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Technology and ASN: Information Day for Parents 12 November

By Stuart Aitken on Friday 4th November, 2011 at 11:57am

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There are still a few places available for any parent interested in coming along to Saturday's Parent Information Day on 12th November 2011. You can find out about and try many of the specialised technologies available to support children and young people with additional support needs. Following on from our everpopular annual Family Fun Technology Days, Saturday 12th November will have a similar format but this time it's just for parents.

The day will run 10.00 to 2.00pm at CALL Scotland and will be a mix of displays, presentations, hands-on and a chance for one-to-one sessions with CALL Scotland staff and, of course, meet other parents. Cost is 10 and a light sandwich lunch is provided.



After consulting with parent members of National Parent Forum Scotland we’re running short presentations covering:

  • Overview of CALL services
  • Digital Question Papers
  • Apps for iPad, iPod, iPhone - we're delighted that parent Kate Farrell agreed to run this session and be available on the day
  • Books for All
  • Low tech to high tech communication aids
  • AccessApps / MyStudyBar / Windows 7 speech recognition


Running in parallel with the presentations we'll have a range of workstations to try things out, discuss issues, have your questions answered. Topics include:

  • Software for dyslexia including NaturalReader, ClaroRead, Dragon Naturally Speaking, as well as information about Reading Pens
  • Digital question papers or digital exams - find out how many schools are using them, what teachers are doing to support their use and how successful they're proving with pupil in helping them to become independent, successful learners and confident individuals
  • Books for All - how this can help schools and authorities meet their duties under the Equality Act 2010 to provide information in accessible alternative formats
  • Apps for iPads, iPods, iPhones for symbols users, reading books, writing and a host of other education applications. 
  • AccessApps, MyStudyBar and speech recognition directly into PCs running Windows 7
  • Low tech as well as high tech communication aids - from symbol communication books, Personal Communication Passports through to dynamic screen display systems
  • Alternative access to computers - switches, switch interfaces, adapted mice, keyboards and much much more

To find out more download the timetable for the day and you can book a place online.


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A quick way to get Stuart to work with PDFaloud

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

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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, 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.



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Cartoon Video introducing Assistive Technology

By Sally Millar on Monday 3rd October, 2011 at 10:08am

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This fun little cartoon video explains much of what is important about assistive technology for disabled users, in a clear and pretty cool way.


I should clarify. The CALL Scotland team did not make this video, though I would be very proud if we had. We are just passing it on for wider appreciation. It was made by a team led by Jim Tobias of Inclusive Technologies. You can view the original at



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Get-together day for People who use AAC

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 21st September, 2011 at 2:30pm

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Your communication: Your rights

  • Where? Edinburgh: The Faith Centre, Gilmerton (directions will be supplied, on booking)
  • When? Monday 7th November, 10.30 am - 3 pm (lunch provided)
  • Who? Adults (16+)in Scotland that use AAC;  Claire Edwards and Shirley Young, Inclusive Communication in Scotland project;  Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland folk (CALL, KeyComm, FACCT, TASSC, SCTCI, Ayrshire and Arran)
  • Why? To have a nice get-together with AAC friends. To get an update on things that are happening. To give your views on things that are important about communication, out and about in the community.
  • How? Book your place and your lunch by 24 October - phone, email or return the booking form to: CALL Scotland, University of Edinburgh, Paterson’s Land, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AQ. Tel - 0131 651 6235, Email or book online at the Augmentative Communication in Practice Scotland website (after 23rd September);
  • See the event flyer for more details. If you need help, in order to be able come, get in touch and ask, we'll do what we can to help.


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New! CALL DataBase of Apps for Communication

By Joanna Courtney on Monday 12th September, 2011 at 10:20am

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Over the past few months there have been more and more 'apps' available to buy, which could be useful tools for communication for some children and adults. These apps are available for iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad and vary in their features, possible uses and cost.

Some of these apps have synthesised voice output (text to speech) as well as symbols and can be used as comprehensive AAC solutions (e.g. Touchchat AAC); some allow you to record speech along with symbols and photos to create a system similar to a 'communication book' or medium tech AAC device like a Go Talk (e.g. Tap Speak Choice); and some can be used very effectively for 'photo stories' or 'talking books' using photos, symbols and video to create personalised resources like social stories, communication passports, visual scene prompts and interactive photo albums of special events (e.g. Scene & Heard).

CALL has been keeping a keen eye on these developments and has started to compile a database of the apps we have found most useful or show most potential in the field of AAC.

We will be updating the database as new AAC apps come out and are tested out by CALL and will also be including apps for reading, writing and literacy in the coming weeks.

Check out the apps we have included so far on the CALL App Database


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New Equipment in CALL: Tobii C12 and C15

By Sally Millar on Monday 22nd August, 2011 at 3:10pm

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CALL has recently added the Tobii C12 and the Tobii C15 communication aids to its equipment loan bank. These are both high-end, fully featured PC Windows 7 based communication aids, that can be controlled in many ways, including the built-in touch screen, keyboard, mouse, headmouse, switches, joystick, or the optional eye gaze control unit, the Tobii CEye which slots on to the bottom of the device.

The C12 and the C15 are essentially the same, except for size. The C12 has a 12.1 touch screen and weighs 6.5lbs. (2.9 Kgs), while the C15 is larger, with a 15 touch screen and weighing 8.9lbs (4 Kgs). Both are ‘mountable’ on a table or wheelchair mount, rather than ‘portable’ (N.B. adding the eye gaze control unit increases the weight further and means that the device must be mounted can’t use the integrated stand.)

Both devices come with Tobii’s own communication aid software installed (Tobii Communicator with Symbol Stix symbols), and the possibility of using the Tobii Sono Suite (for text and computer access). However, CALL has also installed The Grid 2 software, which is more familiar to many users (and has Widgit symbols built-in). PCS symbols can be added. Users can choose which software they prefer to use for personal communication via symbols and/or text. Either software gives access to e-mail, text messaging and chat, internet access and access to other computer applications. CALL has added the Scottish Voices, Heather and Stuart, to both devices.

These devices seem to be proving popular across the AAC community. The Tobii hardware offers: long-lasting hot swappable batteries; powerful processor (Intel Core Duo U2500); shock-mounted hard disk drive (60 GB); silent operation; 4 powerful stereo speakers; and a built-in camera. Infra-red environmental control facilities are also built in. The OS appears to be stable. The devices have a streamlined look, with a moisture-sealed surface, and no buttons on the front to distract the user. There are interchangeable side panels in different colours (though small gripe these don’t seem to fit too well, on our C15.)

The C15 might be a replacement for the original My Tobii P10 eye gaze computer, (no longer made) in that the large 15 screen area allows display of more symbols and text - or larger, more legible symbols that are easier to see and select. The large screen also provides more screen estate for running other Windows applications.

(But if you only want to run Windows applications, and don’t want a communication aid, the other P10 replacement you might want to look at is the PC Eye - which CALL has also just bought for the loan bank see separate CALL Blog item, coming soon!)

The C12 is comparable in size & weight to its nearest AAC competitor, the DynaVox V Max + (which also allows attachment of an eye gaze unit) but for d irect access users, the C12 is significantly bigger and heavier than the DynaVox Maestro or the Vantage Lite.

If a user can access the smaller device, the C12, successfully, it is obviously desirable to have the most compact device possible, and also means the user’s face is not as ‘blocked off’ from communication partners, as it might be by a big device (better for wheelchair driving, too).

As with all CALL’s comp lex communication aids, these devices will be available on loan to CALL assess ment clients (as a priority) and to others who have undergone training in their use. However, these devices are on ‘restricted’ loan in that they will be being used a lot by CALL for assessment, and for demonstrations and training, so not available to people who might just want to ‘have a look’. (NB. The CEye eye gaze control unit is a separate equipment item, and CALL only has one of these, so it can only be attached to the C12 or the C15 at any given time, not both.)


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New Equipment at CALL: Tobii S32

By Joanna Courtney on Monday 22nd August, 2011 at 2:55pm

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Tobii S32 Scan

The Tobii S32 comes in Touch and Scan models. CALL has the Scan model, which is more expensive but has more features, so is good for assessments.

The Scan model can be used with direct touch to the buttons and a set of 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 16 or 32 keyguards, which come with it , or by 1 or 2 switch scanning.

The S32 Scan plays back pre-recorded messages, or IR signals and environmental controls and has up to 60 hours of recording time.

It works by using a barcode system, so you can record hundreds of messages or sounds into the device, but it will only play back messages that relate to the overlay that is inserted at the time.

Overlays are made using Tobii SymbolMate software, which comes with the device and has to be used to make the overlays (rather than e.g. Boardmaker), as it prints out a unique barcode along the top of the overlay so that the correct recordings can be recognised by the device.

Symbolmate comes with over 15,000 Symbolstix symbols, but also supports PCS, Widgit and other symbol sets, which need to be purchased separately. CALL's Symbolmate software uses the Symbolstix symbols.

There are a variety of switch access settings and auditory recorded prompts can also be used for those with processing or visual difficulties.

The scan light is a small green light at the top right of the cell, which is not especially clear or easy to follow.

The device does have some nice additional features like 'function cueing' where you can have from 2 to 6 buttons pressed in sequence and then spoken out in full at the end (to encourage sentence building). However, it is a rather expensive for a paper-based recorded speech device and requires getting familiar with new overlay-making software and keeping track of all the overlays which are created.


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New Equipment at CALL: Tobii Communication Devices

By Joanna Courtney on Monday 22nd August, 2011 at 10:19am

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Tobii Communication Devices

Tobii are best known for their 'MyTobii' eye gaze technology, but actually make a range of devices

  • the original P10 eyegaze computer
  • the new C12 and  C15 communication aids
  • CEye eye gaze control unit (for use with C12 and C15)
  • the PCEye control unit for eye gaze access to a computer
  • portable communication aid called the C8 (no eye gaze access)
  • medium tech aid with recorded speech called the S32

CALL have recently purchased this whole range of devices, which are available on 'restricted loan' to assessment clients and will also be used for demonstrations and training.

The following few blogs will give an overview of each of the devices, what they can do and who they may be suitable for.

Tobii C8 communication aid

The Tobii C8 is a computer based communication aid with an 8.4 inch (20.5cm) touchscreen. It is lightweight (1.8kg) and powerful and can be used either as a portable or wheelchair mounted device. It has long battery life ( 6hrs ) and also has hot swappable batteries so you can charge the device without having to turn it off and take it away from the user. The interchangeable coloured side panels make it easy to customise (green, pink, blue, purple) and the two powerful stereo speakers give the C8 great sound quality. It has a stand and a removable carry strap, but no built-in handle.

The main difference between the C8 and the larger C12 and C15 devices is that it has 2 speakers (they have 4) and that while the C8 can be used with a variety of access methods (direct touch, 1 and 2 switch, joystick, etc)  it cannot accommodate eye gaze access (whereas the C12 and C15 can).

This device could be suitable for users who need a light-weight portable device with synthetic speech and who would like to use additional Windows based software and Sapi 5 Scottish voices, which cannot be used with designated communication devices at a similar level e.g. Vantage Lite.

The C8 comes with Tobii Communicator Standard edition package, which includes several communication programs allowing communication using text or with over 15,000 Symbolstix symbols. The CALL device includes the upgrade, Tobii Communicator Premium, which includes email, text messaging and environmental control. Acapela voices are included with the device and you can also use recorded speech, if required. The device also has a built-in camera so that the user can take photos and use them on their communication pages.

As the C8 is Windows 7 based, other communication software can also be installed and CALL's C8 has the Grid 2 as an alternative option to Tobii Communicator. Being Windows based also means that Sapi 5 voices like 'Scottish Heather' and the soon to be released 'Scottish Stuart' voice are installed on this device ready for use, as well as on the C12 and C15.


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The case against Assistive Technology

By Sally Millar on Monday 8th August, 2011 at 6:16pm

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Here's a wee film called 'The Case Against Assistive Technology' to get everyone going at the beginning of the new session.


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PCS (Boardmaker symbols) App coming soon

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 2nd August, 2011 at 9:59am

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Aha!  Mayer Johnson are publishing an app for iPad and iPod / iPhone,  iOS 3.1.3 and above

It's coming 'soon'. It will be free.

It sounds like it will be especially useful for learning new symbols, and for practising, familiarising and and consolidating knowledge of symbols and their meanings.  May be especially popular as 'homework' with parents and also sounds like some quite fun games (bingo matching etc.),  Could also be valuable as a trainer for working on mastery of that 'iPad flick'.


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Autobiography of a person who uses AAC

By Sally Millar on Monday 25th July, 2011 at 11:56am

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You may be interested to read the newly published autobiography called Ghost Boy of Martin Pistorius who lost his speech at 12 years old. He uses AAC and has succeeded well in life both personally and professionally.


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New! Summer ContAACt newsletter

By Joanna Courtney on Tuesday 21st June, 2011 at 2:54pm

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  The New issue of the ContAACt newsletter is out now!

                                Read all about:

  •  The 'Hello' Campaign and the National Year of Communication
  •  AAC Events across Scotland
  •  What's New in AAC
  •  The latest on the AAC Campaign in Scotland
  •  The views of people who use AAC

 and much more!

 Go to /Resources/Newsletters/ContAACt/ to read it online or to download a copy


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The Scottish Male Voice is chosen!

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

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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.



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The Dazzling World of Apps

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 25th May, 2011 at 12:59pm

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This is an interesting newsletter (from the USA) that draws together a rich list of resources and provides a useful set of iPad/iPod/iPhone App links but also offers some very sensible words of caution about the risk of being 'swept away' by an unrealistic expectation that iPad Apps can meet every need and solve every problem. A debate that will no doubt be airing a lot in these times ....


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Funding for a male Scottish Voice approved!

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 7th March, 2011 at 2:29pm

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We are very pleased to announce that the Scottish Government has awarded us funding to work with CereProc to develop a male Scottish computer voice: a 'brother for Heather'. The funding will also pay for a licence for the entire public sector in Scotland, so that the voice can be used by school-age pupils, further and higher education students, workers in the public sector, and NHS patients.

Heather has been very well received by Scottish learners and pupils and we hope that the new male voice will be just as successful. It should certainly provide a better option for Scots boys with speech and language difficulties who use voice output communication aids, because at present they have a choice of speaking with very adult and very English voices, or one of a few rather low-fi Amercian children's accents, or with a female voice.

CereProc are currently advertising for a voice actor to provide the 'male voice of Scottish education'. A short list of suitable voices will then be drawn up and then the most suitable person chosen. The 'chosen one' then goes into a recording studio and spends many hours reading from texts, and then CereProc's engineers use these recordings to create the computer voice.

We'll keep you posted on progress.

In the meantime, if anyone has suggestions for a good name for the male Scottish voice (Euan? Ian? Hamish? Graham? David? Jimmy? Angus? Rab? Rhuaridh?) why not post a comment to let us know!


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