Interesting Technology from BETT 2014

For those unfamiliar with BETT, it is the largest educational technology exhibition in Europe.  Taking place annually in London, there are over 600 exhibitors including massive companies such as Google, Dell, Intel and Microsoft.  The interesting stuff, from an Additional Support for Learning perspective, is generally on the smaller exhibition stands, though there is plenty from the larger manufacturers which may be suitable for those with Additional Support Needs.

I’ve summarised my highlights below.  For summary of my tweets during the event, including pictures go to:


2014-01-23 17.40.39There were multiple stands showing many different iPad cases, but this one caught my attention. Kensington have a rubbery case called a SafeGrip which surrounds the iPad, but also has a handle.  Great for students who struggle with carrying equipment.

Tech21 make cases from a polymer which adjusts to pressure so should create better resistance to being dropped.  They have a range of cases, but more significantly screen covers which protect against impact to the screen (the most vulnerable part of any tablet).

Intel was showing a ruggedized Windows tablet – The StudyBook- which should stand up to a fair amount of abuse. Significantly the screen was protected.  The person on the stand took great delight in repeatedly dropping a large ball- bearing onto the screen.  See a video here

2014-01-24 14.46.10Rather than rely on a case to supply a handle, Samsung have produced a version of their Tab 3, 7 inch Android tablet for education which has a handle built in.  The disadvantage?  It is bright yellow and blue.


There are currently two pieces of software designed to support emergent eye-gaze users (Eye-FX and Look to Learn).  Inclusive technology were showing previews of their software package – Inclusive Eye Gaze Learning Curve – which comes out later in the year.  The first title focusses on Attention and Looking and provides a progression of engaging activities to assess and develop eye-gaze users.

Audio Notetaker is a great piece of software from Sonocent. They have now released a version for iOS (iPad/Phone etc.).  Called “Recorder” it enables students to record live audio of a lecture and mark the important points as they go along.  The result can later be uploaded to the full version of Audio Notetaker for further revision and linking to PowerPoint slides or images.


2014-01-24 10.44.58

Since production of the Flip video camera ceased I’ve been looking for an alternative which is as easy to use, but not expensive.  TTS have produced one which seems to fit the bill.  It feels a bit plasticy, but is simple to use and has a built in USB plug to transfer the content.  It also has a 4GB SD card and HDMI output.

Beamz is a very unusual and accessible way to play music.  For students who are unable to hold or play  a standard instruments, Beamz provides 4 laser beams which, when broken by a hand or object, will trigger sounds from an attached computer.

Fil McIntyre

Assistive Technologist, The BRITE Initiative

Host a BRITE seminar and receive free training for your employees

We’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in hosting a seminar during the next academic session.

In exchange for providing facilities and refreshments, you’ll receive a minimum of 6 free places on the seminar for your employees. We provide the seminar content, teaching staff, marketing, and admin.

If your institution would be interested in hosting one of the following seminars, please get in touch with our training manager, Niall, at

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Specific Literacy Difficulties: Effective Screening and Evidence

The latest BRITE seminar looked at the topic of screening for Specific Literacy Difficulties. During this one-day event, 24 delegates from across Scotland explored the range of tools available, and investigated best practice when collating information and presenting it as evidence of need.

The packed event included presenters from Scottish further education colleges, the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) and BRITE.

Representatives from Cardonald, Adam Smith and Inverness Colleges set the scene by sharing their experiences of using different systems, discussing both the benefits and the frustrations involved. 

Presenters and delegates addressed the tensions that exist between a needs-led model and the requirement to have ‘evidence of disability’ which is rooted in a medical model. The group also looked at the context in which needs assessments take place – acknowledging the demands that exist from external bodies such as SQA, City and Guilds and SAAS.

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Seminar review: Make It Accessible

BRITE recently joined JISC to facilitate two seminars which  focussed on creating accessible formats.

A number of further and higher education institutions were represented, with staff from both marketing and learning support backgrounds in attendance. Employees from schools and City of Edinburgh Libraries also featured in the groups, demonstrating how vital it is to be able to provide accessible information in a range of environments.

Make It Accessible introduced essential tips to make printed information accessible to readers with visual impairments or dyslexia.

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Print Disability Copyright Licence

Image of random textIt used to be that in copyright terms you were on shaky ground if adapting text for individuals who were not Visually Impaired, but who may struggle with print.  Earlier this year the Copyright Licensing Agency announced a new Print Disability Licence.  This will ensure that educational institutions are covered when adapting text to alternative formats whether print or digital.

The licence describes a print-disabled person as “…anyone for whom a visual, cognitive or physical disability hinders the ability to read print. This includes all visual impairments, dyslexia, and any physical disabilities that prevent the handling of a physical copy of a print publication.”

If adapting resources for students or staff within your college you are covered by an extension to the standard CLA licence.  You would only need to apply for the full PDL if you circulate adapted resources outwith your organisation.  The full guidelines can be found on the CLA website.

NEW visual study guide: ‘Great Ways to Learn Anatomy and Physiology’ by Charmaine McKissock

Palgrave study GuideMany BRITE Links will remember Charmaine McKissock, who worked with BRITE as a trainer and mentor a few years ago, and who wrote the ever-popular BRITE Online Guide to Dyslexia.

A practitioner with a wealth of knowledge and experience in supporting students with dyslexia, Charmine has now used her skills to create a highly visual and down-to-earth study guide aimed at students studying basic anatomy and physiology for courses related to health.

Recognising that it’s normal to find remembering thousands of facts, diagrams, numbers and spellings challenging, this book uses a number of effective strategies including: original colour illustrations, memory techniques, confidence boosters, stress-busters and time-saving devices. It also includes a supportive back-up system to be used alongside text books and lecturers’ notes.

Great Ways to Learn Anatomy and Physiology is £15.99 and can be ordered online from Palgrave. Images reproduced with permission from Charmaine McKissock.

Charmaines Illustrations

Texthelp announces new version of Read and Write GOLD FOR MAC

How is this for timing?! A week or so after I submitted an article about assistive technology and Macs, to be included in the next JISC (North and East) eQuality newsletter… Texthelp announced the imminent launch of Read and Write 3 GOLD FOR MAC! Fortunately, there was time for the editor to do a last minute tweak so when you open your copy of eQuality news this month, you shouldn’t find quite so much of me writing in a slightly-redundant fashion about how different the Mac and Window versions of this popular literacy support tool are, when in fact this gap in performance looks like it’s about to close!

If you have previously attended one of BRITE’s ‘Mac-cessibility’ seminars, you’ll know that the user interface (i.e. toolbar, suggestion list and work-area) in earlier versions of Read and Write GOLD FOR MAC was significantly different from the Windows version of the software. E.g. to compose, check and edit text using Read and Write’s support tools, a student needed to use a dedicated Texthelp work-space and then export the finished text back to the original document.

However, the latest version – scheduled to launch on the 15th of May 2009 – should see major changes. Texthelp tells us we can look forward to: a floating toolbar; integration with MS Word for Mac 2008; new high quality voices; new fact mapper and a new translator. Safari Web Highlighting, Scanning, Phonetic Spell Checker, Prediction Dictionary, Homophone Support and Study Skills Tools have also been enhanced. Click here to learn more about Read and Write 3 GOLD FOR MAC.

What’s new in Texthelp Read and Write 9 GOLD?

Texthelp Read and Write GOLD is a popular literacy and study support tool. It’s well-known for providing a very comprehensive range of features, so when version 9 was released in February 2009 it was hard to imagine what could possibly be added!

While some new features have been added, the main focus has been upon improving the performance of existing key features. The new features are: Screen Masking (a colour tint, think of an on-screen ‘coloured overlay’) and new voices developed specifically for Texthelp to work optimally with their software. Both these new features and the enhanced functions are outlined below. Note that product info, pricing, video tutorials and downloadable training guides are available from


A significant difference to note is the addition of two new voices, Tim and Tina, developed especially to work optimally with R&WG. Tim is fairly generic ‘British’ sounding, although Tina has a rather unique accent I can’t quite place right now… I’ll need to get the next group of BRITE trainees on the case!

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The ongoing dyslexia debate!

By Alison Cox

What percentage of a population has to exhibit a trait or characteristic before it is regarded as ‘normal’? And who defines what’s normal anyway?

In her recent series on Radio 4, Vivienne Parry set out to answer the fundamental question “Am I normal?” through an exploration of the latest thinking on four topical themes: social phobia; dyslexia; dyscalculia and insomnia.

In the second programme, Ms Parry came to the conclusion that, as a nation, we have really got ourselves in a “bit of a bind” as far as dyslexia is concerned. How? By creating a system in which an individual can only get the extra support they need by having a label which marks them out as not normal. The programme gave air-time to a range of contrasting expert views on dyslexia, particularly about the merits and demerits of diagnosing what was generally acknowledged to be a varying pattern of vulnerabilities – or learning differences – rather than a single condition.

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Update: software to support reading, writing and learning

A number of assistive technology suppliers launched new products and product updates at the BETT show in London this month. There was so much information that to include it all in one post would lead to a very long blog entry! So instead I’ll put up assistive technology news in themed ‘chunks’ over the next few weeks. Firstly, I’ll look at some developments in two leading companies specialising in software to support literacy and learning: Texthelp and ClaroRead.

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