This video about PMLD and literacy speaks for itself. Jonathan uses an etran frame supported by skilled communication partners to engage in learning and life.
Filed under: AAC, Accessibility, Inclusion, Literacy
Webpages can be very messy places to read from: broken or wandering text – often split at odd paces to accommodate a picture or advert, font sizes that are too small and shapes not really considerate to those with reading difficulties.
The Safari browser for Mac/iPad/iPhone has had Reader View built in for quite some time allowing users to strip the extraneous stuff out of the page leaving clean, plain text which can also be sized and have its font and background settings changed.
There’s an extension for Google Chrome that does, virtually, the same thing – it’s called Reader View and you can download it/install it to your Chrome browser here.
The extension looks like this when your browser is on most front/home pages that are links rather than text-based articles.
The extension icon changes when Reader View is available (text-based articles).
When the icon is clicked the page will change from a standard page to a clear, stripped down Reader View with font size, shape, and background colour/themes available down the right-hand side of the page.
This is the type of extension that should be made available for all pupils who have dyslexia, visual impairments, or any difficulty with reading that might be helped by seeing cleaner, clearer, more appropriately sized text. Using text-to-speech support software is also often easier to utilise with text that is spaced out in this way.
Many schools have been using Clicker 6 successfully over the past few years but because of our impending move towards Chromebooks there’s been no talk or impetus behind upgrading to Clicker 7. Despite the changes that are about to take place over the coming couple of years as many of our pupils are moved to Chromebooks there are compelling reasons why schools might want to consider upgrading to Clicker 7.
As we start to gear up for the roll-out of Chromebooks across our secondary and upper primary schools, beginning next session, we might be excited at the new possibilities that are potentially available to us but we also need to consider continuity or transition for users who rely more heavily on Assistive Technology supports to help them with their school work and in their wider lives.
This blog has lain dormant for quite some time due to various pressures but it is my intention to restart it with regular (we hope) additions to available tools for Chrome. Any items posted on here will have been looked at through our Assistive Technology ‘filters’ and will have been tried with users and tested to ensure they are robust, perform consistently and without additional fuss or difficulty once installed.
Obviously, there’s a great deal of web content that will work in Chrome – we will include comment or reference to these if they meet our AT criteria.
If an App or Extension makes it on to these pages it means that we might consider using it in a scenario that we have encountered with a user or group of users- it is not and should never be read as a ‘catch-all’ recommendation or a ‘must have’.
It’s been a while since I blogged (a freshly minted child and 2 house moves will do that kind of thing to you….) but I saw something this week that made me think “People need to know about that. I should stick it on my blog.” Given how inactive I’ve been on here for so long, there may be a fundamental flaw in my logic there, but we’re going to let that slide for the moment….
The thing that I saw was down to Ian Stuart. I had been asking some questions about OneNote and Class Notebook, and obviously Ian is the Go-To-Guy for such queries. He came out to visit me at school (many thanks Ian!) and ran through a few things with me. One of them was the amazing set of ‘Learning Tools’ available as a plugin for OneNote, and given our iOS situation he showed me the free Office Lens app too, but gave the caveat that it was only available in an iPhone version – although this could be used on the iPad like many iPhone apps.
After I got home, I went to download Office Lens to my iPad and found out that the info Ian had given me was inaccurate. There was an iPad version of Office Lens available! Turns out that it had literally just been released that day. I must have been one of the very first people to download it
(and did I mention it was free?).
So what does it do?
Well, put simply, if you have a piece of text, you point Office Lens at it, take a photo of it and it will then read it to you and also covert it into an editable document. See the pics below for an idea of how it works.
First, frame your document in the camera, and capture an image using the onscreen red button.
A thumbnail will be displayed of the image you just captured. You can now take more pictures, if you have more pages to scan.
Choose where you want the image to be sent.
Let’s start with the Immersive Reader.
The conversion is reasonably quick, on a decent signal at least.
Press the play button, and the text will be read out to you. The speed of the reading can be varied to suit your individual needs.
The current word being spoken is highlighted as it is read, and you can make the speech faster or slower to suit.
Did I mention it was free? And we’re not finished yet…..
If you have a compatible OneDrive account – like I don’t know, a school account or through Glow – then you can upload the scanned document to Word through OneDrive….
…where it just happens to become fully editable text. As with any OCR technology, it’s not perfect – but it is pretty good.
As an easy to use app which is simple and user friendly, it’s mightily impressive. And did I mention it was free? Get it for iOS at http://tiny.cc/OfficeLens
It’s also available as an Android or Windows (naturally) app, but I haven’t seen them up and running. Definitely worth a look though.
So, that’s Lens. What about ‘through a lens’?
Well, an interesting thing happened when I was showing a colleague how Lens worked. This technology, which would have been jaw-dropping a couple of years ago say, is free to download and easy to use – and I’m listening to myself say “Yeah – it’s a shame you can’t change the colour of the background it’s reading from, or how the highlighting works. And I wish you could add a Scottish accent….”
And then I stopped and listened to myself. I smiled, and thought about what the app is capable of and what our reaction was to seeing. And it’s a telling glimpse of where we are. We are insatiable. It doesn’t matter how good a piece of software, or hardware or work is, we always want it to do more, be more, achieve more. Which is good, in a way, and where progress and improvement comes from. But sometimes you just need to stop for a minute and say good job, well done.
So Microsoft; good job, well done.
Thing 6 is all about web accessibility and it’s a thing I have had a very on and off relationship with over the years. Despite the fact that I am fully signed up to the belief that accessible design is good design for all, I think I probably pay less attention to accessibility online than I did ten or fifteen years ago. When I used to build websites for other people, I made a point of trying to ensure they were as accessible as possible within the constraints of the web browsers of the day. It’s a long time since I actually built a website though, most of the content I now put on line appears on blogs or social media platforms which come with their own user interface or stylesheets. Consequently I’ve got very blase about accessibility because the design of the user interface is usually beyond my control. However I know I’m just being lazy and there is a lot more I could be doing to make sure my blogs are accessible, so it was really interesting to run one of my blogs through the Web Accessibility eValuation Tool.
The blog I chose was the Open Scotland, a simple WordPress blog running on Reclaim Hosting and you can see the results here. To be honest most of the errors and alerts didn’t surprise me as they relate to heading abuse and images without alt text. One thing that did surprise me though is that justified text is problematic.
“Large blocks of justified text can negatively impact readability due to varying word/letter spacing and ‘rivers of white’ that flow through the text.”
This made me very sad, because I love justified text and I justify all my blog posts and documents. I will have to try and wean myself off justification, starting here today.
I still think unjustified text looks messy though.
Also as an aside, when I used to work in technology standards development I had a very peripheral involvement in some of the web accessibility standards groups. I was never actually a member of any of the working groups but I was occasionally called in to comment on metadata issues. Negotiating consensus in standards working groups is never an easy task but in the accessibility groups it could be particularly fraught, so kudos to all those to worked hard to bring these standards to fruition.
Speech selection on the iPad is a great way for pupils to interact with text across a range of applications available throughout the device.
Before we look at some of the ways you can use this feature in class here is how you activate it:
Text-to-speech is an excellent tool for pupils developing their understanding of the meaning of words or can be an excellent tool for pupils who comprehend the meaning better when they hear the words spoken aloud. There is also benefit to pupils with a vision impairment who may need to access this feature at varying times depending on their level of fatigue or level of impairment.
As the instructions above show, the feature itself is very easy to activate. Using the feature is also very simple as the image below demonstrates. You highlight the word or paragraph you wish to hear spoken aloud and select the Speak option from the choices that appear.
At the moment, it depends on the particular application as to whether or not this feature will work. As it is a built in feature to iOS, it will work with Apple’s native apps, including the iWork and iLife apps that are offered for free on new accounts/devices. This means at the very least this feature can be handy when researching topics or information in Safari, reading a file/ePub in iBooks, or reviewing a written piece of work in Pages. All useful for pupils developing their RISK (research and information skills) while using the device in class.
As an added bonus, you may have noticed the Reader View Available option appear on certain websites when using Safari. This is an excellent way to reduce the distractions of websites and focus solely on the text. Distraction free learning with the text readily available to be read aloud.