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Free AAC Resources on Visual Systems

By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 14th February, 2012 at 4:14pm

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We received an email today from Dolly Bhargava, a Specialist Speech Pathologist working in Australia, with information about some resources she has created in conjunction with School for Parents. The 'Getting Started' series currently consists of five downloadable books and video material, available via YouTube, illustrating different aspects of the use of Visual Systems to help parents develop their child's communication skills. The five titles are:

  • Getting Started!!! Using visual systems to promote communication
  • Getting Started!!! Using visual systems to promote play
  • Getting Started!!! Using visual systems to promote an understanding of cyber bullying
  • Getting Started!!! Using visual systems to provide positive behaviour support
  • Getting Started!!! Using visual systems to support the development of self-esteem

The first book describes different types of visual supports and visual systems and explains how the appropriate supports can be used by parents and teachers to encourage speech and language development. The other books in the series focus on their particular topic (play, cyber bullying. etc) and illustrate how the use of Visual Systems can make the material more relevant for children with communication difficulties.

The books were produced with funding received by School for Parents from the Non Government Centre Support for Non School Organisations of Western Australia. The books and videos can be downloaded FREE from the School for Parents web site.

Great Stuff!!!



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SQA Answer Booklets in Word format are now available

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

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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!



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Brilliant Ideas for Using ICT in the Inclusive Classroom

By Allan Wilson on Friday 3rd February, 2012 at 2:45pm

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We've just added 'Brilliant Ideas for Using ICT in the Inclusive Classroom', the new book by Sally McKeown and Angela McGlashon to the CALL Library.

It is an excellent book, consisting of 50 'Brilliant Ideas', followed by 20 'Brilliant Starters'. The brilliant ideas include such topics as:

- getting smart with the versatile Smartboard

- words on the move with CapturaTalk

- creating a communication-friendly environment with symbols

- iPads: next-generation technology

- meeting all of a pupil's writing needs.

The brilliant ideas are presented in the form of short (one or two pages) case studies, illustrating how they have been used in schools throughout the UK. Many teachers will already be using some of the approaches described in the book, but there is sure to be something new for everybody. The 'Starters' are similarly short guides to completing a particular task in commonly used programs such as Clicker, PowerPoint, GarageBand and I Can Animate.

The book (ISBN 978-0-415-67254-2) is published by David Fulton and available through Amazon for 20.19.


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New Quick Guide - Calibre and the Kindle

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

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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


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Windows 7 Ease of Access Centre Guide free to download

By Craig Mill on Thursday 2nd February, 2012 at 4:18pm

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Ease of Centre Access GuideEase of Access Centre Guide

Microsoft has included a range of accessibility features (Accessibility Options) in its operating systems since Windows 95.

Windows 7 incorporates several improvements such as a change of name from 'Accessibility Options' to 'Ease of Access Centre'. These features provide a valuable but often overlooked method of supporting learners with additional support needs.

The Ease of Access Centre, found in the Control Panel, brings together all the accessibility options and adds some new features.

You can download the Ease of Access Centre Guide from the CALL website - for free.

Windows 7 On-Screen Keyboard video tutorial

One of the new built-in features is the On-Screen Keyboard which offers word prediction to help with typing speed and accuracy. The following tutorial highlights some of the key features.


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CALL Annual Report for 2010 - 2011 now available online

By Allan Wilson on Friday 27th January, 2012 at 4:46pm

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The CALL Scotland Annual Report for 2010 - 2011 is now available online.

Some highlights of the year include:

  • Closer links with key players in Scottish Education, including the Scottish Government, HM Inspectorate of Education and Learning and Teaching Scotland (now Education Scotland), the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), Scottish ICT Dvelopment Group.
  • Partnership Agreements with 13 local authorities.
  • Input into development of new Scottish Government policy for Augmentative and Alternative Communication.
  • 2,000 requests for digital papers in the 2010 diet of SQA exams.
  • 915 items listed on the Scottish Books for All Database, accessible through Glow and SCRAN.
  • 69 Hodder Gibson text books made available in accessible format from the CALL Books for All web site.
  • 15,042 downloads of the WordTalk utility to add text-to-speech to Microsoft Word.
  • 190,866 visits to the CALL web sites.
  • 81 pupils with additional support needs provided with assessment and support.
  • 99 support sessions delivered to schools.
  • 635 teachers provided with on-site training in local authorities.
  • 128 teachers attended courses in CALL.
  • 519 enquiries received and given a response.
  • 294 items added to the Loan Bank.
  • 142 new equipment loans made to children and adults with disabilities in Scotland.

Read about all this and more in the CALL Scotland Annual Report!


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iBooks 2, iBooks Author and digital textbooks

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

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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.




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Orang utans and iPads

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 17th January, 2012 at 12:18pm

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Well - the iPad is truly everywhere these days. Watch these fascinating videos - turns out that orangutans also like iPads!

They like to watch videos, paint, play kids' Apps, watch other orang utans via Skype, ebooks etc.

I have always been very interested in primate language studies and I'm now intrigued by how the situation has evolved. It started with  having the primate brought up as child in a psychologist's home with the careful teaching of sign language over many years - with interminable Behaviourist teaching & analysis of language 'performance'.  Now people are just using technology as a day to day tool for stimulation  - and the animals don't get ANY 'rewards', just the pleasure of intercting and playing with the device (take that, Skinner!)

And for communication, now just sticking photos on an iPad under its nose and saying "show me the 'x' "(hang on to the end to see iPad use).

Not too sure what to make of it all, though. Next step, it seems,  may be social networking?...(I can only fantasise about orang utans themselves signing up to Avaaz and all the online petitions against habitat-grabbing for palm oil plantations!)


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Communication Champion's Final Report

By Allan Wilson on Monday 16th January, 2012 at 3:10pm

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Jean Gross, Communication Champion for Children, has produced her final report as she steps down from office. Although her remit was restricted to England, 'Two Years On: final report of the Communication Champion for children' reflects on issues that are also very relevant for people with communication difficulties in other parts of the United Kingdom - and probably many other countries.

She was appointed to the post following the Bercow Review of 2008, which found that services for children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) were highly variable across England.

The report highlights a number of areas where there have been measurable improvements in services since 2008, but expresses concern about the actual provision that will be available for children with SLCN for the immediate future. There have been cuts to front line speech and language therapy services and to specialist advisory teaching services at a time when there has been a 58% rise in the number of children with SLCN.

Jean Gross spoke about the report on BBC Radio Four on 16th January, highlighting a number of issues.

The Report can be downloaded from the Communication Matters web site.


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Including All Children in the Scottish Children's Book Awards

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

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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.


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Using Google to Search for Apps

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 14th December, 2011 at 2:15pm

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The Teaching All Students site has an interesting Blog about using Google to search for Apps (iPad and Android).


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Slowing Down an Audio Book

By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 13th December, 2011 at 12:27pm

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We were recently asked how to slow down the reading of text on an audio book by a teacher some of whose pupils have reading difficulties. She was using Barrington Stokes books, accompanied by audio on CD as her pupils found it easier to follow the printed text if they could listen to the audio recording at the same time. Unfortunately, the text was read too quickly for some of her pupils to follow easily.

If you are using Windows Media Player to play the audio recording of the book, it is possible to slow down the play back speed. 

  1. Begin playing a file.
  2. Click the arrow below the 'Now Playing' tab, at the top of the screen, point to Enhancements, and then click Play Speed Settings. (see image, right)
  3. Move the Play Speed slider to the speed at which you want to play the content, or click the Slow, Normal, or Fast link.

The full instructions are available online at:


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Can you use an App on multiple iPads?

By Robert Stewart on Tuesday 6th December, 2011 at 10:22am

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A question I was asked recently is how many iPads (or iPod Touch and iPhone) can you put an App on? The answer to that would be as many as you want. However, that doesn't mean that these devices can then be used by a clasroom of pupils at the same time if only 1 licence for that App has been purchased. Some points from the Apple App Store Terms and Conditions for the use of a single licence App are highlighted at the foot of this blog post. 

What it looks like you can do is:

  • Sync the App to as many devices as you wish;
  • Use the App as an individual on all of those devices;
  • Use the App as a group of individuals (at a resource centre or library) on one of those devices;

What you are not allowed to do is give each of those devices to students and allow them to use the same App (single licence) at the same time. If you wish to do this then you need to purchase the App for each of those devices.

In the US there is an Apple Volume Software Licensing scheme available for education but this has not been made availble to the UK.

Apple App Store Terms and Conditions

  • (i) If you are an individual acting in your personal capacity, you may download and sync an App Store Product for personal, noncommercial use on any iOS Device you own or control.
  • (ii) If you are a commercial enterprise or educational institution, you may download and sync an App Store Product for use by either (a) a single individual on one or more iOS Devices used by that individual that you own or control or (b) multiple individuals, on a single shared iOS Device you own or control. For example, a single employee may use an App Store Product on both the employee's iPhone and iPad, or multiple students may serially use an App Store Product on a single iPad located at a resource centre or library. For the sake of clarity, each iOS Device used serially by multiple users requires a separate licence.
  • (iii) You shall be able to store App Store Products from up to five different Accounts at a time on a compatible iOS Device.


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New text-based communication aid from Toby Churchill

By Sally Millar on Monday 28th November, 2011 at 1:45pm

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Toby Churchill Ltd. are preparing to launch a new communication aid, the Lightwriter Swift  - a pocket sized dedicated text-to-speech communication device - reportedly the smallest device of its type in the world.

You can see the new device on it's UK Launch Tour, in Edinburgh, at the Corn Exchange on 7th February 2012. Get the date in your diary now.

Sign up ASAP for a free morning, afternoon or evening (6pm) seminar - or just drop in to the 'Swift Cafe' between 10 am and 8 pm.


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Games and Toys for Christmas?

By Sally Millar on Monday 28th November, 2011 at 11:38am

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At this time of year, therapists and teachers often get asked by parents and grandparents for ideas about toys, gadgets or software that might make a suitable Christmas present for their family member who has access or communication support needs.

Without wanting to promote one supplier above any others, and with no commercial interest, we note that Liberator Ltd. has recently added some nice switch toys to their range, is selling a switch operated digital camera cheaper than some competitors, and also has just opened their 'Christmas Store' with a range of toys, switches and low tech communication aids, many at special 'Sale' prices.

For professional use, I liked the 3 for 2 low tech communication books


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