Staff development news: Supporting Deaf Students

Do you support students who are D/deaf or have a hearing loss? Or perhaps you wish to build your skills to be better prepared to respond to the needs of future students? Some forthcoming staff development opportunites look at different aspects of creating an inclusive learning environment:

  • Modifying Written English Texts – Online, May to December 2011
  • Donaldson’s School Information Day – Linlithgow, 7th May 2011
  • Technology to Assist Students – Stirling, 16th May 2011
  • Voiceover techniques for CSWs – Glasgow, 20th May 2011

Read on for more information about each of these events…

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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.

Qwerty Keyboard on Trial

Qwerty KeyboardStephen Fry puts the Qwerty keyboard on trial in this light-hearted Radio 4 programme called Fry’s English Delight.   The true history of the system is revealed along with discussion about alternative input systems, including Voice Recognition.  It is claimed that it takes less time to learn to fly a plane than it does to learn to touch type.

The programme is available on iplayer until 17th August.

Widgit Training Day “Creating Accessible Information” at CALL in March

If you missed out on our popular (over-subscribed!) January seminar which looked at creating inclusive learning resources to use with students who have complex needs, why not take up this opportunity to catch up with one of the presenters from that day?

Martin Fisher from Widgit will be leading a full training day at CALL Scotland on 3rd March 2010. As well as featuring inspiring case studies, the day will focus on using Communicate in Print, a symbol-supported desk top publisher, and Symwriter which can be used to create highly-visual interactive tasks.

Click here for full details of the Widgit Training Day at CALL, including information about how to book a place. This FREE event would also be useful to people who did attend the BRITE seminar, but who would like to spend more time on the software featured.

Learning Support Assistants working with Deaf young people in Schools and Colleges

The Scottish Sensory Centre is hosting this one-day training course in Edinburgh on Wednesday 9 December 2009. Aimed at Learning Support Assistants working in schools or colleges, the course will consist of basic deaf awareness training which will include:

  • How well do you hear? 
  • Noises in the classroom
  • Why do young Deaf people struggle with English language?
  • How do young Deaf people learn?
  • Discussion of different communication tactics
  • Audiology workshops focusing on linking radio aids to cochlear implants and hearing aids and making use of listening tests.

This day will also provide an opportunity to explore some of the issues involved in supporting deaf learners, e.g. promoting independent learning skills and working effectively with classroom teachers.

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New version of Co:Writer word prediction and literacy support software

A new, enhanced version of the long-established word prediction and literacy support software, Co:Writer, was launched at the Scottish Learning Festival in September. Providing contextualised support to learners who have difficulty with spelling, typing, or translating thoughts into writing, Co:Writer retains its intelligent support features, but now has an even easier-to-use interface plus additional handy tools.

Details of new features, training opportunities and great prices for Scottish education are outlined below, but why not enjoy a proper look at Co:Writer by accessing some short online video demonstrations? Visit the Co:Writer page and click on ‘Watch the Product Demo’ for an introduction.

You’ll then have access to lots of other video resources. If you’re new to the software, have a look at ‘What sets Co:Writer apart?’ which explains the ways in which the support Co:Writer provides differs from other types of word prediction software, in particular its Linguistic Word Prediction system, which identifies the grammatical value of words to support learners to write correctly structured sentences.

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Review of ‘Literacy for All’ study day PLUS links to online resources for students at the beginning stages of reading and writing

You might remember I flagged up this event a few weeks ago on the blog. Sorry for not posting feedback sooner, however I’m pleased to say that the study day definitely lived up to, and exceeded, expectations! The visiting speaker, Caroline Musslewhite, was full of enthusiasm for her subject, which made for an inspiring and packed day. The focus of the study day was developing emergent literacy skills, particularly with learners who use AAC – i.e. people who use augmentative and alternative communication techniques such as symbols, right through to high tech voice output communication aids.

While part of the day focussed on developing literacy in young children with complex communication needs, this section was nonetheless fascinating to me as someone working in further education, as it provided context and important background information. Useful tips were shared on good practice when choosing texts and using symbols in the classroom.

Caroline moved on to look at emergent literacy in adults and emphasised the importance of enabling learners to freely express themselves to generate ideas for topics they’d like to write about. I’m used to demonstrating software which supports students at the beginning stages of writing to construct sentences – great for exposing learners to correct words and patterns which they can learn and gain confidence from. However, Caroline also demonstrated the importance of also providing lots of opportunities for free expression and shared some great ideas for engaging literacy activities. At the end of this post, I’ve included links to some online resources that were flagged up.

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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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