We have been busy working with the Regional Support Centre in the South East to get the launch event organised for the 8 November.  We will be there in force from the TechDis team along with our ambassador team who will be doing the bulk of the work with staff and students in the region.

Firstly we have to thank Guildford College for kindly providing us with a venue – a good start to what we hope will be an exciting project.

The Ambassadors team will include Sally Betts,  project manager, faciltators Lilian Soonand David Sugden and me, Lisa Featherstone.   The TechDis team will be Alistair McNaught who will be doing some technology demonstrations as well as offering advice and guidance and Simon Ball who will also be working with a Higher Education colleague to observe and evaluate the programme.  Our colleagues from RSC South Eastwill also be there to lend a hand and provide the all important local and personal input.

The most important people there however will be the delegates.  We have staff coming from a wide range of providers including local authority ACL centres, work based learning providers, Specialist Colleges and Uk Online Centres as well as mainstream FE colleges. There will be plenty of opportunity for networking and sharing of practice.  The main focus of the day will be an introduction and then action planning with each provider.

We’re finalising the details now and all really looking forward to the day.

A group of Independent Specialist Colleges from the East Midlands have just finished an 18 month project to produce e-safety resources for young adults with learning difficulties.  The partner colleges involved were Hinwick Hall,  Homefield College,  Landmarks College, Linkage Community, National Star College, Portland College and RNIB College Loughborough.  The project was funded by the Flexibility and Innovation fund via LSIS.  The project was initiated in response to the lack of age appropriate resources for adults with learning difficulties.

The main purpose of the project was to:-

  • involve learners in the production of support and guidance materials that they feel comfortable using;
  • produce training materials for staff;
  • produce guidance for parents and carers.

The final outcome is a vibrant and welcoming website.  It is clear that the project group have worked hard to reflect their sector and the client group have contributed to the content, the evaluation and the ongoing feedback and evaluation.

Image of Technology header with photo of a young woman using a mobile phone





The site contains rich media content including a great video of the Learner Conference in March, some excellent sound bites from teaching staff and an animated video to remind students and staff of e-safety issues.

Image of screen shot of page with the 5Ts of esafety.

The project started in January 2011 and has just completed .  The site will be maintained and updated for at least two years, until 31st August 2014.  It is a great piece of work and all credit must go to the staff and students at the partner colleges.

You can see for yourself at  http://www.em-esafetyproject.co.uk/

The TechDis voices are young English voices which are free to use for all post 16 students and staff. You can find more information on how to register here.

Once you have registered there are some things you need to be aware of so you can either install the voices yourself or ask your IT department. All the information is in this short video.

Installing The Voice – What You Need to Know from JISC TechDis on Vimeo.

One of the sections of toolbox is focussed on planning. However, like all the resource son toolbox they can also be found via the ‘Different Needs’ section.  For example under the Memory and Concentration section you will find lots of ideas to help to keep you on track of your work or to jog your memory when you need to remember to do a certain task.    Using sticky notes which are part of the Windows 7 operating system is a good way to keep  a reminder on your screen – until you’ve got the chance to actually do your task.

We have a full section on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) planned for the toolbox.  Here’s a quick taster with a short video introducing Audacity.

Audacity: Introduction from JISC TechDis on Vimeo.

We have similar videos currenlty waiting to be launched on Balabalka, DSpeech and Xmind.



Common Craft are a small company comprised of Lee and Sachii LeFever who produce some short, succinct and brilliant explanatory videos from their base in Seattle on the West Coast of the United States.  I’ve been a fan since the first one hit YouTube in 2007.  RSS in plain English does exactly what the title says – it explains RSS feeds in a simple and easy to understand way.  I’m still astonished that there are many technology aware adults who still do not use RSS feeds – they will save you so much time!!

Since 2007 they’ve grown and expanded and now have a subscription model for use of their work.  We’re delighted here at TechDis to be account holders and there are a number of Common Craft videos on the Toolbox site.

So for those who still don’t understand RSS Feeds – here is the first ground breaking video from Common Craft.


To coin a phrase used in the UK – it does exactly what it says on the tin!

Last week I was fortunate to attend the International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs (ICCHP) at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria.  We (Techdis) ran a special thematic session with the focus on putting the disabled student in charge.  After some welcoming speeches to both the conference and the region (Upper Austria) we kicked off with two excellent keynotes from both Gerhard Widmer and Kevin Carey.  The first was on using computers to understand access and interact with music.  He showed the ‘performance worm’ which gave a visual representation of a piece of music and you could compare the same piece played by different performers.  Kevin Carey is the Chair of the RNIB and he gave an impassioned speech on the need for author engineered public domain documents. All the keynote sessions and our track sessions had simultaneous sign and text translations for the audience.

Unfortunately the session overran which had a knock on effect for the rest of the day.  I chaired the next two sessions and we had some brilliant papers from all over the world.  Highlights for me included practical solutions for teaching and research with deaf or hard of hearing students,  a project for teaching blind children music from Brazil and two examples of localised installations of Robobraille, one for Danish schools and one at Stanford University.

There were two papers from Poorna Kushalnagar who discussed community based participatory approach in research with practical examples from within the deaf and hard of hearing community, and on research using eye gaze technology to inform those who are delivering to users who need either signed or text interpretation.  Both papers had concrete and practical solutions to making a difference for users and teaching/lecture staff.

Dolores Tomé  gave a great introduction to the use of braille for teaching blind children music in Brazil.  She spoke in Portuguese while José Borges did a simultaneous translation into English – this was also translated to signs and text – a first for  me at least!   José Borges then explained how they use the musibraille software to teach music to blind children.  They concluded their session with an invitation to the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

Sean Keegan from Stanford University in the USA explained how they had built a Robobraille installation for the staff and students at Stanford.  This freed up the specialist staff so they could concentrate on creating alternative formats for the less straight forward documentation.  The Danish government have also implemented a Robobraille installation for their schools across the country as explained by Lars Christienson which has supported the integration of visually impaired students into mainstream education.

We had two papers to deliver on the first day.  One was from my colleague Alistair McNaught suggesting an alternative approach to alternative formats.  In this he emphasises the myth of responsibility with librarians being ideally placed to offer alternative formats from publishers – with a good plug for our publisher look up site.  The other paper was highlighting the work done at National Star College in the development of InStep a video assessment tool based on InFolio.

On Thursday morning I discussed the work we have done on the TechDis Toolbox and demonstrated both TechDis Jess and TechDis Jack.  I was slightly astonished to discover that despite this being a Universal Learning Design track no delegate there was aware of how to use reflow and autoscroll in Adobe reader.

The conference dinner on Thursday evening was well attended and accompanied by one of the keynotes – Bruno Bechburger who is not only a Professor of Mathematics but also an excellent clarinetist.

As with many conferences the discussion and networking during the coffee breaks was as useful as the more formal proceedings and I made many very useful contacts from both home and abroad.  The next ICCHP will be in Paris in 2014 but I am looking towards the next ULD conference at the University of Masaryk in Brno – in February next year.