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Including All Children in the Royal Mail Scottish Children's Book Awards

By Robert Stewart on Monday 29th November, 2010 at 10:11am

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The 2010 Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books 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 31,000 children were involved and an amazing 15,014 votes were cast;
  • Over 400 schools and libraries in every corner of Scotland, from Aberdeen to Dumfries; Shetland to Arran, took part;
  • The 2009 awards ceremony brought 650 young judges from across Scotland together to see their peers act out the winning books.

The Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books 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.

  • 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.


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Manfred the Baddie rides again!

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 22nd November, 2010 at 11:00am

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During November 2010, all Primary 1 children in Scotland will receive a free copy of Manfred the Baddie from the Scottish Book Trust. Manfred won the 0-7 age category of the Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books last year, and over 11,000 children voted in this age group. The books will be delivered to local authorities for distribution to every P1 class in the area. The author, John Fardell, is 'on tour' meeting pupils and will also be taking part in a Glow Meet on Thursday 25th November from 1.45 to 2.45. The Scottish Book Trust web site has more information and also videos and teacher resources and posters.

However, some children won't be able to read or access the books. Some pupils can't hold the book or turn the pages because of physical disability; some pupils with sight loss won't be able to see the book; others, with learning difficulties, will struggle with the text.

Last year we produced accessible digital versions of Manfred so that pupils with these 'print disabilities' could read the book and take part in the awards. Pupils with physical disabilities can press a key, click the mouse, or hit a switch to turn the pages, while children with other difficulties can listen to an audio narration of the story.

If you have any children in your class who won't be able to read the Manfred paper books and you would like a digital version for them, download a request form (PDF format or DOC format) and send it to us, and we'll send you a CD.

Note that these digital books are only for children who can't read or access the paper copy.


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Accessible copies of 2010 Royal Mail Award Shortlist

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 18th November, 2010 at 5:32pm

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We are pleased to say that we will soon be able to provide accessible digital copies of the nine books shortlisted for the 2010 Royal Mail Book Awards. The books have been produced in cooperation with the publishers and The Scottish Book Trust. Last year over 31,000 children were involved in the awards and 15,014 votes were cast. The accessible digital versions are for children with 'print disabilities', who canot read the ordinary paper books.

For example, children with physical disabilities who can't hold the book or turn the pages themselves (because of spinal injury or cerebral palsy, for example) can click a switch or press a key to turn the pages of the digital books. 

Dyslexic readers, or children with visual impairments can change the font size and/or colours on screen, or use text to speech software to have the books read out by the computer.

The books will be available on CD, free of charge, from CALL: details should be upon the Books for All web site by the end of November.

RNIB Scotland have also produced Large Print, Braille and audio versions of the books, for children with visual impairments.


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Dyslexia Scotland Education Conference Saturday 25th September

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 27th July, 2010 at 3:24pm

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If you teach or support children and young people with dyslexia, you will be interested in the Dyslexia Scotland Education Conference which this year will be held on Saturday 25th September at the Edinburgh Conference Centre at Heriot-Watt University.

The theme of the conference is "Innovative Practice in Dyslexia: A New Decade". The conference is again chaired by Dr. Gavin Reid and speakers include Rob Long (Chartered Educational Psychologist); Laura Ann Currie (HMIe); Fran Ranaldi, Dr Margaret Crombie, staff from Lochaber High School, Jennifer Drysdale (PT Learning Support, Fife) and yours truly. There are also panel sessions and an exhibition.

This conference is always a great event and if I wasn't otherwise engaged talking at the same time, I'd be at Margaret Crombie's session on the new Assessing Dyslexia Toolkit, and the workshop from the Lochaber team, who have created a web site with downloadable audio materials for revision.

To find out more and book, go to the Dyslexia Scotland web site.


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Accessible Formats from your local library

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 16th July, 2010 at 11:53am

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Forbes Smith, who is coordinating a working group looking at provision of accessible formats in East Dunbartonshire, emailed recently to say that East Dunbartonshire Library Service now has a service for providing downloadable audiobooks. So far they have over 560 titles available for immediate download onto PC, iPod or mp3 player and Forbes says they are adding 30 titles a week. Forbes says he signed up and then within half an hour of returning to his base, he had downloaded an audio book novel. There are an extensive range of materials available including lecture materials for university students.

To find out more, go to the East Dunbartonshire online library site, click on My Account, then on Audiobook Downloads.

Forbes' email prompted me to ask if other library services are doing the same thing, so I've just spent a few happy hours googling and exploring the online library catalogues in all 32 local authorities. I couldn't find many that have downloadable audio books, but almost all of them have audio books on cassette and CD, and also Large Print books.

South Ayrshire has downloadable 'eReads' (eBooks) as well as audio and Large Print, although they are Adobe ePUB format which is OK for readers with a physical impairment who need the book on screen, but not so good for people with visual impairment or dyslexia because the maximum font size is quite small and you can't read the book with text-to-speech software.

I've made up a table with the contact details and we'll add it to the Finding Books page on the Books for All web site.

So, when looking for books in accessible formats, don't forget your local library service!


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Tah dah! CLA Print Disability Licence is now available!

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 12th July, 2010 at 12:25pm

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On 28th May we blogged that the CLA announced a new Print Disability Licence to replace the 'VIP' licence, and today we received our copy of this new licence. Why is this good news? Well, the Print Disability Licence is for:

  • "an educational establishment or a body that is not conducted for profit" who
  • "wishes to make and to distribute multiple copies of copyright material in a format accessible to persons who could not otherwise read or access such copyright material by reason of visual impairment or other disability where no such format is commercially available."
This means that holders of the Print Disability Licence can now legally make, for example, digital copies of books for pupils with dyslexia, learning difficulties, autism or hearing impairment. Some of the terms and conditions:
  • You must legally possess an original copy of the book from whch you make the Accessible Copy.
  • You cannot make an Accessible Copy if one is commercially available in a similar accessible format.
  • Your Accessible Copy must contain "a statement that it is a copy of the original Work made under a CLA licence for the personal use of an Authorised Person".
  • Your Accessible Copy must contain the title, name of author and publisher, and the published edition from which you have made your Accessible Copy.
  • You can add facilities for navigation around digital formats and you can enlarge, reduce or change colour of text or illustrations, provided these changes do not "amount to a derogatory treatment of the Work".
  • You can give an "Intermediate Copy" to other CLA licence holders. An Intermediate Copy is a copy which you have made as part of the production process - for example, it could be a digital file which you made in order to create a Large Print or a Braille copy.
  • You must keep records of copies made, and send the records to CLA annually, on 1st May each year. The report should list the title, ISBN, author(s), publisher, edition, format, number of copies created and the date they were created.
This new licence will lead to big changes and developments because the potential 'market' for Accessible Copies is now much larger and more diverse. It means that charities like Calibre can lend all their audio books to dyslexic readers as well as those with visual impairment, that dyslexic readers will be able to download text files of books from The Seeing Ear, that local authority transcription services can share Accessible Copies far more freely than before, and importantly, it also means that all Print-Disabled pupils can download and use Accessible Copies of books from the Books for All Scotland Database.


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New Copyright Licence including ALL print-disabled people is here at last!!!!

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 28th May, 2010 at 4:50pm

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We're really very happy indeed to report that today the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) launched a new ‘Print Disability Licence’ to replace the old 'VIP' licence. The new licence has been extended to include all people with a 'print disability' - the previous licence was restricted to people with visual impairment or physical disability. This was clearly inequitable (as we pointed out in the 2007 Books for All Report) and so we are delighted that the new licence addresses this inequality. It means that dyslexic people are now covered under the licence.

Basically, the new licence allows not-for-profit organisations to make Accessible Copies of most published, copyright works and provide them to people with print disabilities who cannot read or access the printed copies. The Accessible Copy may be, for example, Large Print, Braille, audio (synthetic or recorded), digital (with or without text to speech), etc. The licence is free.

We've been waiting for the new licence for quite some time but now that it's here, it means that for example:

  • books on the developing Books for All Scotland database can be downloaded for any print disabled pupil, not just those pupils with visual impairment or physical disability;
  • books that we, or any other VIP licence holder has made, can be freely shared across the UK provided they are for use by print disabled readers;
  • schools and local authorities in the 15 Scottish local authorities who hold VIP licences will be able to make and share their accessible copies with a much larger and wider range of pupils.

For children and young people in schools with dyslexia, learning difficulties, hearing impairment, or who may be on the autistic spectrum, this is very good news.

The new licence is the result of a lot of work by CLA, the Right to Read Alliance (of which CALL is a member) and the publishers' Accessibility Action Group.

Read more about the new licence in the CLA press release.


(Right, let's get sourcing, adapting, making and sharing these Accessible Books.....)


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New guide for teachers on how to create accessible resources

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 24th May, 2010 at 1:23pm

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Accessible Text: Guidelines for Good Practice, is a new publication from CALL Scotland on 'how to' produce accessible resources. 

Making your learning materials accessible to pupils with disabilities or additional support needs is not only good practice but is also necessary to meet equality legislation.  

Part 1 of the book, written by Fran Ranaldi, looks at the design of resources and covers issues such as the choice and size of font, use of images and colour and the visual layout and design. By following the guidelines in to the book, teachers should be able to create learning resources that can be more easily read by pupils with, for example, dyslexia, visual impairment, or learning difficulties.

Part 2, by Paul Nisbet, look at how resources can be made accessible in digital formats. Inceasingly, teachers are creating resources which will be accessed on screen as well as on paper, and this part of the book shows how digital accessibility can be built in when writing the material, with relatively little effort. 

You can download the book for free from CALL Scotland's web site. Altenatively, order print copies (10) from CALL’s online shop

Fran Ranaldi is an experienced teacher who has worked for HMIe on the Review of Education for learners with dyslexia, the Scottish Government on Accessibly Guidelines and within her education authority on several projects for dyslexia and accessibility across the curriculum.

Paul Nisbet is Joint Coordinator of CALL Scotland and works directly with pupils with additional support needs and takes a lead role in current projects to help pupils access curriculum resources, such as Books for All, SQA digital exam papers, and The Scottish Voice

Preparation and dissemination of the book is funded by the Scottish Government Schools Directorate.


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New Bookshare online introduction to accessible formats

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 4th May, 2010 at 12:55pm

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Bookshare has a new online learning module for people who want to learn more about accessible digital books and resources. It has a US focus, but has good examples, with video and audio clips, of why some pupils need books in accessible digital formats and why it makes a difference to their education.

Bookshare is a huge US database of over 70,000 titles in Daisy 3 and BRF (Braille) formats: it shows what you can do with $32 million over 5 years of federal money. Memo to Victoria Quay: any chance of similar funding for the Books for All Scotland Database?

About 5,000 of the Bookshare titles are available to readers and schools outside the USA - see the Bookshare UK and International Membership pages. Most of the books are fiction titles and so it's worth doing a search on the database (use the Advanced Search button and look for "Books available worldwide") to see if there are books which you want. If there are, you might want to join Bookshare. The cost of international membership is $25 initially plus a $75 annual fee; organisations such as schools and libraries and I think also local authority services can pay for individual pupils (at the individual membership rate), or by the number of books you want to download (30 books for $300, 60 books for $450, 100 books for $600). 

Membership also gives you free access to software for reading the Daisy books - Victor Reader Soft, which is probably best for readers with visual impairment, and Read OutLoud Bookshare Edition, which is designed more with dyslexia or reading difficulties in mind. With the BRF files, you can print out Braille copies.


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New Barrington Stoke eBooks

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 31st March, 2010 at 4:10pm

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Barrington Stoke, the Scottish publisher of high interest books for struggling readers, has released eBook versions of six of their titles.

The books are available from the i-Stars web site in Adobe PDF, Microsoft Reader or Zinio Whiteboard formats and you can buy a single home licence (6.99) or a school licence (25).

The six Barrington Stoke eBooks are:

  • Alien;
  • Gremlin;
  • Sol Campbell;
  • Death Leap;
  • Flint;
  • Respect!

We have been speaking to Barrington Stoke for some time to encourage them to release digital versions of their books, and so it's great to see it happening. In the wider scheme of things we would rather see publishers selling accessible digital copies of their books at an affordable price, than rely on our collective efforts to scan papers books into the computer and make digital versions.

One great thing about these new books is that they are accessible with text-to-speech: most commercial eBooks can't be read with text-to-speech software because the publisher has protected them to prevent them being copied, which also prevents the text-to-speech software getting at the text to read it. The Barrington Stoke books aren't protected in this way, so you can use text-to-speech to read them out.

The Zinio versions are designed for use on a whiteboard but can also be read on a PC using the free Zinio Reader software.

The Microsoft Reader versions can be opened on a PC or PDA using free Microsoft Reader software and the computer can also read them out if you install the free Microsoft Reader Text-to-speech package. The screenshot on the left below shows a book in Microsoft Reader - the text is being read out and highlighted as it is read.

The PDF books can be read on almost anything - Mac, PC, mobile phone, iPod etc using various versions of Adobe Reader software. The screen shots below shows a PDF book with a clickable index on the left of the screen, and two pages displayed side by side.

We hope that more publishers will follow Barrington Stoke's lead and make their books available in accessible digital formats.


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eBooks becoming more accessible?

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 16th March, 2010 at 10:36am

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eBooks have been around for some years now without making much impact but recently there has been a lot more buzz about them. There are a lot of interesting possibilities with eBooks for people with print disabilities but the main one is access to books: if accessible eBooks could be purchased direct from a publisher then we would no longer have to  contact the publisher to ask for a digital copy and wait while they find it, or rely on someone somewhere scanning the book into a digital format. For this to happen, we need accessible eBook readers and accessible eBooks.

The first eBook readers left a lot to be desired in terms of accessibilty, but the new Kindle devices (particularly the larger Kindle DX) looks more interesting. Amazon have been under pressure to improve the accessibility of the Kindle - for example the United States Justice Deptartment has agreed that three Universities will not buy or recommend the Kindle unless it is fully accessible.

On the new Kindle DX, it seems the text size can be up to about 20 point, and Kindle claim they are going to add a new font in the summer which will double this size (i.e. 40 point). Of course the Kindle can also read the text out using text-to-speech software: the voice is provided by Nuance and so it should be quite good (albeit American). A major limitation is that it can only read 'unprotected' eBooks, and most of the commercial books are protected to prevent them being copied. RNIB and others are lobbying for publishers to find a way to protect their interests and also make their books accessible, so we hope to see an improvement here.

The new Apple iPad also looks interesting because Apple says it can read out eBooks using 'VoiceOver', the iPad screen reader, and you can change the text size and also the font. We don't know yet if it will be able to read commercial eBooks, or if this function will be restricted, like the Kindle. To read more about the iPad accessibility features go to the iPad features web page on accessibility.

So it looks like things are moving fast in the world of accessible eBooks.

If you want to keep up to date with developments I recommend Denise Dwyer's Print for People blog. Denise is a Development Officer with RNIB and her blog is a really helpful up-to-date summary of accessibility developments in the publishing world.


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Creating Accessible Information with symbols

By Paul Nisbet on Wednesday 24th February, 2010 at 5:51pm

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Many people think that 'alternative format' means things like Large Print, Braille, audio, Daisy etc, but it also includes symbolised materials. Widgit software, who publish software for creating and using symbolised resources, are running a FREE day on symbols here in CALL on Wednesday 3rd March. Go here to book a place.

Widgit have pioneered the use of symbols in learning and communication for over 25 years and their software and services are used worldwide to create symbol-supported materials in print, onscreen and online. Information augmented by symbols can be helpful for people with learning, language and communication disabilities, dyslexia, those with English as a second language and students with literacy difficulties.

The first part of the day will look at incorporating symbol based information in a variety of communication media. There will be a focus on the importance of this for educational establishments such as schools, colleges and universities to provide accessible information as part of their learning and teaching, on their websites, as part of their general marketing strategies and within other services such as libraries, design units etc.

The second part of the day will provide an opportunity to have hands on experience of using the software and will provide delegates with the chance to try out different Widgit products including Communicate in Print (symbol dtp software to create books, worksheets, newsletters and posters etc) and Communicate Symwriter (a symbol and grid supported writing tool).

What you'll learn:
Incorporating symbol based information in a variety of communication media;
hands on experience of using Widgit software.


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New books on the Books for All Scotland Database

By Paul Nisbet on Thursday 28th January, 2010 at 5:10pm

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Another 54 books were added to the Books for All Scotland Database today.

There are 23 new books in PDF which have been produced by CALL Scotland. LTS funded the production of these books, which are scanned PDF copies of third and fourth year textbooks from various publishers including Heinemann, Leckie and Leckie, Hodder and Pulse. The books were originally produced for a pupil with physical disability and they have structure for easy navigation. They have been OCRd so that most of the text is readable with text-to-speech software, but some parts of books with very complex visual layouts are not accurate - the OCR process just doesn't work with squint text or low contrast text on coloured backgrounds.

There are also 31 new 'Classic' titles such as Frankenstein, Heart of Darkness, Kidnapped and Oliver Twist in PDF and Microsoft Reader format. Most of these books were produced by the participants on the Books for All course in Stirling last term: thanks to Anne Beveridge at LTS who checked, amended and collated these titles.

The new books can be used by pupils with visual or physical impairment - pupils with other print disabilities should not use them (yet) because the CLA licence under which they are made does not yet cover other disabilites (but we're told it will, any minute now...).

Teachers can access the Books for All Scotland Database via the Finding Books page or by going direct to the Database itself. To log in to the Database and download books you need a Scran password (all teachers in Scotland have one - someone in your school or local authority will know it) or you can log in via Glow.


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Teach reading, use alternative formats, or do both?

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 26th January, 2010 at 1:38pm

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The Books for All programme is about learning resources in accessible, alternative formats for people who cannot access standard printed books.

Sometimes this is due to, for example, severe dyslexia, visual impairment, blindness or physical impairment. In these case it is self-evident that the reader can't read a paper book because they either can't see, can't hold the book and turn pages, or just can't read.

But there are also many children and young people who have problems with reading when the cause is less obvious. Maybe they have a language difficulty, or a visual-perceptual problem, or maybe English is not their native tongue.

Or maybe they have never been read to as a child, never been comfortable with print, and have not had enough practice to become a fluent reader. (I read somewhere that you need to practice reading for 5,000 hours to become fluent.)

In these cases, should we try and teach the pupil to read, or should we use, say, audio books or digital books that can be read out by the computer? If we persevere with teaching literacy, will the pupil get frustrated and fall behind in class because they cannot read independently? By introducing books in accessible formats maybe we can prevent this frustration, help the reader be more independent, and at least give experience of language and literature. Maybe if we can encourage pupils to read books in accessible formats it will help motivate and develop general literacy and actually help develop reading skills? Maybe the opposite is true: if we give books in accessible formats, will they ever learn to read standard print?

Or should we try to both teach reading and also provide accessible formats so we have the best of both worlds - access to the curriculum and also development of reading skills?

This is a long introduction to a short blog to say that Pearson Education have published some interesting case studies and research reports about their Rapid Reading intervention programme which they say is "an award-winning, Wave 3 reading intervention programme that's been proven to deliver more than twice the normal rate of progress." Of course, there are many programmes and methods which make similar claims (see Dr. Chris Singleton's comprehensive review of teaching methods Interventions for Dyslexia) but the Rapid Reading videos and reports are interesting and well worth a look.

(And if anyone has answers to the questions posed above we'd be really keen to hear them....)


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SQA 2009 Adapted Digital past papers are now available

By Paul Nisbet on Friday 22nd January, 2010 at 2:02pm

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SQA have put up the 2009 adapted digital past papers on their web site for anyone to download. They cover all levels from Intermediate through to Advance Higher with a wide range of different subjects. This means you can now download papers from 2007, 2008 and 2009 for revision and practice.

In response to comments from centres, SQA have added 'tick boxes' to Part 1 of the Standard Grade Chemistry paper. Previously, you had to use the Comment/markup tools to draw a circle or mark the answer from the multiple choice, but now you just click with the mouse, which should be faster and simpler.

In 2009 there were 1,167 requests for Adaped Digital Question Papers from 73 centres on behalf of 422 candidates. To find out more about digital papers visit  CALL's dedicated web site, SQA's Assessment Arrangements site, or come on a CALL Scotland training course.


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