Special needs

7th January 2005 at 00:00
Under the new provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), accessibility is crucial this year and special needs companies are well represented in many categories of the BETT awards. For example, Dolphin's EasePublisher (pound;2,450), authoring software which lets teachers create full digital audio content, is in contention for the Learning and Skills Software, Hardware, Content and Tools award.

Many companies are focusing on visually impaired users and people with dyslexia. iANSYST will be showing the new Dana keyboard (pound;279; pound;425 inc following software) with Write: Outloud To Go providing speech feedback and ReadAble v2 which lets dyslexic users manage the colour settings of their desktop and applications through one window. Semerc is bringing out more assessment modules, Dyslexia Screener (pound;150 per year) and Snoezelen Sensory Assessment Profiling Tool (pound;159), a CD-Rom looking at sight, sound, movement, taste and touch. It will help to identify children and adults with these particular needs and suggest teaching strategies. Bring together planning tools, prediction and talking text and what have you got? Solo (Pounds 463) from Don Johnston. This will allow teachers to change the presentation of any information. Now content can meet the needs of individual pupils.

Widgit Software has been running the Symbols Inclusion Project with some Warwickshire primary schools. Its web-based email program Communicate: SymMail (Pounds tba), has proved to be a great way of making information more accessible. Symbol users may also benefit from Resource's See It - Say It (pound;25) which will create puzzles using any symbol system or bitmapped graphics. It can be used with a mouse or switches. More fun activities can be found on the Priory Woods School website (www.priorywoods.middlesbrough.sch.uk). Macromedia is showing 50 teaching activities using Flash MX 2004 (pound;79) for children with severe or profound learning difficulties to use with switches, touch-screens or interactive whiteboards.

Sherston is be bringing out a new series of Photocards in the spring (from pound;49.95 each). These interactive flash cards can be used for matching, tenses and sequencing. Change the settings for different colour preferences or for a switch user and you have a personalised product for a child working on his own or by adults in day centre settings. Use them on a whiteboard as the basis for discussion work and you have an excellent language development resource which can be used by pupils learning English as an additional language.

The Fringe special needs "show within a show" in the Hilton is going strong again this year. Organiser Inclusive is shortlisted for three BETTawards in the SEN hardware division including SuperTalker (pound;125) and the TechTalk plus Environmental Control Unit (pound;585), a breakthrough in communication aids. They are promoting a host of products, including ReadSpeaker, to make websites talk. I particularly like the ReadIt (CD-Rom pound;25) series of interactive books which can be read at two levels; The Supermarket is based on a book by Gatehouse and covers the theme of shoplifting. This link with Gatehouse is very welcome news. Other resources for older learners include MathBase's new module on Time and Money (from pound;70) and CTAD's English in Action (single user pound;199) aimed at the Adult ESOL Core Curriculum Entry 1. This has five 10-hour modules with video and activities. Technology agency Becta will have a new information sheet with a CD-Rom of video clips showing work with adults with severe learning difficulties.

Keytools has BigTrack (pound;55), a trackerball which looks like an huge fried egg. It is useful for young pupils who can't use a standard mouse or any pupil who has motor difficulties. It will co-exist happily with other mice so you won't have to fiddle around with computer ports. Keytools BigKeys Early Learning System (pound;109) is an extra large keyboard and a plastic glove to fit over the top. These gloves are used in "dirty areas" such as garages to keep keyboards clean. The gloves can have different key-top layouts with pictures to help with letter recognition.

Promethean has appointed Angie McGlashen, formerly of Widgit, to make its whiteboards more SEN friendly. She is developing ways of exploiting the tickertape and countdown tools. There is a theory that if learners look up at text, they are more likely to absorb and recall meaning so the tickertape panel may improve short-term memory. The countdown tool will stir up the daydreamers in the class and children with poor organisational skills.

The Disability Discrimination Act is making companies more aware of disabled users. At last we are moving from a customer's needs to a company's duties.

Don't miss

Truancy CallCall Parents Stand G71

Hundreds of schools rely on Truancy Call to send parents a message if their children don't turn up to school. Call Parents is potentially even more useful thanks to the DDA part 3 (Goods and Services).

Tel: 0870 046 4246


Alphasmart Stand W60

The new Neo is rugged and lightweight but the new version will store lots more files and has a much bigger screen so you can have large print or just see six lines of text at once.

Tel: 020 8492 3694


Claro - Dual Stand S16

Roger Wilson Hinds is a blind entrepreneur who aims to make accessibility affordable. His company Claro has a new suite of computer facilities to support people who can't see or who can't read. Check out Dual which provides speech and magnification for people with no useful sight at pound;155.

Tel: 0870 760 5877


Other contacts

CTAD Stand SN67

Tel; 01223 470480


Dolphin Computer Access Stand SN52

Tel: 0845 130 5353


Don Johnston Stand SN12

Tel: 01925 256500


Iansyst Stand SN20

Tel: 01223 420101


Inclusive Fringe Hilton

Tel: 01457 819790


Keytools Stand SN60

Tel: 023 8058 4314


Macromedia Stand B104

Tel: 01344 458600


Mathbase Stand SW73

Tel: 020 8983 9200


Promethean Stand W40

Tel: 0870 241 3194


Resource Stand SN32

0870 777 0247


SEMERC Stand E40F40

Tel: 0161 827 2719


Sherston Stand SN30

Tel: 01666 843200


Widgit Stand SN10

Tel: 01223 425 558


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