Realising Potential through Enabling Technologies in the 21st Century

As part of Dyslexia Awareness Week, Abi James presented a BDA Webinar on Realising Potential through Enabling Technologies.  In this session Abi introduced some of the common technologies used in schools and the workplace and discuss the latest research into the best approaches for selecting apps and tools to ensure they are used effectively.

To find out more, download the EnablingTech-21Century from the webinar.

Title slide from webinar

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Technology At Your Fingertips

Making use of technology can make a huge difference to anyone who has difficulty with reading and writing. In the past; many of these helpful tools have only been available with the purchase of additional, specific software. In contrast; all of the major platforms now include a range of basic accessibility functions within their operating systems. These can be found on the device itself or sometimes, may need to be installed with an additional download.

MAc-accessibility-menu

This does not mean that the need for purchasing specialised software is no longer necessary, because some people will still benefit by using software that can provide additional features and quality tools beyond basic functions. However, on today’s devices accessibility features are increasingly available to anyone who wants to use them. They just have to know where to find them and try them out!

Over the past few editions of Contact (the BDA’s magazine) members of the BDA’s New Technologies Committee produced a series of articles which explored and briefly summarised the different accessibility tools to be found on various platforms. These articles can be found using the links below. We hope you find them useful.

Enabling Technologies: iPhones and iPads

Enabling Technologies: macOS

Enabling Technologies: Windows 10 and Microsoft Office latest developments

Enabling Technologies: Google Docs and Chrome Extensions supporting Study Skills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Five tips and hints for schools to support Dyslexic learners

Want advice on how to start supporting your learners with technology? Here are five tips from BDA New Technologies member Victoria Crivelli for Dyslexia Awareness Week:

1. Find out what technology is available and working in the school or classrooms –  hardware, software, apps or hand-held gadgets. Create an inventory to share with all staff, label the pupil options beside  or on the hardware for all users. Every user needs to be aware of and know which IT tools are available and how to use them.

2. Explore the built in accessibility features that are freely available and can make a huge difference, like text to speech tools (TTS) or voice recognition (VR) for those who find reading information or recording written information challenging. Reading, writing and understanding new, technical or subject vocabulary can create barriers to learning.

3. Ensure pupils and support staff know how to access personal settings and how to save them, such as options for colour background, font style and size, line spacing and speech settings for TTS.

4. If funding is an issue, find out what is freely available for support in free apps and tools like talking spellcheckers, or that enable TTS to be used for web pages or accessible formats of educational texts such as found in RNIB bookshare.

5. Many pupils may be entitled to use technology for reading and /or recording in exams, depending on access arrangements. They will need to be using the technology routinely in the classroom. This could have a huge impact on pupil success and save schools precious funding for readers or scribes. Is this happening in your school?

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Enabling Technologies (Part 4). Google Docs and Chrome Extensions supporting Study Skills.

This article is 4th and final part of our series on built-in enabling tools, looking at a range of tools available through the Chrome browser.

If you type ‘Chrome Extensions for Dyslexia’ into Google you will be amazed how many extensions appear in the list alongside many more articles on the subject!  Making choices about which ones will work for all the different tasks you do when surfing the web is not easy.  Most apps and extensions work on Chromebooks from the Chrome browser.  You need to be logged in and online to go to the Chrome Web Store.

These extensions may be linked to desktop or mobile apps so you could find you do not need to learn new skills in order to use them.  For example if you use TextHelp Read and Write on your tablet or desktop computer you will recognise the way ‘Read&Write for Google Chrome’ works with web pages and common file types in Google Drive (including: Google Docs, PDF & ePub).

Texthelp Chrome extension

The free extension, is an add-on toolbar offering text highlighting with text to speech, translation and the ability to declutter a page to practice reading with a recording that can be shared with others.  You need to pay a subscription to use all the other features such as capturing notes and scan to read. This is also the case when using the ClaroSoftware ‘ClaroRead Chrome’ with the basic reading and text highlighting with access to paid features such as reading Microsoft online office documents, coloured overlays and word prediction.

If you are using Google docs you can use the built in speech recognition called “voice typing” found under the ‘Tools’ menu.  You will get a prompt to make sure your microphone is on and set the language to English UK, also checking the microphone icon is red before you start recording.  There are a host of other accessibility features including text to speech or screen reading when text is selected.  This feature can be turned on via your Google profile settings and you will see an Accessibility tab appearing above your Google doc.  Some features differ in the way they work depending on the version of Google docs and the operating system, so you may find you need a free extension such as Read Aloud that supports many languages and highlights the selected text in a pop up window.

Grammarly chrome extension

Grammarly is another free extension from a company that also offers premium online and desktop versions of their service.  The Chrome extension provides grammar and spell checking; with support from an ‘assistant’ that explains the mistakes. Write or copy and paste any English text into Grammarly’s Editor when you are working online and it will tell how long you were writing, the types of audience you may want to aim for as well as the writing style.  It does not work with Google docs.  You need to login and set up a profile that fits the style of your writing.  Grammarly uses wonders of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the fact that it gathers data from users and learns from your mistakes helps it to flag up your usual errors.  If you are in education, you may find the plagiarism checker useful (premium version only)

Microsoft offers an Android version of OneNote for Chrome books and there is an online version that works with the free OneNote Web Clipper extension.  This is handy for capturing entire pages, sections, articles, and images that can be saved directly into OneNote notebooks.  Useful when searching for things or need to know where something came from as the web address comes with the clip!

Dyslexia unscrambled extension

It can be hard to keep an eye on the extensions’ support area, but most developers have their own websites for example Avishaan Sethi, who made a very simple extension called ‘Dyslexia Unscrambled’ in 2014.  It turns the text on an accessible webpage to charcoal grey using the OpenDyslexic font with left alignment of the content.

Mercury Reader removes ads and generally declutters web pages leaving you with the text that can be changed into serif or sans serif font in a small, medium or large size with a background of black with white text or vice versa.   This is a really useful extension if you find you are distracted by all the images and banners presented on a page.

Settings within 'Mercury Reader for altering the font and colours

If you want to plan what you are going to write or just make graphical notes to revise work, it is possible to mind mapping skills with Connected Mind.  It is not as user friendly or robust as the desktop versions of mind mapping or even web versions such as MindMeister, but it works as an instant work around, saving files is free when you login.  Another way to revise interactively is to use Quizlet that provides endless flashcard study sets or you can create your own.  It also works with diagrams and images. You can import work from most Office docs and Goole docs and make easy tests.

Mind map in Connected Mind extension

The wonderful thing about apps and extensions is that you can try them and easily remove them if you do not like them.   So have fun and explore the Chrome Web Store for more ideas.

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Enabling Technologies (Part 3). Windows 10 and Microsoft Office latest developments

In the last two articles we have looked at tools that are built into iPads and Macs that can help with reading, writing and overcoming common issues associated with dyslexia. In this article, we will focus on the features now available within the latest Microsoft tools – Windows 10 and Office 365, which includes the most common Office tools: Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. This article is timely, as Microsoft have recently added many features specifically to aid users with dyslexia and other learning difficulties and have made a commitment to continue to add additional support for users with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Built- in enabling technologies are not new to the Windows operating system, but Microsoft’s latest version has made it much easier to find each application.

Text to speech

Nearly all Windows computers have built in text to speech (TTS). This is the computer voice to read aloud text and since Windows 8 this has included a British English voice. It is not as fluent or realistic as commercial text to speech tools, but it is not as robotic as the early computer voices. In the TTS setting, accessed by through the “Ease of Access” settings or by searching for “text to speech settings”, you can select different voices and choose the speed you prefer. The British-English voices available in Windows are Microsoft Hazel (available in Windows 8 and 10), George and Susan (available in Windows 10). The Webbie website lists free voices available in other languages, including Welsh.

Once you have selected a voice then you can use it within Office applications to read aloud text. Microsoft have recently added a “Read Aloud” tool in their internet browser Edge, their note-taking app OneNote and the latest version of Word 365. The Read Aloud tool selects the word in the text as it is read aloud to help you focus on the text.

Screenshot of Word 365 read aloud button and toolbar.

Read Aloud button and toolbar from Word 365

Microsoft have also developed an Immersive Reader mode for OneNote and Word 365. This provides a simplified reading mode, showing a few lines of text at a time. You can alter the colours, font size, style and line spacing to ease reading. Immersive Reader can also be used to create an e-book experience and includes many tools for developing vocabulary such as:

To add the Immersive Reader you simply need to install OneNote (free) and the Learning Tools.

If you have Word 2010 or 2013 and other Office applications such as PowerPoint, you can also add a text to speech button by following the instructions on the LexDis website.

Screenshot of immersive reading with a blue coloured background

A screenshot of the Immersive Reader view in OneNote with options to alter the display of the text.

Microsoft plan to roll out their Read Aloud and Immersive Reader tools for other operating systems and applications. They already have it on Word and OneNote apps for iPad.

Spell Checker

While spell checkers are helpful for identifying incorrectly spelt words, it can be challenging to identify the correct word in the spell-checker’s suggestions if you struggle to read. Word 2016 now includes a read-aloud option in the spell checker as well as synonyms to help you understand the meaning of the suggested word.

Word spell check with read aloud option and synonyms.

Screenshot of the spelling suggestion list and tools in Word 365.

Speech Recognition

Windows also has a built-in speech recognition tool. This is made up of Cortana (Window’s digital assistant) and the speech recognition tool for dictating into applications. Cortana is particularly useful if you struggle to correctly spell a word, simple start Cortana and ask it to show the definition by saying “What does [the word] mean”. The spelling is then displayed, broken into syllables along with the definition, which is then read aloud.

Windows speech recognition works best for dictating and editing text in applications like Microsoft Word. To turn it on type “Speech Recognition” into the windows search box or ask Cortana to “Start Speech Recognition”. The first time you start the speech recognition tool you will need to set up the microphone. You do not need to go through the tutorial (voice training), although it will improve the recognition accuracy. Windows Speech Recognition is relatively accurate if you have a clear dictation style and do not pause or stumble. However, it is not as forgiving of ‘umms’ or pauses as the commercial speech recognition tool Dragon Naturally Speaking. Nor does it have tools to help with identifying dictation mistakes or controlling your computer that comes with the Premium and Professional versions of Dragon. So, if you are thinking about whether speech recognition is a suitable tool for you the Windows tool is a useful starting point. It will give you a chance to experience how speech recognition works and whether you are comfortable dictating. But if you find it makes lots of mistakes, then you may need additional training or to invest in a Dragon NaturallySpeaking licence.

screenshot shows definition for bureaucracy and read aloud button

Screenshot of Cortana definition for the word bureaucracy.

More information

If you want to find out more many other ways of customising Word 2016 and Word 365 to support learning then Call Scotland have produced a handy guide available at

 

 

 

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Enabling Technologies (Part 2): Mac OS

Continuing our series of articles exploring some of the useful features available on the devices we own, Robert McLaren from Diversity and Ability (https://www.dnamatters.co.uk) draws our attention to some of those offered on a Mac. The images and location of features referred to are based upon those found within Mac OS Sierra. However, these may appear in different locations of System Preferences depending upon the version you use.

Text-to-speech

Text-to -speech can be a great tool for proofreading your own writing or reading from websites or PDFs. Macs have this feature built into their operating system. It enables most text to be read out loud by the computer. Once the feature is set up, the user can select some text in (almost) any program and then press a key combination to hear the text vocalised. Note: this does not work in Adobe Reader but does in Preview.

To set up the feature: go to ‘System Preferences’ then ‘Accessibility’, then ‘Speech’.

Mac accessibility menu

On this screen, you can check the box for ‘Speak selected text when the key is pressed’. You can also select a choice of voice and how fast it will read. If you use the feature regularly, then it may be worth buying an additional voice: I use Cereproc Jess which costs £25.99 (www.cereproc.com ). By default, the key combination to speak the selected text is ‘Alt and Esc’ but you can change this by clicking ‘Change key…’

Dictation

The inbuilt dictation feature writes the words you speak. It works in any text editor, from desktop programs such as Word, to websites, including Facebook and Gmail. The dictation is not always completely accurate. Sometimes it will write something that sounds similar to the words you have spoken and it is best to sound the end of words clearly for good results. However, it can be a good way to produce text without spelling errors, and you can use the text-to-speech feature to check for any inaccuracies. To use the feature: just place the cursor where you want to write and press the key combination (by default this is set as a double tap of the Fn key). This feature also allows you to perform some other computer tasks using your voice e.g. you can say ‘underline that’ to underline the selected text.

To set up the feature: go to System Preferences, then ‘Keyboard’, then ‘Dictation’ and choose the ‘On’ option.

Mac dictation settings dialog.

It is also a good idea to check the box for ‘Enhanced Dictation’, which allows you to use the feature even when you are offline.  Please note to set this up you will need to be online and it may take up to 25 minutes to complete. You can change the key combination to use the feature by clicking the menu ‘shortcut’. To see a list all the commands you can use (and unlock and add more advanced ones) go to ‘System Preferences’, then ‘Accessibility’ and click ‘Dictation Commands’.

Mac dictation commands dialog.

Popup Dictionary and Thesaurus

This feature allows you to select a word and then see a pop up window with the definitions and synonyms. It can be really helpful for proofreading because it lets you check for so called ‘word confusion errors’. This means that you can check if the word you have written really is the one you meant to write, and not a similar looking word. As an example: if you meant to write ‘whether or not…’ but actually wrote ‘weather or not…’, you will see the error when the definition of the word ‘weather’ shows: ‘the state of the atmosphere…’. Popup is also useful for looking up words you are reading or checking for an appropriate synonym to avoid repeating the same word too often in your writing.

This feature is set up by default. There are two ways to use the feature. One is to select the word and press Control and Command D together. Another is to use Force Click. This method of activating the popup is only available on a Mac with a Force Touch trackpad (i.e. post-2014 MacBook Pro and MacBook; not MacBook Air). If you have a Force Touch trackpad you can rest the mouse pointer over the word and then press down firmly on the trackpad.

Mac trackpad dialog.

Add Auto Corrections

You can also set up a list of Auto Corrections. This means that when you type one string of letters it will automatically change to another: e.g. ‘experement’ can be set to auto correct to ‘experiment’. This can be useful if you find that you consistently misspell the same small group of words. The feature can also be used to save time because you can set an auto correction from an acronym to a full phrase, e.g. ‘coa’ could correct to ‘Catherine of Aragon’.

Mac dialog for adding auto-corrections.

To set up the feature: Go to ‘System Preferences’, then Keyboard’, then ‘Text’. Click the plus icon to add new auto corrections.

Other useful features can be found in an extended version of this article published on the BDANTC website: http://www.bdatech.org

 

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Enabling Technologies (Part 1). Tools built into iPhones and iPads

 Introduction to Enabling Technologies on the iPad.

In recent years, the range of accessibility features now found within the basic operating systems of the latest computers and mobile devices have become more extensive. Some now offer a range of options that were once only ever available with the purchase of commercial packages. These features do not replace the need for more specialised software for some users, but they do offer some individuals a chance to try options which may offer sufficient support in certain contexts.

BDANTC have embarked upon a series of articles which will help you learn more about some of the features available on the devices you own. We will be looking at a range of operating systems, and begin the series with some of the helpful options Victoria Crivelli learned about the iPad, during a recent workshop run by Mike Watkinson from Jigsaw 24 (www.jigsaw24.com).

Note, these options can also be enabled on your iPhone. All images and details about Settings relate to iOS 10.3.

Key Messages:

  • Before downloading a mass of additional Apps, explore the many useful built in options and accessibility features iPads have to offer to everyone, but especially to support those with additional learning needs such as Dyslexia.
  • Users may prefer to use headphones with a personal microphone for privacy and more accurate recordings e.g. in public or noisy environments.

General Tips:

  • If you “get lost” – just press the home button (round button located at the bottom of the device) at any time.
  • To switch to and from recently used screens – press the home key twice (i.e. double click). Any recently used apps will appear for selection.
  • You must be connected to the internet in order to use Siri . If necessary activate this in Settings (accessed from the home screen).
  • Many of the changes to personalise and increase accessibility can be found within Settings
screenshot of ios accessibility settings

Screenshot showing the accessibility setting option on an iPad.

Gestures: Commands can be made with hand ‘gestures’ i.e. swiping across the screen with one or more fingers.

Search: Swipe down with one finger from the middle of the Home screen. This will enable a keyboard that you can use to search for apps or websites.

Siri:  is an inbuilt facility which may help you to find and do things using voice commands (once activated in Settings). Hold down the home key and then use the microphone to make a search or find an app. Try this by saying something such as:  “Open Safari,” or for those struggling to spell:  “How do you spell…”

ios quick-access menu

Screenshot of the quick access menu on an iPhone.

Quick Access: You can quickly access useful features by swiping up from the bottom of the screen with one finger to access a grey panel. This will let you adjust:

  • Volume control (this is easier than finding the buttons on the side of the iPad).
  • Brightness control.
  • Camera or video.
  • Locking the screen facility (i.e. so it doesn’t spin or change from landscape to portrait).

Features to support reading:

Speak provides text-to speech: Enable this by going to Settings >General >Accessibility > Speech. Choose Speak Selection.

Select text  by tapping with one finger (and hold briefly). If necessary expand the selection by pulling the blue ‘handles’ in the corners of the selection box. Choose the option Speak from the pop-up menu and the selected text will then be read aloud. N.B. Not all documents (e.g. some books) will permit this option.

Screenshot of the accessibility > speech > speak selection setting plus a screenshot of selected text with the option to read it aloud.

Speak Screen: is a screen reader function. (Enable by: Settings >General >Accessibility > Speech. Choose Speak Screen). It will read most text shown in a document e.g. email, PDF, some e-books, webpage.

Speech screen menu in a book.

Swipe down with two fingers from the middle and top of the screen.

This will display a screen where you can change the speed of speech using the hare and tortoise symbols, pause or replay.

Use the X symbol to turn off.

You can also change the Speaking Rate and download different Voices (including those that are enhanced) from Settings >General >Accessibility >Speech. 

Highlighted Text: Text can also be highlighted in some screens and Apps as it is spoken. This may help some dyslexic learners.

Select Settings > General >Accessibility > Speech > Highlight Text. You can choose to highlight the individual words and/or sentences.

Features to support note-taking, writing and spelling:

Predictive text: (Activate through Settings> General>Keyboard>Predictive). Suggested words then appear above the keyboard.

Predicted text about the ipad's onscreen keyboard.

You can also tap and hold each word to hear it spoken in the Predictive panel by activating: Settings >General >Accessibility >Speech >Typing Feedback. Choose the Hold to Speak Predictions option.

Dictate provides speech to text: Activate this in Settings >General >Keyboard >Enable Dictation.

Tap the microphone icon next to the space bar and speak into the microphone. The words will appear as they are spoken. Dictate is a scaled down version of Dragon Dictation and will accept very basic commands such as “new line ” or ” question mark.”   It is ideal for short notes and paragraphs.

Use Speak (described above) to help you edit any typed text.

Some users also like to hear each word spoken back to them as they type. This can be set up from Settings >General >Accessibility >Speech >Typing Feedback and selecting Speak Words. 

Useful Accessibility Features:

Go to Settings from the home page to access other Accessibility features (General > Accessibility) to change :

  • Text size
  • Brightness settings
  • Colour tints and inversion of colours for the screen (General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations). This may be useful for those with visual stress and colour blindness).

To stop Auto Capitalisation (for example in lists and notes) go to Settings > General > Keyboard.

N.B. Third party keyboard apps can also be added after purchase from the App Store and downloaded if required. E.g. ‘Lowercase Keyboard’ is a lowercase keyboard for younger users using OpenDyslexic font. Maths keyboards are also available for easy access to symbols such as square roots.

Simplifying a screen when using web pages: 

The Reader function in Safari strips away distracting and often irrelevant adverts etc from a web page so just the key information is presented. Look for the icon with lines on it inside the e-address window on the left hand side. (Most good web pages will display this icon).

Select the icon and the main text will appear without any additional info / adverts .

The Aa symbol, on the opposite side of the e-address window, enables text size, font and colour background options for web pages. (This feature is available in some e-Books too).

To hear words or part of the text or information, tap and select the text, then choose the Speak or Speak Screen options described above.

For further information and training around this or any other aspect of using iPads in the classroom contact:  education@jigsaw24.com .

 

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Articles from Contact Magazine

Enabling Technologies- Part 1

 Introduction

In recent years, the range of accessibility features now found within the basic operating systems of the latest computers and mobile devices have become more extensive. Some now offer a range of options that were once only ever available with the purchase of commercial packages. These features do not replace the need for more specialised software for some users, but they do offer some individuals a chance to try options which may offer sufficient support in certain contexts.

BDANTC have embarked upon a series of articles which will help you learn more about some of the features available on the devices you own. We will be looking at a range of operating systems, and begin the series with some of the helpful options Victoria Crivelli learned about the iPad, during a recent workshop run by Mike Watkinson from Jigsaw 24 (www.jigsaw24.com).

Enabling Technologies on the iPad.

N.B. These options can also be enabled on your iPhone. All images and details about Settings relate to iOS 10.3.

Key Messages:

  • Before downloading a mass of additional Apps, explore the many useful built in options and accessibility features iPads have to offer to everyone, but especially to support those with additional learning needs such as Dyslexia.
  • Users may prefer to use headphones with a personal microphone for privacy and more accurate recordings e.g. in public or noisy environments.

General Tips:

  • If you “get lost” – just press the home button (round button located at the bottom of the device) at any time.
  • To switch to and from recently used screens – press the home key twice (i.e. double click). Any recently used apps will appear for selection.
  • You must be connected to the internet in order to use Siri . If necessary activate this in Settings (accessed from the home screen).
  • Many of the changes to personalise and increase accessibility can be found within

Gestures: Commands can be made with hand ‘gestures’ i.e. swiping across the screen with one or more fingers.

Search: Swipe down with one finger from the middle of the Home screen. This will enable a keyboard that you can use to search for apps or websites.

Siri:  is an inbuilt facility which may help you to find and do things using voice commands (once activated in Settings). Hold down the home key and then use the microphone to make a search or find an app. Try this by saying something such as:  “Open Safari,” or for those struggling to spell:  “How do you spell…”

Quick Access: You can quickly access useful features by swiping up from the bottom of the screen with one finger to access a grey panel. This will let you adjust:

  • Volume control (this is easier than finding the buttons on the side of the iPad).
  • Brightness control.
  • Camera or video.
  • Locking the screen facility (i.e. so it doesn’t spin or change from landscape to portrait).

Features to support reading:

Speak provides text-to speech: Enable this by going to Settings >General >Accessibility > Speech. Choose Speak Selection.

Select text  by tapping with one finger (and hold briefly). If necessary expand the selection by pulling the blue ‘handles’ in the corners of the selection box. Choose the option Speak from the pop-up menu and the selected text will then be read aloud. N.B. Not all documents (e.g. some books) will permit this option.

Speak Screen: is a screen reader function. (Enable by: Settings >General >Accessibility > Speech. Choose Speak Screen). It will read most text shown in a document e.g. email, PDF, some e-books, webpage.

Swipe down with two fingers from the middle and top of the screen.

This will display a screen where you can change the speed of speech using the hare and tortoise symbols, pause or replay.

Use the X symbol to turn off.

You can also change the Speaking Rate and download different Voices (including those that are enhanced) from Settings >General >Accessibility >Speech. 

Highlighted Text: Text can also be highlighted in some screens and Apps as it is spoken. This may help some dyslexic learners.

Select Settings > General >Accessibility > Speech > Highlight Text. You can choose to highlight the individual words and/or sentences.

Features to support note-taking, writing and spelling:

Predictive text: (Activate through Settings> General>Keyboard>Predictive). Suggested words then appear above the keyboard.

You can also tap and hold each word to hear it spoken in the Predictive panel by activating: Settings >General >Accessibility >Speech >Typing Feedback. Choose the Hold to Speak Predictions option.

Dictate provides speech to text: Activate this in Settings >General >Keyboard >Enable Dictation.

Tap the icon next to the space bar and speak into the microphone. The words will appear as they are spoken. Dictate is a scaled down version of Dragon Dictation and will accept very basic commands such as “new line ” or ” question mark.”   It is ideal for short notes and paragraphs.

Use Speak (described above) to help you edit any typed text.

Some users also like to hear each word spoken back to them as they type. This can be set up from Settings >General >Accessibility >Speech >Typing Feedback and selecting Speak Words. 

Useful Accessibility Features:

Go to Settings from the home page to access other Accessibility features (General > Accessibility) to change :

  • Text size
  • Brightness settings
  • Colour tints and inversion of colours for the screen (General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations). This may be useful for those with visual stress and colour blindness).

To stop Auto Capitalisation (for example in lists and notes) go to Settings > General > Keyboard.

N.B. Third party keyboard apps can also be added after purchase from the App Store and downloaded if required. E.g. ‘Lowercase Keyboard’ is a lowercase keyboard for younger users using OpenDyslexic font. Maths keyboards are also available for easy access to symbols such as square roots.

Simplifying a screen when using web pages: 

The Reader function in Safari strips away distracting and often irrelevant adverts etc from a web page so just the key information is presented. Look for the icon   inside the e-address window on the left hand side. (Most good web pages will display this icon).

Select the icon and the main text will appear without any additional info / adverts .

The Aa symbol, on the opposite side of the e-address window, enables text size, font and colour background options for web pages. (This feature is available in some e-Books too).

To hear words or part of the text or information, tap and select the text, then choose the Speak or Speak Screen options described above.

For further information and training around this or any other aspect of using iPads in the classroom contact:  education@jigsaw24.com .

 

Enabling Technologies: Part 2

Continuing our series of articles exploring some of the useful features available on the devices we own, Robert McLaren from Diversity and Ability (https://www.dnamatters.co.uk) draws our attention to some of those offered on a Mac. The images and location of features referred to are based upon those found within Mac OS Sierra. However, these may appear in different locations of System Preferences depending upon the version you use.

Text-to-speech

Text-to -speech can be a great tool for proofreading your own writing or reading from websites or PDFs. Macs have this feature built into their operating system. It enables most text to be read out loud by the computer. Once the feature is set up, the user can select some text in (almost) any program and then press a key combination to hear the text vocalised. Note: this does not work in Adobe Reader but does in Preview.

To set up the feature: go to ‘System Preferences’ then ‘Accessibility’, then ‘Speech’.

On this screen, you can check the box for ‘Speak selected text when the key is pressed’. You can also select a choice of voice and how fast it will read. If you use the feature regularly, then it may be worth buying an additional voice: I use Cereproc Jess which costs £25.99 (www.cereproc.com ). By default, the key combination to speak the selected text is ‘Alt and Esc’ but you can change this by clicking ‘Change key…’

Dictation

The inbuilt dictation feature writes the words you speak. It works in any text editor, from desktop programs such as Word, to websites, including Facebook and Gmail. The dictation is not always completely accurate. Sometimes it will write something that sounds similar to the words you have spoken and it is best to sound the end of words clearly for good results. However, it can be a good way to produce text without spelling errors, and you can use the text-to-speech feature to check for any inaccuracies. To use the feature: just place the cursor where you want to write and press the key combination (by default this is set as a double tap of the Fn key). This feature also allows you to perform some other computer tasks using your voice e.g. you can say ‘underline that’ to underline the selected text.

To set up the feature: go to System Preferences, then ‘Keyboard’, then ‘Dictation’ and choose the ‘On’ option.

It is also a good idea to check the box for ‘Enhanced Dictation’, which allows you to use the feature even when you are offline.  Please note to set this up you will need to be online and it may take up to 25 minutes to complete. You can change the key combination to use the feature by clicking the menu ‘shortcut’. To see a list all the commands you can use (and unlock and add more advanced ones) go to ‘System Preferences’, then ‘Accessibility’ and click ‘Dictation Commands’.

Popup Dictionary and Thesaurus

This feature allows you to select a word and then see a pop up window with the definitions and synonyms. It can be really helpful for proofreading because it lets you check for so called ‘word confusion errors’. This means that you can check if the word you have written really is the one you meant to write, and not a similar looking word. As an example: if you meant to write ‘whether or not…’ but actually wrote ‘weather or not…’, you will see the error when the definition of the word ‘weather’ shows: ‘the state of the atmosphere…’. Popup is also useful for looking up words you are reading or checking for an appropriate synonym to avoid repeating the same word too often in your writing.

This feature is set up by default. There are two ways to use the feature. One is to select the word and press Control and Command D together. Another is to use Force Click. This method of activating the popup is only available on a Mac with a Force Touch trackpad (i.e. post-2014 MacBook Pro and MacBook; not MacBook Air). If you have a Force Touch trackpad you can rest the mouse pointer over the word and then press down firmly on the trackpad.

Add Auto Corrections

You can also set up a list of Auto Corrections. This means that when you type one string of letters it will automatically change to another: e.g. ‘experement’ can be set to auto correct to ‘experiment’. This can be useful if you find that you consistently misspell the same small group of words. The feature can also be used to save time because you can set an auto correction from an acronym to a full phrase, e.g. ‘coa’ could correct to ‘Catherine of Aragon’.

To set up the feature: Go to ‘System Preferences’, then Keyboard’, then ‘Text’. Click the plus icon to add new auto corrections.

Enabling Technologies Part 3: Windows 10 and Microsoft Office latest developments: Abi James

In the last two articles we have looked at tools that are built into iPads and Macs that can help with reading, writing and overcoming common issues associated with dyslexia. In this article, we will focus on the features now available within the latest Microsoft tools – Windows 10 and Office 365, which includes the most common Office tools: Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. This article is timely, as Microsoft have recently added many features specifically to aid users with dyslexia and other learning difficulties.  Microsoft have made a commitment to continue to add additional support for users with learning difficulties and disabilities with recent blogs about accessibility listing the support they are offering. (https://tinyurl.com/y93w5ulv)

Built- in enabling technologies are not new to the Windows operating system, but Microsoft’s latest version has made it much easier to find each application.

Text to speech

Nearly all Windows computers have built in text to speech (TTS). This is the computer voice to read aloud text and since Windows 8 this has included a British English voice. It is not as fluent or realistic as commercial text to speech tools, but it is not as robotic as the early computer voices. In the TTS setting, accessed by through the “Ease of Access” settings or by searching for “text to speech settings”, you can select different voices and choose the speed you prefer. The British-English voices available in Windows are Microsoft Hazel (available in Windows 8 and 10), George and Susan (available in Windows 10). Details of free voices in other languages, including Welsh are listed at https://www.webbie.org.uk/texttospeech.htm.

Once you have selected a voice then you can use it within Office applications to read aloud text. Microsoft have recently added a “Read Aloud” tool in their internet browser Edge, their note-taking app OneNote and the latest version of Word 365. The Read Aloud tool selects the word in the text as it is read aloud to help you focus on the text.

Microsoft have also developed an Immersive Reader mode for OneNote and Word 365. This provides a simplified reading mode, showing a few lines of text at a time. You can alter the colours, font size, style and line spacing to ease reading. Immersive Reader can also be used to create an e-book experience and includes many tools for developing vocabulary such as:

  • highlighting different parts of speech.
  • breaking words into syllables
  • integrated picture dictionary.

To add the Immersive Reader you simply need to install OneNote (free) and the Learning Tools from https://www.onenote.com/learningtools.

Further information about the new picture symbol feature can be found at  http://www.callscotland.org.uk/blog/immersive-readers-new-picture-dictionary/ .

If you have Word 2010 or 2013 and other Office applications such as PowerPoint, you can also add a text to speech button by following the instructions at http://bit.ly/lexdis-word2010.

Microsoft plan to roll out their Read Aloud and Immersive Reader tools for other operating systems and applications. They already have it on Word and OneNote apps for iPad.

Spell Checker

While spell checkers are helpful for identifying incorrectly spelt words, it can be challenging to identify the correct word in the spell-checker’s suggestions if you struggle to read. Word 2016 now includes a read-aloud option in the spell checker as well as synonyms to help you understand the meaning of the suggested word.

Speech Recognition

Windows also has a built-in speech recognition tool. This is made up of Cortana (Window’s digital assistant) and the speech recognition tool for dictating into applications. Cortana is particularly useful if you struggle to correctly spell a word, simple start Cortana and ask it to show the definition by saying “What does [the word] mean”. The spelling is then displayed, broken into syllables along with the definition, which is then read aloud.

Windows speech recognition works best for dictating and editing text in applications like Microsoft Word. To turn it on type “Speech Recognition” into the windows search box or ask Cortana to “Start Speech Recognition”. The first time you start the speech recognition tool you will need to set up the microphone. You do not need to go through the tutorial (voice training), although it will improve the recognition accuracy. Windows Speech Recognition is relatively accurate if you have a clear dictation style and do not pause or stumble. However, it is not as forgiving of ‘umms’ or pauses as the commercial speech recognition tool Dragon Naturally Speaking. Nor does it have tools to help with identifying dictation mistakes or controlling your computer that comes with the Premium and Professional versions of Dragon. So, if you are thinking about whether speech recognition is a suitable tool for you the Windows tool is a useful starting point. It will give you a chance to experience how speech recognition works and whether you are comfortable dictating. But if you find it makes lots of mistakes, then you may need additional training or to invest in a Dragon NaturallySpeaking licence.

More information

If you want to find out more many other ways of customising Word 2016 and Word 365 to support learning then Call Scotland have produced a handy guide available at http://bit.ly/callscotland-word2016.

 

 

 

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Jisc on exams


The Joint Information Systems Committee, (see Wikipedia description of Jisc) has issued guidelines for digital examinations, like the Scottish ones posted recently. B.D.A. NTC contributed to these guidelines.

They encourage schools to take advantage of digital exam formats for print-impaired learners.
1. Blog post.
2. Guidance for candidates.
3. Guidance for centres.

It is of particular interest to note that candidates who qualify for a reader can use Text to Speech software for all subjects, including some for which they cannot have a human reader, e.g. English, Welsh and foreign language GCSEs; Welsh and foreign language A-levels and Functional Skills English assessments. The schools need to record evidence that it is the candidates’ ‘normal way of working’.

See B.D.A. tech pages on Examinations, Computer Readers and Exam pens.

B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. June 2015.
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Talking in exams


CALL Scotland announced a project about Talking in Exams, i.e. writing by Speech Recognition with particular reference to Dragon Naturally Speaking and ReadQ SpeakQ.

This is particularly relevant for English examinations when scribes cannot be used, but Speech Recognition can.

The project will include information for Scottish schools and feedback from those using Speech Recognition. An archived recording of a seminar is available.

We hope the information will be useful for English and Welsh schools too.

CALL Scotland has an excellent free archive of webinars.

B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. May 2015.
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Literacy Toolbox

We have added Eddie Carron’s free Perceptual Learning software, Literacy Toolbox, to the Study Skills page.

Structured synthetic phonics teaching is essential. After that, masses of reading experience is vital. The Literacy Toolbox provides hundreds of short texts, with comprehension and dictation options as well.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. February 2015.
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MPs and Peers


Google Alerts flags a presentation, for MPs and Peers, by AbilityNet and others, including Abi James and Neil Cottrell of B.D.A. New Technologies Committee, today 20 January 2015.

Digital access by and for disabled people: technology showcase for MPs and peers.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. January 2015.
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A.T. webinar


Abi James, NTC Chair, presented a B.D.A. webinar on Assistive Technology in Examinations.

Here are PDF and Powerpoint versions of her presentation.

It is good that schools are increasing their use of Computer Readers and Exam pens in Examinations.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. December 2014.
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Updated pages

updated pages
Cheryl Dobbs has done a major revision of our Apps page for all facilities that support dyslexia. She has added some, deleted a few, and revised the description and comments on most of the items.

There is now an iPad app for the first stage, First Steps, of Teach Your Monster to Read. The review of the first two stages was uploaded in May 2014, in Word and PDF formats.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. July 2014.
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Free webinars


CALL Scotland has some free, short webinars in May and June.
CALL stands for Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning, but it means Assistive Technology.

The webinars include:

  • Calibre to manage e-books.
  • BitsBoard App for the iPad.7
  • My StudyBar.
  • Clicker Connect.
  • iPad Apps for laying out Mathematics.

Recordings will be archived after the events.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. May 2014.
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A.T. Case study


A blog was posted on 10 April 2014, about a senior Microsoft Assistive Technology staff member. He helped two dyslexic workers, but he learned about the software for his own benefit, as well as showing it to them.

One worker chose ClaroRead and the other chose Read & Write. That underlines our view that there is no single best program for any task.

They both personalised the font in MS Outlook and MS Word to blue Comic Sans and double spacing, but again, that would not suit everyone.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. May 2014.
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‘Monster’ for literacy


‘Teach your monster to read’ is an excellent on-line, free, early literacy games program for Windows and Mac, with an app coming soon. It is sponsored by the Usborne Foundation.

Find the goatChildren will learn to read letter-sounds and some letter-groups, relevant regular words and some tricky words, in a wide variety of fun activities. They include sentence work for comprehension. Adult supervisors can monitor progress and reinforce off-screen if necessary, as the children complete the whole journey.

See a review for Word or PDF file.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. April 2014.
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NTC presentations


Members of the B.D.A. NTC were involved in a range of presentations at the 9th B.D.A. International Conference, 27 to 29 March 2014.

This page provides summaries of each talk and links to open or download their slides.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. March 2014.
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Free workshops


Publishers and suppliers provide a lot of training and support. They have open days and workshops for prospective customers and for users of their products. They also have videos and guideline documents online.

Some of them are listed on our Events page. Do ask for help and information, to use all aspects of your software and devices to their full extent.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. March 2014.
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JPE review


Two pupils in the B.D.A. Children Will Shine project in Peterborough are making good use of a Jolly Phonics Extra kit with a Talking Pen. The specialist teacher in charge, Jacqueline Swift, reports their enjoyment. More comments come from a pupil and teacher in the Wirral. See the Word and PDF versions.

The Talking Pen holds human voice audio files of the letter-sounds, words, instructions, flash cards, stories and reading books in the kit.

See videos of the TalkingPen in action on the Jolly Phonics Extra web.

© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. January 2014.
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