Monthly Archives: October 2008

Week 8 Activity 1.1 Alternative formats

For this activity we have been asked to make a list of formats that would be ‘useful for disabled students as alternatives to inaccessible resources’.  

Interactive Flash File

Positive Features
Interactive animation useful for engaging learners
Negative Features
Can not be read by screen readers
Technical Resources
Requires specific software such as Adobes range of web design software suites which can cost hundred or even thousands of pounds.
Human Resources
It does take considerable amount of specialist skills to create high quality flash animations.

Photographs

Positive Features
Beneficial to visual learners.  
Negative Features
Less useful for learners with visual impairments.  Difficult for screen readers to read unless without good use of Alt text.
Technical Resources
Most mobile phones now have built in cameras.  There are many websites which can be used to store, oragnise and edit images (eg flickr, photobucket, piknic)
Human Resources
It is not difficult for staff or students to take images and upload them to a computer or website.

Podcast (Audio)

Positive Features
Good for audio learners. Can be listened to on a range of portable devices. 
Negative Features
Less useful for learners with hearing impairments. 
Technical Resources
There are a number of hardware (MP3 recorders, PDAs, Computers, Microphones, Mobile Phones) and software resources (Audacity, Microsoft Sound Recorder, Garrageband), available to record and edit audio.
Human Resources
It is not difficult for staff or students to record audio which can be uploaded to a website or VLE.

Video

Positive Features
Can be viewed on a range of devices. 
Negative Features
May require additional audio descriptions for visually impaired learners.
May require additional text descriptions for hearing impaired learners.
Technical Resources
Wide range of camcorders available including those on a mobile phone, budget cameras such as the busbi or flip cameras as well as Higher end HD camcorders.  There are a range of free and paid for video editing software although the range of video formats can cause problems.
Human Resources
It is not difficult for staff or students to record video which can be uploaded to a website or VLE.

Non-Synchronous Discussion Forum
Positive Features
Allows learners to share thoughts and ideas.  More accessible than  a synchronous chat room as learners can take their time to add posts rather than trying to keep up.
Negative Features
Screen readers can have difficulties reading posts.
Technical Resources
Most VLEs have a Forum feature.
Human Resources
It may take time for learners to get used to the technical issues as well as on-line etiquite 

H810: Week 7 Activity 6 Experiences of useing assistive technology

Léonie, who is blind, explains that flash content is particularly inaccessible for screen readers. She finds most multimedia content inaccessable.  Her advise for web designers is to have a clear title, give images detailed alt text that can be read by screen readers and good use of headings.

A number of the videos stress how assistive technology such as screen readers and magnifiers have supported independance for learners.

John Klatt (http://www.doit.wisc.edu/accessibility/video/screen_magnification.asp) discussed the experiences of using a screen magnifier.  He explains that the screen has to be magnified so much it can be difficult to navigate.  He said symbols, colours and blocks of text on the screen can be useful to identify different types of information.  He benefits from having extra space between letters.

Natacha (http://www.skillsforaccess.org.uk/casestudies.php?id=128) explains the impact of web design on someone with dyslexia.  She finds it hard to use websites which are difficult to navigate, with lots of text, or with a complecated background.  She apreciates websites which alows the user to change font sizes, and good use of multimedia

H810: Week 7 Activity 5 Assistive technology that assists dyslexic students

From: Matching technology to needs (Andersson and Draffan, 2005, pp. 73–78) http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/14150/1/The_Book.pdf

Speech Synthesis /screen reading 

Software which converts the text information in screen into speech. There are several types of screen readers available ranging from the narator feature built into MS windows and the free browsealoud software for reading websites, to  feature rich products such as read and write gold which can cost between £100-£300. Andersson and Draffan point out that trying to navigate a page using voice commands requires memory and good auditory skills and as such may not be suitable for many dyslexic learners. However recent improvements to these systems, including choosing from a range of voices, pauses between words and highlighting words in a range of colour options have been beneficial. 

 

Word Prediction 

This software offers aims to reduce the amount of keystrokes required to write by producing a list of possible words to choose from as you start to type. It can improve the typing speed of someone who has has a typing speed of around 8-10 words per minute, and for others it could provide vocabulary support. The spectronics website provides a comparison table of features available in different systems (http://www.spectronicsinoz.com/library.asp?article=22248). Word prediction software is often provided as part of a package of assistive technology, such as read and write gold and Kurzweil 3000. 

 

Speech recognition 

As the processing power and memory of computers has increased, they have been better able to handle speech recognition software, however it can be quite complicated for the user to use plan and think about what they are going to say. They also require high quality sound cards, microphones and a quiet working environment. Dragon naturally speaking is an example of this kind of software which can cost approximately £200. 

 

Spell checkers 

These are included as part of many programs that require text input such as the Microsoft office suite. There are also a range of browser add-ons which check spelling when completing online forms. These systems can cause problems as it can be difficult for a user to differentiate between different words, and know which words to use. More specialised systems can learn from the errors made by an individual and provide a personalised list of suggestions. Specialised spell checkers, such as the one included as part of read and write gold gives definitions’ of words and checks’ homophones which is beneficial to dyslexic learners.

 

Mindmapping

This software allows users to create visual maps of information which are linked by relationship strands. This can be very useful for organising ideas as part of a report or project. There are a number of free versions available to download or use on line, including freemind, mind24, bubbl.us and mindomo.

 

A conceptual model of ICT needs of the dyslexic student (Smythe et al., 2005, pp. 87–90, http://eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/14150/1/The_Book.pdf) identifies the following assistive technology:

 

Magnifiers

A magnifier allows users to concentrate on a specific part of the screen. There is a magnifier built into Microsoft windows however it is can be difficult to use. Other free alternatives exist including the virtual magnifying glass available from http://magnifier.sourceforge.net/ and included in the free ‘accessapps’ which can run from a USB drive and can be downloaded here: http://www.rsc-ne-scotland.ac.uk/accessapps/

 

Text to speech software

This software converts texts into an audio file which the user can replay at their own convenience. They often includes modifiable options such as different voices and speeds. Although they are useful for playing basic text, they do not take into account any formatting, which can lead to confusion. Free versions are available including the online ‘read the words’ (http://www.readthewords.com/) and the downloadable Dspeach available from http://dimio.altervista.org/.

H810 -Week 7, Experiences of using assistive technology

Activity 3

In this activity I have been useing some of the accessibility tools built into Microsoft Windows and Microsoft word, as outlined in the Techdis pack Benevolent Bill. 

 

I found the keyboard short cuts quite easy to use as I use many of them already. The main issue I find is trying to remember the shortcuts, particularly the ones I wasn’t used to.

 

I found the magnifier allot harder to use. Because I could only see part of the screen at a time, i found it difficult to navigate on understand what I was looking at, particularly on more complicated pages. Because the magnified window didn’t move around with the mouse, it became difficult to keep track of what part of the screen I was looking at. I gave up with the drag and drop exercise.

 

I also found it confusing and slow using audio rather than text to navigate to a website. As i listened to what was being said I tried to visualise what part of the screen it was reading, and I was usually wrong. Although I eventually navigated to a web page with the information on, I could not get the narrator to read out the information. I thing the narrator requires patience to get the hang of it.


Activity 4

After reading about a range of assistive technology on the Techdis site, I went to the cricksoft site (http://www.cricksoft.com/UK/accessibility/) to find out more about the switches they produce.  

 

“Switches are buttons that you connect to your computer. You can press these instead of using the mouse button or key presses. Because they are easy to press, they are useful for people with physical disabilities.”

http://www.cricksoft.com/UK/accessibility/

 

One of their switches called the buddy button costs £29, although it appears to also require a usb switch box which costs an additional £99. Training manuals and training courses are available at an additional cost

Week 5 Activity 1.2 Learning outcomes in your context

Much of the training I deliver now is some form of IT training and I come from a background of delivering a range of basic IT training with a specific focus on the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL).  In my context the main  learning objectives are becoming  familiar with software, hardware and online resources.  There are physical barriers to using a computer for many people as well as the visual barriers of using the screen.  There are several hardware and software adaptations that can help remove these barriers including trackball mice, ergonomic keyboards, screen magnifiers and on screen keyboards.  When learners getting used to using a computer, there is often a fear and nervousness.  In my experience this is more common with older learners who have managed to avoid using computers.  This may be more significant for learners with existing mental health issues, or learners who may feel singled out for having to use assistive hardware or software.

 

 

For the second part of this activity we have been asked to identify the issues to consider when designing an art history course which includes the ability to analyse visual primary sources as a core component.  An art history course has the potential for a number of physical barriers.  Will the lessons take place in a dedicated art studio and is it accessible?  Will the course require visits to art galleries and how accessible are they?  The obvious accessibility issues for an art course are for learners with visual impairments.  When discussing colours other seances can be used such as using sounds and music.  An image could be upload to a screen with interactive hotspots allowing different sounds to be played when the mouse moves over parts on the image. 

     Another method is to enhance the colours on the screen. Having a class room with the lights out and curtains drawn, then on a large screen, zooming into a tiny part of an image, can bathe the room in that colour.

Week 4 Activity 3.1 – Accessibility History

The sucess of Braile seems to have been largely influanced by the fact that it is realetively easy to write as well as read, compared with other systems of embossed text.  The exclusive collection of typewritter addaptations for respiratories demonstrates a wide range of inovitive alternatives to useing a traditional keyboard, depending on the natue and severity of disability.  This evolution continues as the Berlin Brain Computer Interface is a recent development which alows the user to control a computer without any form of movement, by reading brain activity through a cap connected to a computer.

Week 5 activity 1.1 Access to teaching

We have been asked to review several pages of Making Your Teaching Inclusive (2006) and comment on the effectiveness of the suggestions made in relation to different situations.  The site is aimed at teaching staff in higher education institutions in England and Wales.
This site begins by pointing out that you may have a student that has a hidden disability which is not immediately obvious.  It suggests you become aware of common barriers to learning and what anticipatory actions you can take to overcome these.  Many of the recommended actions are based on the assumptions that you are aware of any disabled learners within a group, and they are happy to discuss ways of removing barriers.  The recommended actions include a number of actions which are general good teaching practice, not just important for accessibility, such as identifying learning objectives and good use of PowerPoint.  There may be times when requirements of the course specify an activity that may not be reasonably within the abilities of certain students such as climbing a tree to be a tree surgeon or identifying the sounds of different animals.  It may be necessary to discuss these requirements with the awarding body rather than the member of teaching staff.