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TechSharePro 2018

terchsharepro logo

TechSharePro 2018 took place this week at Barclay’s Bank , Canary Wharf in London and sponsored by a number of organisations including AbilityNet, Google & RNIB. Great event with lots of inspiring talks and ideas to share. Here are just a few of them:-

Google Accessibility

Voice access – control the whole of the device, voice control on a chromebook. Tried it but not as comprehensive as I thought.

Google Accessibility Extensions


Research – User research

Important ideas can come from just 5 people! It doesn’t take oodles of effort and is cheap to do. All you need are the users and time to do it.

Accessible Media – 150,000 programmes with Audio Description

Channel 4 very good audio description

BBC no proprietry open standard format . Able to mix and create good audio description. Interchangeable media incorporating all types.


Samsung tv’s do have fairly good accessibility features and a 32inch screen but alas you have to press the remote button to access voice control


Accessibility Theatre

This was a surprising good session. Good to hear AT is being used in the Arts.

National Theatre are using Smart glasses for open caption theatre. Brilliant idea and looks a cool place to visit if you are hearing impaired.

Goals for 2019 at the National Theatre all performances to have smart glasses available for those with hearing loss to have caption direct from the stage

AT goals for the National Theatre in 2019 using augmented reality captioning


Neil Millican on Sustainable Accessibility

IAAP & Apprenticeship, RNIB, HEX DESIGN, ABILITYNET – recognised profession

Trail blazer group first intake for Apprenticeship in 2019

Reduced reality – filter over-stimulation that goes to the other end of augmented reality 


Make disability factors mandatory (Amen!)

VivifyMe – Android and apple in the future . Launching August 2019

Dementia friendly app but can’t tell you what it does yet ! Because i honestly don’t know!

Lewis Hine – “friend finder”

Lewis is an inspiring individual who has a medical condition that denies him access to school when it affects him. He wanted to reach out to others and discovered an amazing amount of people in the same situation as him take a look at:-

“Prom in a box “ – live prom link through A1 robot – great idea to get teens and young people who because of illness miss so much to attend a prom.

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US steps up efforts on AT

Legislation has greatly expanded the use and awareness of assistive technology in the US, Mike Marotta of Inclusive Technology Solutions told BATA members in an exclusive presentation.

Marotta, a well-respected AT professional, was speaking at the AT into the USA seminar. He detailed the so-called dyslexia laws adopted by all but seven States in the US that ensured early screening of students and provided support for educators in assisting students with dyslexia.

There remained, he said, a balance to be struck between accommodation in schools of a child with a learning difficulty and the more demanding remediation that involves helping a student overcome a learning difficulty.

The assistive features of Chrome and Office 365 were widely used in US schools who were largely committed to cloud-based systems.

The Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act had also had an impact on assisting disabled people into work. Marotta explained how the Pre-Employment Transition Service (PETS), established by the Act, improved the chances of a disabled person finding a job.

PETS provided work-based learning experience, counselling and training in social skills and independent living. The scheme accounted for 15% of federal funding for disabled people.

However, there was a need to convince those involved in PETS that AT has a part to play and questions about whether State Departments of Labor or School Districts should pay for equipment.

Marotta noted there had been a marked rise in requests for help for people with autism.

So far as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) was concerned, Marotta talked of how the technology was being used to deliver creative education. But practitioners had concerns about consolidation in the industry and also about a lack of data about usage patterns of AAC.

Marotta also gave his audience useful pointers on where to find further information about the US market. All States have programmes that provide demos, loans of equipment, re-use of devices and funding. Contact information about those who run these programmes can be found at

The Quality Indicators for AT Services (QIAT) is a grassroots group focusing on education, while #ATchat provides a forum for educators from around the world.

Copies of Mike Marotta’s slides can be found at

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TechAbility 2018 Conference

natspec and techablilty

TechAbility 2018 Conference took place on 16th October . Great event with NatSpec representing specialist schools, colleges and further education colleges in the UK. This is the second conference and the focus was on Assistive Technology. BATA members were among the suppliers represented at the event. Paul Doyle (Hereward College) & Myles Pilling ( BATA Council) were speaking at the event which attracted over 100 attendees. 

Alastair McNaughton(JISC) gave a very interesting keynote equating Assistive Technology integration into educational settings were like a dolphin  set in the middle of an onion. The analogy being that we need to understand the nature of the disability from the person’s point of view and then apply the technology that goes through stages of implementation to reach the outer layer of the onion.  Why a Dolphin? I think because people with disabilities are considered  different from non-disabled people  and so it’s a fish out of water scenario – much like a dolphin in an onion!

Abi James spoke on Exam Access which was very much a hot topic for specialist colleges with needs that are often complex to apply for the technology to be used in Exams. 

Fil McIntyre and Paul Doyle spoke on the use of Alexa and Google home as assistive tools and demonstrated  how they have implemented them in their colleges. It was a practical session which had the audience engaged in what these tools can do to make the lives of disabled people more simpler and enjoyable in leisure activities.

Robert McLaren ( Policy Connect) and Myles Pilling (BATA) spoke of the work going on to inform government about Assistive Technology. Robert explained about the new initiatives to engage suppliers to promote digital learning tools in education as well as new legislation around accessible websites and what schools and colleges can do to be compliant. Myles explained what BATA does and the need for a central source of AT information in the UK as well as the need for a nationally recognised accreditation and training scheme for AT.

Thanks to NatSpec and TechAbility for organising the event.

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Dyslexia Awareness Week focuses on AT

As part of Dyslexia Awareness Week the BDA are focusing on Assistive Technology, Abi James (Southampton University) is running a free seminar on Tuesday 2nd October on “Realising Potential Through Enabling Technologies” .

Helen Simon of Helen Simon Associates is speaking to parents about AT  in Coventry  on the 6th October.


Here is a slide from Abi’s excellent talk about Enabling Technologies, very interesting talking about the reason’s why we use these technologies and the things that need to be in place to make it successful


Slide from Abi James' talk

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Three autumn events on leading overseas AT markets

Light coming our of hand with a projection of the world

The ATGlobal Special Interest Group has organised three first class events for the autumn featuring experts on the Indian, German and USA markets.

They will provide invaluable insights into the AT sector in these countries.  The online events are free to BATA members, but non-members can also join in, for a small fee. Go to Eventbrite for further information and to choose which ones to attend.

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Tobii Dynavox acquires Smartbox

Consolidation among AT suppliers continues with eye tracking specialist Tobii Dynavox’s £11m takeover of Smartbox.

The acquisition follows hearing aid company Sonova’s recent purchase of Gordon Morris, the assistive listening device supplier.

“Together we will be able to drive more innovation, drive broader programs to educate the market and empower even more people with disabilities to fulfil their dreams and potential,” says TobiiDynavox.

Smartbox, developer of the Grid communications software widely used in alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) applications, was founded in 2006 by Paul Hawes.

TobiiDynavox intends to build new features and functionalities for Grid and Snap + Core First. It will retain Smartbox’s two offices and network of resellers.

For further information email or go to

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Law will ensure UK’s public websites are accessible

Accessibility Toolbar

September saw the introduction of UK laws on making public sector websites and mobile apps accessible, in line with a recent EU Directive.

Campaigners hope that the changes will increase the number of accessible websites in the UK but are also concerned about the number of exemptions that have been allowed.

From next month public sector bodies will be required “to take the necessary measures to make their websites and mobile applications more accessible by making them perceivable, operable, understandable and robust”.

In practice this will involve keeping to a European standard called EN 301 549, which incorporates the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.

In order to comply with the legislation, public sector organisations will need to monitor the accessibility of their websites and mobile apps, make information from the monitoring available in an accessibility statement, and provide reports to the Digital Government Service.

The accessibility legislation will take time to have an impact, however. Public sector websites created after September 23 will not need to comply with the requirements until 23 September 2019.

Sites developed before then will have two years to make changes while mobile apps will not have to be revamped until 23 June 2021.

Controversial exemptions include schools, nurseries, the BBC, non-governmental organisations and third-party content that appears on public sector websites.

Long-time accessibility campaigner AbilityNet points out that two thirds of respondents to a Government consultation objected to the exemptions.

“It is disappointing and not a little concerning,” said Robin Christopherson, the charity’s Head of Digital Inclusion.

“It is also seemingly in contradiction with existing legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 which most definitely requires organisations across all sectors not to discriminate against people who need website and app accessibility to participate in today’s digital world.”

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Summit agrees policies to boost Disabled Students Allowances

Sunley Conference Centre, Northampton University

Delegates to the DSA Summit in July at Northampton University took a number of important decisions that will shape BATA’s policy towards AT in higher education.

They agreed to set up a working party to look at the idea of a single portal covering the equipment and non-medical help a student might need.

Those who attended also voted to establish a non-medical help special interest group chaired by Laura Cook, a director of the Learning Support Centre.

And they took the first step to developing an accreditation system for assistive technology trainers by setting up a working party with David Atkinson as interim chair.

The working party will first look at creating a certification system based on free training courses offered by software publishers and hardware companies that would enable trainers to be have their skills recognised. The system would be the first phase in a fully-fledged programme of accreditation for trainers.

Attendees were also treated to a fascinating presentation by Lesley Morrice, chair of the National Network of Assessment Centres, about the work by DSA-QAG to introduce quality assurance for those carrying out student assessments.

Download Summit report

Download the minutes of the meeting.

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BATA at TES SEN Show October 5 and 6


Come and see us on stand 14 at the TES SEN Show 2018. It is a must-attend annual event for everyone in the special educational needs community and will provide two days of dedicated, educational and engaging SEN focus.

Packed with 42 CPD certified seminars, a free opening keynote, 150+ exhibitors and free-to-attend exhibitor workshops, this year’s show will continue to shine the spotlight on SEN provision and best practice.

The informative show will provide attendees with:

* An unrivalled opportunity to hear from renowned key names in SEN.

* The chance to update current thinking on vital areas of your practice.

* The opportunity to network with your peers in a stimulating, vibrant environment.

* The potential to return to your schools and settings, full of new practical ideas.

* Access to valuable information that will shape your provision.

Find out more at

Register now free and book your seminars..

For exhibitor enquiries, please contact