Study Time!

person studying with booksIt’s that time of year again for students – heading back into schools and colleges, or perhaps you are a mature student, thinking of dipping your toe back into education and gaining qualifications or pursuing interests. You may be considering starting your study regime early, rather than leaving everything to the last minute, in the days and weeks leading up to exams! In that case, we may have some ideas below for helping to create study materials and finding resources online to assist with your plans! All of the resources mentioned below are free, but may have paid components to unlock further features.

StudyNotes collaborative websiteFirst up is . This is a collaborative website, aimed specifically at Junior and Leaving Certificate students. Revision notes can be downloaded on practically all subjects at both levels, and you can also share your own notes as well. The website includes the tools to create your own flashcards and quizzes, which you can also share. Blog posts and videos on relevant topics can also be viewed. In addition, there is a forum to post questions and reply to others seeking advice. Also included are a notebook section to compile your own notes and a study planner to help make the most of your time.

goconqr repository of is a similar website to the above, in that it is a repository of resources, and once you sign in and create a profile, will give content specific to the Irish curriculum. As well as notes, you can create, share or download mind maps, flowcharts and slides on specific topics. Self-correcting flashcards and quizzes can also be created. It allows you to connect with friends and groups, providing a network to support your learning.
Khan academy repositoryKhan academy, while not specifically aimed at Irish second or third level educational institutions, has a substantial repository on a range of topics. For example Maths, Arts and Humanities, Science and Engineering and Economics and Finance are covered. As you work your way through the content, progress is recoded and you can also take practice tests along the way to ensure your comprehension of materials.
Quizlet webpage resources gives you the ability to search for resources as well as create and share your own. Mainly based on a flashcard type of structure, you have the ability to test yourself or play games using your own materials.

Some other resources that might be of use include:
TEDTalks ( are a very useful and entertaining way of gaining information on a wide range of topics. contains resources specific to the second level curriculum, while has information about exams, tips and advice. has videos on maths, explaining concepts and working out solutions. is useful in translating Irish, while An Gramadoir ( will check grammar.

Hopefully these resources will help get your academic year off to a good start and assist in achieving your best!.

Digital Textbooks – Better but still not good enough

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter and there is a definite nip in the evening air. After two or three months of care free holidays, children and young adults, all over the country, are getting ready for another academic year. Although more years than I care to mention since my school days, I share the sense of foreboding felt by some of these young people during the close of summer. It’s not the approach of double maths on a Monday morning or a state exam on the horizon that I dread. As an AT Technician working in Enable Ireland, it is the inevitable queries from parents and therapists about digital textbooks that is the cause of my anxiety. Can we get textbooks in digital format? How? Will they be compatible with the technology being recommended? If they are workbooks, how will they fill in the answers? These are some of the very pertinent, and for the most part frustratingly unanswerable questions that come in at this time of year. In the remainder of this post I’ll try to clarify the current situation, just don’t expect all the answers… sorry.

Can you get textbooks in digital format?

In April 2016 the Irish Educational Publishers’ Association (IEPA), who represent 95% of Irish educational publishing houses, agreed on a centralised special needs policy relating to making texts available in digital format. This is progress, although limited as you will soon see. Their policy (which you can read here) falls short of committing to the supply a digital version of the textbook to those who need them. “The publisher will make every effort to accommodate the request but cannot guarantee the availability of a particular title, or a title in a specific format. The format of the title remains at the discretion of the publisher.” Reading into this a little I think it’s safe to assume that all the commonly used titles will be available but anything a bit out of the ordinary will not.

How do I get digital versions of school textbooks?

Up until last year this was a tough one. Each publisher had different requirements and there was little information publicly available. Thankfully the IEPA have made some efforts to standardise the process which is also outlined on the page linked above. “The request must be submitted by a parent, or teacher, of the named student, accompanied by acceptable proof of medical condition. Files, in pdf, text files or eBook access are then provided to the student in question.” Obviously it’s not ideal that “proof of medical condition” needs to be submitted, but it is perhaps understandable from the publishers’ perspective that there are some restrictions.

Will the digital textbooks be compatible with the technology being recommended?

This is the question that keeps me up at night (well this and the new season of Game of Thrones) because there are so many variables. We would need to know the format that the textbooks will be supplied in, and the IEPA are very non-committal in this regard. Statements like “Files, in pdf, text files or eBook..”, and “The format of the title remains at the discretion of the publisher”, make it quite clear that they refuse to be pinned down. This really needs to be looked at. It is not in the publishers’ interests to commit to a specific format. It is however in the students’ interests, particularly students with access or literacy difficulties that require the use Assistive Technology. This is something the Department of Education need to enforce, as is the case in other jurisdictions. The only advice I can give here is to contact the publishers and find out what format the textbooks will be supplied in, then contact us at Enable Ireland AT Service.

If they are workbooks how will they fill in the answers?

Depends on the format, see above (sorry).

If you are looking for more on this subject you can read last year’s rant on AT in the Era of the Digital Schoolbag here

Educational/therapeutic activities for your child

3 young children in front of laptop computer

Below are some websites and downloads that will work for a short time while in trial mode, that your child might like try to get back into school mode.

One website which might be useful to try out would be . You can get a free 30-day trial, and again if your child’s school is using this, you may be able to get a home login. In particular, on this website, I recommend activities such as 2publish, which would allow your child to write creating stories including audio, pictures, and videos. Using 2connect, a mind-mapping activity, they can plan and sequence before writing. Writing personal stories, ie. What I did last week, when I grow up, etc can be very motivating and help maintain attention. Writing about daily activities can be useful in helping establish sequences such as getting ready in the morning, how to make a sandwich etc. this could then be extended to recalling a movie plot for example or recreate a recently read book, paying attention to what happens first, then next and how it concludes.  In the 2publish plus, 2annimate and 2code activities, the child is guided to work on sequence movements of characters and items, which should assist with planning, and when editing, visual memory ie. What do you need to change to get X to turn left instead of right? You can use this to stop the animation and ask what happens next, again to work on visual memory, critical thinking, maintaining attention etc.  There are lots more activities that are worth exploring, mostly aimed at the primary school curriculum. As this is web based, it can be accessed from any device. is one of the few websites that follow the Irish curriculum for both maths and English. While it is subscription based, it does allow for up to 10 problems /questions to be solved each day without paying, which is a nice short session, particularly for the summer months, when sitting at a computer may not be the most motivating! It should provide extra support for the maths and English activities your child is doing in school, giving them extra practice with gentle correcting from the website, so they can learn independently. Answers are usually in a multiple choice format, and it covers the curriculum from junior infants through to sixth year. Again, this is web based and can be accessed from PC, Mac, Apple, and Android devices.

The free 30-day trial version of Clicker 7 from is a great way to experience this literacy support software. It has lots of features for those with literacy difficulties, including word prediction, where the software helps writers by giving a list of words that can be read aloud by right clicking on them, before selecting with a left click. This software also has a mind-mapping tool, the ability to create books and other activities, but one of my favourite features is the text reader. This will read aloud content (either the whole page or just selected words) with highlighting, so that the text can be followed, which again helps with word recognition. Premade books and activities can be downloaded within the software, so that the child can experience vocabulary and work on comprehension on topics that interest them. As this is a downloadable software, it is not available on iPads or Android tablets. has some great activities for those who are starting out with literacy and numeracy skills. Easy to use activities that are self-correcting are appealing to young learners, with the option of buying a subscription to access more activities. Most of the activities are Flash based, so may not work on tablets. is a repository of free maths games, suited to a primary and secondary level. Most take a fun element to drilling maths skills, and a mixture of formats are used, depending on the website linked, so most will work on any device. focuses on maths and science for the lower end of primary school, with some interactive activities. Literacy based games and stories are also featured. also has some basic maths games that require quick thinking! These last two websites are mostly flashed based, so again may not work on tablets.

For any budding authors, is a website that will provide a selection of art for use in your own literary creations, be it short stories, novels or poems.

These are just a small selection of games available free of charge online. Hopefully, your child will have fun exploring and playing!

Mounting mobile phones and tablets

green plastic mount supporting mobile phone at a 70 degree angle

When we use technology we need to be able to position it so that it is easy to use. We need to be able operate the controls and have it positioned so that we can see it without eyestrain.  Sometimes it’s useful to mount a device, as our hands may be tied up doing something else; the device may be too heavy or we may even have a limited ability to reach, grasp, or hold the device.

Some of the most common items we use are mobile phones and tablets.  There are various mounting options available.  The suitability of a mount depends on various factors such as the fixing clamp, where you intend to mount the device, weight of device to be mounted, the reach and adjustability of the mount etc.

Mounting systems are generally composed of a (i)fixing clamp to mount either to a flat table top surface or a circular tubing, (ii) an adjustable arm usually no longer that 500mm (iii) some kind of attachment or cradle to hold the device.

Below are two mounting systems which may offer you some good solutions.  Ram mounts are a mainstream supplier of mounts for electronic devices within cars, bikes and trucks.  Rehadapt on the other hand, have a range of mounting products to serve clients with “special needs”. Both systems consist of a fixing clamp, adjustable arm and a cradle to hold the device.

Ram mount

In choosing a fixing clamp you need to consider the surface you are fixing it to: do you need to remove clamp often? Will the clamp be secure?  Below are two clamps however their site  offers more options.

RAM Small Tough-Claw™ with B Size 1″ Diameter Rubber Ball

RAM Small Tough-Claw™ with B Size 1" Diameter Rubber Ball$33.49

RAM Rail Base with B Size 1″ Ball. Zinc Coated U-Bolt for Rails fro…

RAM Rail Base with B Size 1" Ball. Zinc Coated U-Bolt for Rails from 0.5" to 1.25" in Diameter


The Ram mount arms consist of various length double socket arms as well as solid and gooseneck poles that can be joined together with an adaptor.

RAM Short Double Socket Arm for B Size 1″ Balls

RAM Short Double Socket Arm for B Size 1" Balls$13.99

RAM Double Socket Arm for B Size 1″ Balls

RAM Double Socket Arm for B Size 1" Balls$13.99

RAM Medium Double Socket Arm, Dual Extension with Ball Adapter for …

RAM Medium Double Socket Arm, Dual Extension with Ball Adapter for B Size 1" Balls$39.49

At the end of the arm we need to attach the device.  Ram mounts offer various cradles for specific tablets as well as universal type options.

RAM Universal X-Grip® Cell/iPhone Cradle

RAM Universal X-Grip® mobile phone Cradle $27.99

RAM Universal X-Grip® Large Phone/Phablet Cradle

RAM Universal X-Grip® for a Large Phone or Phablet Cradle$31.49

RAM Universal X-Grip® Cradle for 10″ Large TabletsRAM Universal X-Grip® Cradle for various 10 inch Large Tablets$76


The good: It’s reasonably priced, with lots of component options.

The not so good: Not designed for wheelchair mounting, so you’re limited to where it can be fitted onto a wheelchair.

The verdict: A good option for anyone on a tight budget.


Rehadapt has a large range of fixing clamps that will do for nearly every wheelchair.  They also have adjustable clamp options such as this one below, although they don’t fit on as securely.


Light 3D Table mount with two tubes and two joints with levers

L3D-WC 1AK  and  L3D-WC 2AK

Rehadapt L3D-WC 1AK and L3D-WC 2AK

Light 3D wheelchair mount with one tube and one joint with screw.  The L3D-WC 2AK is a two pole version of this.  You can state the required wheelchair clamp on order.  Combine with any cradle with REHAdapt’s Spigot Link System (SLS).


Onto the end of the REHAdapt’s Spigot Link System, there a various options.  Some universal cradles are below.

L3D-GA-Universal Phone Holder M

Rehadapt L3D-GA-Universal Phone Holder M

Device adapter with Spigot Link System (SLS) for mounting Mobile Phone Medium 62-77mm * -14mm (2 1/2″-3″ * -1/2″) to REHAdapt´s Light 3D system.

GA-Tablet 7″ – 8″

Rehadapt GA-Tablet 7 – 8 inch

Generic device adapter for mounting tablets with 7“ or 8“ screen size

GA-Tablet 10″

Rehadapt GA-Tablet 10 inch

Generic device adapter for mounting tablets with 10“ screen size

The good: It looks good.  Lots of component options and excellent for mounting onto a wheelchair.

The not so good: Expensive component parts.

The verdict: A very secure mounting system.

Eye Control – Inbuilt EyeGaze Access for Windows 10

Just yesterday Microsoft announced what is possibly their biggest step forward in functionality within their Ease of Access accessibility settings since Windows 7. Eye Control is an inbuilt feature to facilitate access to the Windows 10 OS using the low cost eyegaze peripheral the Tracker 4 C from Tobii. More about what you can actually do with Eye Control below but first a little background to how this has come about.

Steve Gleeson and his son

Former American Football professional and MND (ALS) sufferer Steve Gleason (above) challenged Microsoft in 2014 to help people affected by this degenerative condition through the advancement eye tracking technology. This initial contact lead to the development of a prototype eye gaze controlled wheelchair, receiving lots of publicity and generating increased awareness in the process. However it was never likely to be progressed to a product that would be available to other people in a similar situation. What this project did achieve was to pique the interest of some of the considerable talent within Microsoft into the input technology itself and its application, particularly for people with MND.

A combination of factors felt on both sides of the Atlantic have proved problematic when it comes to providing timely AT support to people diagnosed with MND. Eyegaze input is the only solution that will allow successful computer access as the condition progresses, eye movement being the only ability left in the final stages of the illness. However, historically the cost of the technology meant that either insurance, government funding or private fundraising was the only means by which people could pay for eyegaze equipment. Usually this resulted in a significant delay which, due to the often aggressive nature of MND meant valuable time was lost and often the solution arrived too late. This situation was recognized by Julius Sweetland who led the development of Optikey, an Open Source computer access/AAC solution designed to work with low cost eye trackers back in 2015. Interestingly some of the innovative features of Optikey seem to have made it to Eye Control on Windows 10 (Multi-Key selection called Shape Writing on Eye Control – see gif below).

demo of shap writing on Eye Control - works like swiping on a touch keyboard. dwell on the first letter of a word, glance at subsequent letters and dwell on last letter. word is entered

Since the initial Steve Gleason Wheelchair hack there has been a steady stream of high quality research papers coming from people at Microsoft on the subject of eyegaze input and MND solutions. This should have been a hint that something like Eye Control was on the horizon. EyeGaze input has promised to break into the mainstream several times over the last decade however with Eye Control and support for devices being included in the core Windows OS it has never been this close.

For more background on the path to Eye Control see this Microsoft blog post from Microsoft:  From Hack to Product, Microsoft Empowers People with Eye Control for Windows 10

Want to find out how to get early access to Eye Control or get some more information on the functionality read this post from Tobii (be warned there are still bugs):  How to get started with Eye Control on Windows.

Dublin Maker

Calendar date 22nd July

Dublin Maker is a free community run event on Saturday July 22nd in Merrion Square. Dublin Maker takes the form of a “show and tell” experience where inventors/makers sourced through an open call, will have an opportunity to showcase their creations in a carnival atmosphere. It is a family friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making and share what they are learning

Enable Ireland’s Karl O’Keeffe and Sean Loughran want to promote the making of Assistive Technology solutions, particularly in the areas of creativity and leisure.

Projects that they intend to show are a RánBot, a Bodhrán that can be played using eye gaze technology. The Bodhrán is played using a combination of solenoids (beat rhythm on skin and rim) and car door actuators to regulate skin tension from the back of the drum).

They are also going to demo LOMI (Light Operated MIDI Interface) prototype. LOMI is an open hardware project designed and built by IADT Dun Laoghaire Creative Media Technologies student Rudolf Triebel. LOMI uses a head mounted laser pointer and an array of photoresistors connected to an Arduino Mega to generate MIDI. Rudolf has created an Instructable and it is their hope that others will build their own and progress the design.

Karl and Sean are also going to demo the Flipmouse and hopefully get contact details from makers willing to build a Flipmouse for people in their community. The Flipmouse is a computer access device that incorporates a low force joystick, sip&puff input as well as switch input. It is built from a kit supplied, designed and supported by the Assistive Technology group at the UAS Technikum Wien (Department of Embedded Systems) and funded by the City of Vienna ToRaDes project and AsTeRICS Academy project. The Flipmouse is a well-documented versatile computer access/gaming solution that costs one tenth of similar proprietary devices while offering much greater functionality.

Karl and Sean are going to present some challenges that people with disabilities have come to them with. A couple they are working on are, trying to increase the accessibility of Blind-Tennis using technology and giving blind bowlers the ability to hear their score read out to them.

Hope to see you there.

Hands-free Minecraft from Special Effect

Love it or hate it, the game of Minecraft has captured the imagination of over 100 million young, and not so young people. It is available on multiple platforms; mobile device (Pocket Edition), Raspberry Pi, Computer, Xbox or PlayStation and it looks and feels pretty much the same on all. For those of us old enough to remember, the blocky graphics will hold some level of nostalgia for the bygone 8 Bit days when mere blobs of colour and our imagination were enough to render Ghosts and Goblins vividly. This is almost certainly lost on the main cohort of Minecraft players however who would most probably be bored silly with the 2 dimensional repetitive and predictable video games of the 80’s and early 90’s. The reason Minecraft is such a success is that it has blended its retro styling with modern gameplay and a (mind bogglingly massive) open world where no two visits are the same and there is room for self-expression and creativity. This latter quality has lead it to become the first video game to be embraced by mainstream education, being used as a tool for teaching everything from history to health or empathy to economics. It is however the former quality, the modern gameplay, that we are here to talk about. Unlike the afore mentioned Ghosts and Goblins, Minecraft is played in a 3 dimensional world using either the first person perspective (you see through the characters eyes) or third person perspective (like a camera is hovering above and slightly behind the character). While undoubtedly offering a more immersive and realistic experience, this means controlling the character and playing the game is also much more complex and requires a high level of dexterity in both hands to be successful. For people without the required level of dexterity this means that not only is there a risk of social exclusion, being unable to participate in an activity so popular among their peers, but also the possibility of being excluded within an educational context.

Fortunately UK based charity Special Effect have recognised this need and are in the process doing something about it. Special Effect are a charity dedicated to enabling those with access difficulties play video games through custom access solutions. Since 2007 their interdisciplinary team of clinical and technical professionals (and of course gamers) have been responsible for a wide range of bespoke solutions based on individuals’ unique abilities and requirements. Take a look at this page for some more information on the work they do and to see what a life enhancing service they provide. The problem with this approach of course is reach, which is why their upcoming work on Minecraft is so exciting. Based on the Open Source eyegaze AAC/Computer Access solution Optikey by developer Julius Sweetland, Special Effect are in the final stages of developing an on-screen Minecraft keyboard that will work with low cost eye trackers like the Tobii Eye X and the Tracker 4C (€109 and €159 respectively).

minecraft on screen keyboard

The inventory keyboard

MineCraft on screen keyboards

The main Minecraft on screen keyboard

Currently being called ‘Minekey’ this solution will allow Minecraft to be played using a pointing device like a mouse or joystick or even totally hands free using an eyegaze device or headmouse. The availability of this application will ensure that Minecraft it now accessible to many of those who have been previously excluded. Special Effect were kind enough to let us trial a beta version of the software and although I’m no Minecraft expert it seemed to work great. The finished software will offer a choice of onscreen controls, one with smaller buttons and more functionality for expert eyegaze users (pictured above) and a more simplified version with larger targets. Bill Donegan, Projects Manager with Special Effect told us they hope to have it completed and available to download for free by the end of the year. I’m sure this news that will excite many people out there who had written off Minecraft as something just not possible for them. Keep an eye on Special Effect or ATandMe for updates on its release.

Mefacilyta Desktop app

Mefacilyta Desktop

In this podcast, Sarah Boland, together with David Deane and Áine Walsh, talk about the training they hosted on 21st June 2017 on the Mefacilyta Desktop app in St John of God in Stillorgan.

Mefacilyta Desktop is a new Android app developed by Vodafone Foundation Spain in conjunction with St John of God, which can be individually tailored to support people with intellectual disabilities to learn how to carry out their everyday activities independently.Vodafone symbol with person pointing to letter M Mefacilyta app

Bloom 2017 ‘No Limits’ Grid Set

You may have heard about or seen photos of Enable Irelands fantastic “No Limits” Garden at this year’s Bloom festival. Some of you were probably even lucky enough to have actually visited it in the Phoenix Park over the course of the Bank Holiday weekend. In order to support visitors but also to allow those who didn’t get the chance to go share in some of the experience we put together a “No Limits” Bloom 2017 Grid. If you use the Grid (2 or 3) from Sensory software, or you know someone who does and you would like to learn more about the range of plants used in Enable Ireland’s garden you can download and install it by following the instructions below.

How do I install this Grid?

If you are using the Grid 3 you can download and install the Bloom 2017 Grid without leaving the application. From Grid explorer:

  • Click on the Menu Bar at the top of the screen
  • In the top left click the + sign (Add Grid Set)
  • A window will open (pictured below). In the bottom corner click on the Online Grids button (you will need to be connected to the Internet).

grid 3 screen shot

  • If you do not see the Bloom2017 Grid in the newest section you can either search for it (enter Bloom2017 in the search box at the top right) or look in the Interactive learning or Education Categories.

If you are using the Grid 2 or you want to install this Grid on a computer or device that is not connected to the Internet then you can download the Grid set at the link below. You can then add it to the Grid as above except select Grid Set File tab and browse to where you have the Grid Set saved.

For Grid 2 users:

Download Bloom 2017 Grid here

Makers Making Change – Canada provides $750,000 to fund development of Open Source AT

Makers Making Change have a mission, to “connect makers to people with disabilities who need assistive technologies”. This is also our mission and something we’ve talked about before, it is also the goal of a number of other projects including TOM Global and Enable Makeathon. Makers Making Change which is being run by Canadian NGO the Neil Squire Society and supported by differs from previous projects sharing the same goal in a couple of ways. Firstly their approach. They are currently concentrating their efforts on one particular project, the LipSync and touring the North American continent holding events where groups of Makers get together and build a quantity of these devices. These events are called Buildathons. This approach both raises awareness about their project within the maker community while also ensuring they have plenty of devices in stock, ready to go out to anybody who needs them. Secondly, thanks to the recent promise from the Canadian government of funding to the tune of $750,000 they may be on the verge of bringing their mission into the mainstream.

Canada have always had a well-deserved reputation for being at the forefront of Assistive Technology and Accessibility. It is one of only a handful of nations the rest of the world look to for best practice approaches in the area of disability. For that reason this funding announced by Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough may have a positive effect even greater than its significant monetary value, and far beyond Canada’s borders. Minster Qualtrough stated the funding was “for the development of a network of groups and people with technical skills to support the identification, development, testing, dissemination and deployment of open source assistive technologies.” Specifying that it is Open Source assistive technologies they will be developing and disseminating means that any solutions identified will have the potential to be reproduced by makers anywhere in the world. It is also interesting that the funding is to support the development of a network of groups and people rather than specific technologies, the goal here being sustainability. Neil Squire Society Executive Director, Gary Birch said “This funding is instrumental in enabling the Neil Squire Society to develop, and pilot across Canada, an innovative open source model to produce and deliver hardware-based assistive technologies to Canadians with disabilities. Hopefully this forward thinking move by the Canadian Government will inspire some EU governments into promoting and maybe even funding similar projects over here.

What is the LipSync?

The Lipsync is an Open Source Sip&Puff low force joystick that can enable access to computers or mobile devices for people without the use of their hands. Sound familiar? If you are a regular reader of this blog you are probably thinking about the FlipMouse, they are similar devices. I haven’t used the LipSync but from what I’ve read it offers slightly less functionality than the Flipmouse but this may make it more suitable for some users. Take a look at the video below.

If you want to know more about LipSync have a look at their project page on where you will find build instructions, bill of materials, code and user manual.

If the idea of building or designing a technology that could enhance the life of someone with a disability or an older person appeals to you, either head down to your local maker space (Ireland, Global) or set a date in your diary for Ireland’s premier Maker Faire – Dublin Maker which will take place in Merrion Square, Dublin 4 on Saturday July 22nd. We’ll be there showing the FlipMouse as well as some of our more weird and wonderful music projects. There will also be wild, exciting and inspiring demonstrations and projects from Maker Spaces/Groups and Fab Labs from around the country and beyond. See here for a list of those taking part.