brock Eide. I typed in my library membership number and the passcode to download it and I've been reading it for a few weeks: lots of interesting and useful insights. It's a big book and I don't have too much time, and when the loan period expires it automatically deletes itself - although you can always go back and extend the loan.
It's a fairly painless process and seems like a good way to access eBooks and audiobooks for free.
A few observations:
  • You can't borrow Kindle books (yet - this may happen, but so far Kindle books are only available to US libraries).
  • The OverDrive app on the iPad has some features to improve accessibility, although it's quite limited - the maximum font size is not huge (I'd say about 24 point), colour options are only black text on white or sepia, and the font is serifed. However, you can use the iPad built-in white-on-black colour scheme, and have the text read out using VoiceOver. 
  • On a Windows PC or Mac, you read the eBook with Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). There are two versions - ADE 1.72 and ADE 1.8 Preview. The latter has accessibility features: on a Windows PC, you can have the book read out with Jaws or NVDA screen reader software, while Mac users can have the text read out using the built-in VoiceOver. You can't read the book with other text-to-speech programs such as WordTalk, Read and Write Gold, ClaroRead etc, and you can't copy or save the text into other programs to have it read out. The font is serifed and you can't change it. You can't change the colours within the program (you can with the computer's own display settings).
See the Books for All Finding Books pages for more on finding books in alternative formats, and particularly the library page for links to library services.

Tags:

Share or like this post:

SQA Answer Booklets in Word format are now available

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 3rd February, 2012 at 4:11pm

1 Comment Post a comment Permalink

One of the requests from the staff who attended the Digital Papers Focus Group meeting in October 2011 was for SQA to provide answer booklets in Microsoft Word format. While answer booklets have been provided as PDF documents, some staff felt that the Word format would be more suitable for some candidates. You can now download answer booklets in Word / DOC format from the SQA web site.

The main advantage of using PDF answer booklets with Adobe Reader is that candidates can use the same program to access both question paper and answer booklet. However, disadvantages of the PDF answer booklets are: 

 

  • Each page contains a separate text box for the answer and the candidate's text does not automatically flow from one page to another.
  • The font and size are fixed, and formatting is basic.
  • Inserting symbols, formulae and equations is awkward.
  • Drawing tools are basic.
  • PDFaloud text-to-speech software does not highlight the text in the answer booklet as it reads, and it reads the whole page - you can't just read a sentence, word or paragraph.
Using answer booklets in DOC or Word format does mean using one program to read the paper and a different one to type answers, but the advantages are:

 

 

  • Word is a much better word processor than an Adobe Reader text box! The candidate can change fonts, sizes, styles, use formatting etc etc.
  • Symbols, formulae, equations and diagrams can be easily inserted.
  • A wider range of text-to-speech programs can be used to read out your answers, including the free WordTalk reader.
  • Speech recognition can be used to dictate into Word, including the free Windows 7 speech recognition software.
  • Support tools for mind-mapping, spellchecking and word prediction (if permitted by SQA) tend to work better with Word than Adobe Reader.
Thanks to the team at SQA for listening and acting!

 

Tags:

Share or like this post:

New Quick Guide - Calibre and the Kindle

By Allan Wilson on Friday 3rd February, 2012 at 12:20pm

3 Comments Post a comment Permalink

Most people who use a Kindle simply download the books they want from the Amazon web site. But what can you do if you want to read something else on your Kindle? The Kindle recognises Kindle (.azw), Text (.txt) and Mobi (.mobi) files and can also view (but not read out) PDFs. It cannot currently handle E-Pub files, so if the book or resource you are looking for is only available in E-Pub format, you need to convert it, using a program such as Calibre.

Calibre is a free eBook management program that you can download from the Calibre web site. It is a very comprehensive program that allows you to search for and download eBooks from the internet, view them and manage your collection. It also allows you to convert between the various file formats used by different eBook readers, so that you can read your eBook on, for example, a Kindle. Calibre also allows you to download online editions of newspapers and magazines from all around the world.

Some aspects of Calibre are a little quirky and it does not have built-in text-to-speech, though it links well with free TTS programs, such as NaturalReader and Ivona Minireader. Nevertheless, it is a very useful program for anybody using digital books.

CALL have now produced a Quick Guide to Using Calibre to Read E-Books and Convert E-Pub Files for the Kindle, which can be downloaded from the Quick Guide section of the CALL web site, under Books for All.

More 'Books for All' Quick Guides

More than 30 further Quick Guides are available in this section covering many different aspects of finding and adapting books for learners with a print disability. Titles include:

- Accessible Formats from Local Authority Library Services

- Accessing Books for All Scotland Database via Scran

- Copyright and Books for All

- Creating interactive digital resources with Adobe Acrobat Professional

- Free eBooks-eTexts and audio files from the Internet

- How to navigate to the Books for All Scotland database from within Glow

- Kindle for PC Accessibility Plugin

- Making Accessible Digital Reading Books

- Making Maths Resources

- Scanning into Word with FineReader 10

Tags:

Share or like this post:

iBooks 2, iBooks Author and digital textbooks

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 20th January, 2012 at 12:15pm

0 Comments Post a comment Permalink

Yesterday Apple launched iBooks 2, a new version of the iBooks app for iThingys; iBooks Author, a program for the Mac which is for writing and designing iBooks, and a range of interactive textbooks. The video about the interactive textbooks video a well worth a look - very promotional but also inspiring, and particularly relevant for those of us involved in supporting students with print disabilities.

Coincidentally, yesterday we ran a course for the first time on eBooks, Kindles and iPads. Preparing for it was an educational experience for Stuart, Sandra, Craig and I, and we learned a lot about the features and also limitations of Kindles, iPads and commercial eBooks.

A few observations, just from this one course:

 

  • Over half the teachers on the course owned a Kindle.
  • A teacher from a Primary unit for pupils with visual impairment has 6 Kindles and she says she's almost stopped using paper large print completely - she emails the materials to the Kindles and the pupils use large font sizes on the devices instead. It saves a lot of paper, printing and therefore money, and the pupils prefer the Kindles to most (not all) of the paper large print books (books with large colour diagrams might not be that good on the Kindle screen). It's also a lot quicker - printing out 800 pages of 36 pt text takes a long time, whereas emailing the file to the Kindles takes seconds. 
  • Another teacher on the course has a son who is dyslexic. He used to need coloured overlays to read books and was never a great reader, but he can see the Kindle screen display: she says he now spends hours reading books on the Kindle whereas before he never read for pleasure.   
  • Participants generally felt that the Kindle, iPad, iPod etc have a considerable 'cool' factor, which is of course a big issue. And because they are mainstream devices, you don't look that different if you use one to read books.
  • The eBook formats and readers are definitely becoming more accessible - bigger range of fonts, options to change colours and font sizes, better access with text-to-speech software.
  • Some public libraries (Edinburgh, Dundee and South Ayrshire, at least) are now offering eBooks on loan. You can borrow a book and read it on your computer, iPod, iPad, Android device etc.
  • The most exciting thing, for me, is the huge increase in the availability of books and materials - as well as Kindle, we have iBooks, WH Smith, Google Book store. Although the commercial eBook formats and readers may not give us everything we want in terms of accessibility (yet), they are getting there, and we are already seeing how the technology can give print disabled pupils access to learning materials in a way that is quicker, cheaper, easier and more independent than what we had before.
PS If you've not seen this fine example of a new page-turning technology, take a look - it's fun.
 

 

 

Tags:

Share or like this post:

Including All Children in the Scottish Children's Book Awards

By Robert Stewart on Monday 16th January, 2012 at 10:16am

1 Comment Post a comment Permalink

The 2011 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. Votes MUST reach Scottish Book Trust by 5.30pm on Friday 27th January 2012 to be included in the final count.

Last year:

  • over 40,000 children registered and an amazing 17,000 votes were cast;
  • children and young people from every local authority in Scotland, from Aberdeen to Dumfries; Shetland to Arran, took part;
  • nearly 1,000 accessible copies of the books were provided to young judges by RNIB and CALL.

The awards were originally set up by the Scottish Arts Council in 1999 and are now run by 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)

Younger Readers (8 - 11 years)

Older Readers (11 - 16 years)

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", the high quality Scottish computer voice 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.

Tags:

Share or like this post:

New Video and Quick Guide index on the Books for All web site

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 22nd November, 2011 at 6:11pm

0 Comments Post a comment Permalink

We have added a new section to the Books for All web site which gathers together all the quick guides and also the new video guides on the Education Scotland web site, into separate pages. It should be much easier to navigate and find the resources you need. 

We'll be adding to these in the coming months and if you have any suggestions for topics that need covered please add a comment or let us know.

Tags:

Share or like this post:

A quick way to get Stuart to work with PDFaloud

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 13th October, 2011 at 4:29pm

0 Comments Post a comment Permalink

Following on from the previous post re PDFaloud not offering you Stuart, Robert here in CALL has written a script which finds all the PDFaloud safe voice lists on your Windows computer and adds Stuart to them.

Here's what to do: 

  1. Install Stuart first.
  2. Save the file to your computer.
  3. Find the file (it's called install-stuart-to-safevoices.zip.), double click on it to open or unzip it, and then double click on "install.cmd"
  4. It will then update the PDFaloud safe voices with Stuart.
  5. Restart Adobe Reader and PDFaloud should offer you Stuart.

 

Tags:

Share or like this post:

New 'how-to' Books for All videos from CALL and Education Scotland

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 12th September, 2011 at 1:55pm

0 Comments Post a comment Permalink

Earlier this year Stuart and I were videoed finding, using and making books in accessible formats, and the videos are now available on the Education Scotland web site. They provide a quick and reasonably (we think!) straightforward introduction to Books for All, and you can download the videos and the transcripts for CPD. The only unfortunate thing about the videos are the dodgy presenters.

There are also some very illuminating and useful comments from staff and young people about how accessible formats can be used in practice, and why it's so important for learners to have books and materials that they can read and access independently.

Essential viewing!

 

Tags:

Share or like this post:

Including All Children in the Scottish Children's Book Awards

By Robert Stewart on Tuesday 6th September, 2011 at 12:30pm

0 Comments Post a comment Permalink

The 2011 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 40,000 children registered and an amazing 17,000 votes were cast;
  • children and young people from every local authority in Scotland, from Aberdeen to Dumfries; Shetland to Arran, took part;
  • nearly 1,000 accessible copies of the books were provided to young judges by RNIB and CALL.

The awards were originally set up by the Scottish Arts Council in 1999 and are now run by 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)

Younger Readers (8 - 11 years)

Older Readers (11 - 16 years)

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", the high quality Scottish computer voice 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.

Tags:

Share or like this post:

Daisy Books now on the Books for All Database

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

0 Comments Post a comment Permalink

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!

Tags:

Share or like this post:

The Scottish Male Voice is chosen!

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

0 Comments Post a comment Permalink

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

Tags:

Share or like this post:

New Kindle for PC software has text-to-speech

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 31st May, 2011 at 12:57pm

5 Comments Post a comment Permalink

The Kindle for PC Accessibility Plugin is now available for UK customers (and also for users in Australia, Canada and the U.S.). Kindle for PC is free software for reading Kindle eBooks on your Windows PC. The main feature of the new plugin is a text-to-speech tool which means that blind, visually impaired and severely dyslexic readers can listen to the book being read out by the computer. Kindle for PC Accessibility plugin has:

  • Text-to-speech reading with adjustable voice settings
  • Voice-guided menu navigation
  • Large font sizes
  • High contrast reading mode
  • Keyboard navigation
  • Accessible shortcuts

The Kindle reader software can be used to read out the text of the book, and blind readers can use Jaws or NVDA to read the menus and navigation instructions.

The software comes with two American voices - one male and one female - which are OK but not as good as Heather, for example. You can start, pause and stop the speech and read the current, previous or next sentences (see the list of shortcuts below). You can't use other voices on your computer with the Kindle software, and it doesn't highlight the text as it reads.

Like the standard Kindle reader, the font size can be massive (up to about 90pt), and you can change the colours (white on black, black on white, black on sepia).

For keyboard only users, there are keyboard shortcuts to navigate around the software and the eBooks.

The new Kindle reader is a significant step towards making commercial eBooks accessible for readers with print disabilities. There are now over 700,000 books available from the Amazon UK website and so it's a huge source of digital books.

I've updated our Kindle Quick Guide with the new features and you can now download it.

Tags:

Share or like this post: