3rd November 2000 at 00:00

OXFORD READING TREE fOR THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED (Screen version. One CD in PDF format). pound;195 for full licence. Lawson Large Print, PO Box 1215, South Croydon CR9 5QG. Fax: 020 8406 9648 Email Website

Kipper and friends can now reach an even broader audience, as more than 100 Oxford Reading Tree stories have been made available to children with reduced vision in a new computer program.

With a home-made feel reminiscent of the most educationally sound BBC software, this program has been created by teacher Val Lawson who works with visually impaired children in Croydon. Over the past two years she has spent her own time and money to adapt the original text and illustrations of the Oxford Reading Tree scheme to enable visually impaired children to enjoy the popular reading resources.

On-screen visual clutter is kept to a minimum, even on the spoken menu screens, and the process of choosing a story is systematic and standardised so that the user can soon predict which areas t scan first on screen.

Text is as large as you could hope for, on a strongly contrasting background. I tried the stories on my laptop on full screen, and was impressed at the clarity of the Sassoon font and pictures. The program's simple structure makes it an equally good resource for learners with a range of difficulties in accessing text, and not just those with visual impairment.

Switch-controlled page turning through each story is possible, so this program would be useful in inclusive settings, where children with physical disabilities need to gain access to literacy materials being used by other pupils.

Strict copyright over these Reading Tree resources means that this program is available only to teachers and parents of children with sensory or physical disabilities.

The printable version of Oxford Reading Tree for the Visually Impaired is only available free to recognised VI services.

Fiona Sanderson Fiona Sanderson is researching the use of ICT to encourage effective learning

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