Boardmaker Online now launched in Ireland

Tobii Dynavox have recently launched their new Boardmaker Online product in Ireland through SafeCare Technologies. It has all the functionalities of previous versions of Boardmaker, except now that it’s web-based you don’t need any disks and multiple users can access it from any PC.

Instructor showing students how to use Boardmaker Online

You can purchase a Personal, Professional or District account and the amount you pay depends on the type of account, the amount of “instructors” and how many years you want to sign up for. You can also get a discount for any old Boardmaker disks that you want to trade in.

You get all the symbols that have been available in past versions, as well as some new symbol sets and any new ones that are created in the future will also be given to you. Because it’s web-based, you have access to previously created activities via the online community and you can upload activities you create yourself to that community and share them with other people in your district or all over the world.

Because it’s no longer tied to one device, you can create activities on your PC and assign them to your “students” who can use them either in school and/or at home. You no longer need to have a user’s device in your possession to update their activities and they don’t need to have a period without their device while you do this.

You (and the other instructors in your district if you have a district licence) can also assign the same activity to many students and by having different accessibility options set up for different students, the activity is automatically accessible for their individual needs. For example, you could create an activity and assign it to a student who uses eye gaze and to a student who uses switches and that activity will show up on their device in the format that’s accessible for them.

Picture shows how instructors can assign Boardmaker Online activities to multiple students

The results of students’ work can be tracked against IEP or educational goals which then helps you decide what activities would be suitable to assign next. You can also track staff and student usage.

One limitation is that you can only create activities on a Windows PC or Mac. You can play activities on an iPad using the free app but not create them on it, and you can’t use Boardmaker Online to either create or play activities on an Android or Windows-based tablet.

The other point to mention is that because it’s a subscription-based product, the payment you have to make is recurring every year rather than being a one-off payment, which may not suit everyone.

However, with the new features it’s definitely worth getting the free 30-day trial and deciding for yourself if you’d like to trade in your old Boardmaker disks for the new online version!

Accessibility Checker for Word Tutorial

The Accessibility Checker feature has been part of Microsoft Office for the last few iterations of the software package. It provides a fast and easy way to check whether the content you are producing is accessible to users of assistive technology. By making accessibility accessible Microsoft have left no room for excuses like “I didn’t know how…” or “I didn’t have time..”. You wouldn’t send a document to all your colleagues full of misspellings because you were in a hurry would you? The one criticism that could have been leveled at Microsoft was perhaps they didn’t provide enough support to new users of the tool. As I said above it’s easy to use but sometimes users need a little extra support, especially when you are introducing them to something that may be perceived as additional work. Thankfully Microsoft have filled that gap with a 6 part tutorial video which clearly explains why and how to get started using Accessibility Checker. Part 1 is a short introduction (embedded below) followed by a video on each important accessibility practice; Alternative Text, Heading Styles, Hyperlinks, File naming and Tables. Each video is accompanied by a short exercise to allow you put your new skill into practice immediately. The whole tutorial can be completed in under 20 minutes. This tutorial should be a requirement for anybody producing documents for circulation to the public. Have a look at the introduction video below.

Free and open source software

 

Free and open source software

Here is a nice guide put together by JISC in the UK.  It’s a guide of Free and open source software (FOSS).

Many FOSS tools can benefit learners and those with (or without!) a disabilities.  There are thousands of tools available.

On the guide the tools have been grouped by type so that they may be of benefit for specific purposes or needs.  For example Audio tools to enable you to record and/or listen to material or Display enhancement tools to need help with either displaying or working with text and graphics.

Before downloading any free and open source software we recommend keeping your computer secure using antivirus software.

JISC blog on FOSS

For other useful resources in Jisc see their blog page

New website: www.digiplace4all.eu

 

www.digiplace4all.eu

Good news: NCBI and their EU partners have recently launched a website promoting digital inclusion: www.digiplace4all.eu. A core feature of this resource will be the creation of a network of digital champions: people who have particular experience and expertise in domains such as: digital literacy, workplace accessibility, workplace accessibility and much more. NCBI’s Mark Magennis has been in touch to ask us to help promote this resource widely in the health, education and employment sectors. We now invite you to visit the site and share it with your colleagues/fellow AT users. This is a great opportunity to create a network of champions who can assist one another in very real and practical ways to become more confident technology users.

One of the things we struggle with is the need to support one another when real issues arise, rather than offering support according to a training calendar/diary. This website is a step in that direction and I hope that you will find it useful. I hope that you might be in a position to take an active role in championing effective technology use in your particular area of expertise. Ultimately, www.digiplace4all.eu has the potential for the whole to be so much more than the sum of its parts. For further information, why not check out NCBI’s Mark Magennis whose video outlines the main benefits and features of the site right here:  http://youtu.be/MxSDuqRkTuY

 

Switch Assessment Webinar

webinarComing up tomorrow is a free online webinar hosted by AbleNet University. These webinars are free and provide good practical information on a range of Assistive Technology topics.

Date 10th February 2015 at 11:00am CST (or 17:00 hrs. GMT) – 60 minutes.
Title: Switch Assessment, Part 1: Determining the best switch type and location for clients with muscle weakness
This Webinar will present assessment strategies to determine the optimal switch location and switch type to provide access for clients with muscle weakness.

If you can’t make this one, you can keep an eye on AbleNet University’s Upcoming Live Webinars.

Also on switch assessment which is worth having a look at, is the ACE Centre (North)’s publication on Switch Assessment and Planning Framework for Individuals with Physical Disabilities

Find it yourself? Ask Sara

AskSaraHere is an interesting website that helps anyone find useful advice and products that make daily living easier.

http://asksara.dlf.org.uk/

How it works

  1. Choose the topic you wish to look at from within Health, Household activities or Daily activities
  2. Respond to the questions based on your selection
  3. Then you obtain a report back.

The site says that the report contains advice written by occupational therapists that provide details of products that might help you. The information within the report is impartial to any product or supplier and aims to include details of every product on the market.

I have chosen a few topics to have a look at and have found the reports do provide useful guidance towards a solution.  Some of the topics are a little hidden within the limited headings.  I have also found it a bit limiting on the range of technologies it suggest that may help.

However it does promote users to initiate and consider products to meet their own needs and so is a good step in the right direction.

AskSARA is advice tool developed by national charity the Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) and provide a UK based equipment library.

Learn the basics of the iPad

As the accessibility and usability of mobile devices has improved in recent years, these devices are more commonly found within the assistive technology area.  The Operating Systems within these devices are improving and so it’s useful to know the features that are available.

I have recently came across this YouTube video while searching for a guide for someone who needed to learn about the basics of the iPad. The video covers what the various buttons do on the iPad, features of iOS 7, how to use Siri and dictation, and more. Even though we are now beyond iOS7 the information within this video is still quite relevant. It’s a well produced video that’s not too technical and easy to watch.

The Video is one of many made by a company called PC Classes Online that can be found at http://PCClassesOnline.com. They produce other PC related videos for free.

Raising the Floor continues to grow

Raising the Floor

Raising the Floor (RtF) is an international coalition of individuals and organizations working to ensure that the Internet, and everything available through it, is accessible to people experiencing accessibility barriers due to disability, literacy, or age. Of particular concern are those that are underserved or unserved due to the type or combination of disabilities they have, the part of the world they live in, or the limited resources (financial or program) available to them.

Their goal is to raise the level of access technology (the floor) that is available to everyone, and to create an infrastructure to facilitate the development, distribution, and support of a wider range of more affordable accessibility solutions internationally.

Their work includes projects such as:

Creating the infrastructure to make delivery of solutions possible, affordable. GPII

Highlighting those who are raising the floor on what is available and affordable Spotlight

A central location for people looking for projects they can work on that would raise the floor of ICT accessibility for all. Challenges

http://raisingthefloor.org/