Accessible learning – how can we achieve this through technology?

We are all so different and that includes the way we engage with learning. At some point it is highly likely that you may have been excluded from an educational activity because of it. Maybe you were too shy to perform in a Drama lesson, sport wasn’t really your thing or perhaps all written text was beyond your reach.

The solutions in many ways are as complex as the individuals, but there are actions we can take that will improve access for the majority. Adaptions such as smaller groups in Drama, exploring a wider variety of sports or making all learning texts available digitally could all help make learning more inclusive.

Here is a brief outline of some of the ways you can help your learners:
Improvements in mainstream technology
Writing text using voice
Using voice to control the world around us is becoming more common, and what used to take hours of training is now instant. Writing using your voice is called dictation and here are some of the most commonly available tools:

• Google Documents – In any Google Doc select “Tools”    
on the top menu and then “Voice Typing.”
Must be using a Chrome Browser.

• Office 365 – In compatible apps (like Word), look for the
“Dictate” button to the far right of the top menu and

click it to dictate.



• Android/Apple Phones – the key advantage is that this works
in any window with the keyboard. You need to make sure
the function is toggled on in the menu and then click the
microphone symbol for your phone to take down what you say.

Reading the world around you with a mobile phone.


There are apps on your phone that can read text that you view through your photo-lens.                          Some of these are instant, others you need to take a photo of first:

• Microsoft Seeing AI – Available on iPhone for free
(and iPad if you toggle the store to look for iPhone apps)
This has a number of tools that are designed for those
with visual impairments. But the first tool, “Short Text”
is something that can help a wide range of needs as it
instantly reads text that is on the screen
<Embed the video here, hyperlink attached to picture>

• Claro ScanPen – Available on Android and Apple for free,
this can take pictures of text and then you can read it out
by tapping on the text you wish to have read
<Embed the video here, hyperlink attached to picture>

Using your computer to read text back to you
Microsoft have built an “Immersive Reader” view that provides
Text-to-speech, colours, spacing, highlighting and many other
tools in one clear view. The video opposite jumps into a TechAbility
Webinar that explains this new view. Office 365 is free for students.

Resources:
Natspec's TechAbility service has produced a series of webinars on how to support people with disabilities using technology. The webinars cover specialist technology like screen readers as well as assistive features built into mainstream applications. http://bit.ly/WatchTechAbilityWebinars

TechAbility Conference
Interested in learning more about Assistive Technology? The upcoming TechAbility Conference offers inspiring keynote sessions as well as a range of workshops allowing you to get hands on with technology.

We’d love to hear if you have found this useful. Feel free to get in touch with questions and comments.

Neil Beck | Assistive Technologist | Natspec TechAbility