Having the right equipment in place and the skills to use them makes a huge difference. In this session we focussed on best practice provision, when should new assistive technology be introduced and how can we support what happens at home? We covered general top tips around transitions and build on the session we ran last year.

Getting Tech Ready for the Future

What helped when transitioning from primary to secondary school?

  • QTVI going to new school many months before move and problem solving getting tech like the Touch and laptop onto the school networks
  • Set up embosser and printer at the new school in the summer term before holidays
  • Set up school email on Touch plus ready for induction day in summer term
  • Gave me my password in advance of the first day so could familiarise self with school system. Join Google classroom, see timetable electronically, look at school intranet etc. 
  • Working closely with a named person in the school IT department
  • Going into school myself many times before term started. Part of orientation was getting my tech online and ready to go

What some of the barriers were, and some solutions…

  • Old software JAWS, Office etc. computer slow and glitchy and some functions not available
  • School security systems. No access to some of the Touch plus apps you will need. School needs to give you exceptions for the Touch. In my case they exempted it from all security rules. 
  • Passwords and policies can cause issues, leave time to sort it out
  • May loose data when laptop is transitioned to new school system –  back it up. 
  • School policies can prevent access to computer settings. – Need to explain to school why you need particular settings access e.g Bluetooth for headphones
  • Make sure you know where a printer is that you can use as pupils may not have printer access as a general rule.

Tech found particularly helpful at secondary school 

  • Laptop and braille display and why he likes this.
    • Much more processing power than Touch
    • Can support a lot more of the programmes that everyone else uses like Excel, ppt and Google classroom is much more accessible on the laptop than the Touch.
    • Want to be able to read things in braille not just listen.
    • Access to braille is important for giving presentations (audio is not easy to use for this). I use my Braille display 
    • Laptop and JAWS 2022 supports automatic language detection in documents so can follow a French ppt in English and French with correct braille. 
    • Runs Word so many more formatting options including tables, headings (really important), alt text for images. 
    • In Google docs you can use shared Google docs for groupwork. On the Touch this ends up as a mess. 
    • Easier for sighted people like teachers to check on your work and give you feedback in the lesson. Touch needs a special monitor for this. 
    • If you want to work you will likely end up using a laptop rather than a Touch Plus
    • Touch is useful for some things like German which is not very good yet on the computer as capital signs are not recognised
    • Need a laptop  and braille display for coding as the Touch has no command line and cannot run code. 
  • Bone conducting headphones (Shokz)
  • Talking scientific calculator
    • Use in Maths and sciences for simple and complex calculations
    • Quicker than using ipad or computer calculators
    • Same as rest of the class who all use scientific calculators too
    • Need specialist teaching to help with learing how to use it though
  • iphone (checking Google classroom, keeping up with emails, internet access), apple watch (timetable on wrist), ipad?
  • Different tech works better for different things so need options:  Kahoot (iphone and braille display) and Quizlet live (laptop…not manageable on the Touch). 
  • Learn to use the system your school uses if you can. Google Classroom and docs as well as Word and Office Suite, 
  • Office 365 and why…

Tech thinks will be useful for the future

  • Knowing several different screenreaders including JAWS, NVDA, Narrator (setting up a new computer)
  • Have to be able to do things independently and this is hard to practices or learn skills for if supported closely by one to one TA’s 
  • Maths on the computer, LaTex
  • Duxbury software and an embosser

Tips for getting right access tech to suit your needs:

  • Tell teachers what will help you E.g. Format of Classroom names on Google Classroom
  • Have regular ICT assessments and get external advice on what is available
  • Go and see the providers of the products you are interested yourself. Try different products, ask to borrow them to trial them, ask them lots of questions. Based on your own research, be prepared to make suggestions to the Local Authority who may not know all the options out there. 
  • Ask other people who are blind and who have used accessible ways of working for a long time, what they find useful and why. 

More Top Tips

  • You don’t know what you don’t know – arrange demos for all different equipment to find out what works for your child. 
  • Arrange training for your child, parents and TA so you all feel confident in getting the most out of your tech
  • It’s not all about the hardware, trial the software and make sure the school’s network can accept it. Get to know your head of IT. 
  • Liaise and inform teachers of the equipment that will be used, and how they can support this. IE make sure the pairing software is on (Let’s View)
  • Check the equipment is insured for home use – if needed at home. 
  • Seating plan and sockets! 
  • Tell teachers what will help you E.g. Format of Classroom names on Google Classroom.
  • Have regular ICT assessments and get external advice on what is available.
  • Go and see the providers of the products you are interested yourself. Try different products, ask to borrow them to trial them, ask them lots of questions. Based on your own research, be prepared to make suggestions to the Local Authority who may not know all the options out there. 
  • Ask other people who are blind and who have used accessible ways of working for a long time, what they find useful and why. 

Parents

  • Advance school research, tour (year 5) and contact with staff and SENCO
  • Meeting with all parties primary, secondary, parents and VI service team – monitor agenda, schedule, meetings -otherwise things could drift 
  • Give child and school chance to find their feet and adapt to each other
  • Parking space
  • Talk – support groups & forums

Child

  • Tour and land mapping – mobility
  • Trial technology and learn touch typing in year 5 and concrete decision and practice skills in year 6
  • Advocate – say if your happy or not, if you need work different or you’re tripping on steps
  • Preparation – Night before – uniform, lunches, bags, diary, homework
  • Big bag

Home

  • Pre-teen events to build resilience and independence and making connections
  • Organise parent and child get togethers – before school in summer holidays and after start to develop support/ advice/ friendships – play dates, parties, WhatsApp’s, nights out
  • Phone – contact, friendships, research, portable homework, search google, uses speech to type text message, voice notes, google maps
  • Laptop – zooms, portable and compatible
  • Connect and learn – dolphin supernova version of human ware connect – home : school familiarity
  • Code Jumpers – human ware – learning coding and programming – write stories, tell songs and jokes

For Braille Users (from mentee Theo)

  • Tell teachers what will help you and ask for what you need e,g. Formatting of class names on Google Classroom to suit a screen reader
  • Have regular ICT assessments and get your own external advice on what is available first 
  • Visit providers, try things out. They often loan out devices for trial, ask lots of questions…make suggestions to the Local Authority based on your own research and preference
  • Get specialist training as part of the tech provision in your EHCP. I like trainers who use the equipment or software as a blind user
  • Ask other people who are blind or have similar vision to yours what they find useful and why
  • Read the Technology section in the back issues of the Tactile Times! ( www.tactiletimes.org)
  • Try to find ways to use accessibly as much of the mainstream technology that your peers around you are using. Pairing a normal laptop with a braille display and screen reading software gives you a lot of access as a Braillist. 

Top Tips from John Milligan

Team Leader, Vision & Multi Sensory Impaired Children, Young People & Families 

Virtual School Sensory Support (VSSS)

  1. Get hold of a copy of the new Curriculum Framework for CYP with VI. It contains 11 areas for work that will provide a strong base for you to identify support for your CYP. For more information follow this link
  2. Get to know the people in the local service, school, Unit. A friendly chat about things is far easier to progress things than an email based exchange
  3. Make sure that your local voluntary sector provider is involved if they have a CYP and Families Service. The opportunity for CYP themselves, siblings and parent/carers to get together is very important especially of your CYP is the only VI CYP in their school or setting

Mentor Karina is a trustee of a charity that supports and encourages VIPs to use technology, The Technology Association of Visually Impaired people (TAVIP). https://www.tavip.org.uk/  

Top iPad Accessibility Features

Rupert – Teacher of Children and Young People with Vision Impairments in Norfolk

Feel free to add me on my work Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100072021098528

  • Apple have excellent accessibility features and their website has lots of really easy-to-follow tutorials.

Appearance

Text Size – https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT202828#:~:text=Go%20to%20Settings%20%3E%20Accessibility%2C%20then,the%20font%20size%20you%20want

Dark mode – https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT210332

Magnification

  • You can use pinch gestures (using two fingers to zoom in or out) on a lot of apps and photos. This is great for zooming in when needed.
  • There however times when you can’t zoom in or you may need to zoom in even further. This is when the Zoom Controller is really useful.

Zoom Controller

https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/ipad/ipad9a245e3e/ipados

IMAGE: screenshot of my iPad home screen and apps. 

  • The red circle on the left is the on-screen Zoom Controller. You can change the colour for better contrast.

Magnifying with Zoom Controller

  • The on-screen Zoom Controller can be clicked twice to turn it on and then the controller acts as a joystick to navigate around the screen. To turn it off, you double tap it again.
  • You can also just hold the controller down to quick zoom in, joystick around and when you let go it will zoom back out.

Using filters with Zoom Controller

  • If I click on my zoom controller, I get these options:
  • If click on Choose Region, I can choose how the magnification looks. I use Full-Screen Zoom. Feel free to have a play and see what works for you.
  • If you click on Choose Filter, you will get this screen:
  • My preferred filter is Greyscale Inverted which will turn the whole screen into a darkmode filter (and will stay on until you turn it off!!)
  • Live Text when taking photos

https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/ipad/ipad63cc224a/ipados

  • When you take a photo with the camera, this image in the bottom right allows you to copy and edit it.
  • Spoken Content

https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/ipad/ipad9a247097/ipados#:~:text=Change%20the%20speech%20settings,the%20top%20of%20the%20screen.

• If Spoken Content is on in setting, when you highlight text in Live Text (or anywhere including websites), you can click Speak and it will read it to you.

Apps

Supporting Change and Learning to Let Go

  • Preparation for both parent and child are key
  • Understand the expectations of school, even if you need to challenge it
  • Be patient, calm and encourage good communication
  • Remember to breathe

Top Tips

  • Plan and practice routes and routines
  • Get help and support from VI professionals- QTVI and ROVIC (habilitation)
  • Training for staff and students essential
  • Transitions days and summer school help preparation
  • Have as many meetings with the school as is necessary without putting them off you
  • Keep lines of communication open with your child as much as possible
  • Arrange Team Around the Child / Family meetings to iron out any teething problems
  • Trust that the school want to make it work
  • Make sure all equipment is in the new setting and working to enable smooth start. 
  • Designated support room for equipment, preparation and down time. 
  • Have timetable ready and available before start of school year. 
  • Qualified Registered Habilitation Specialist to do Environmental Audit (VI).
  • Make a transition requirement document that can be shared and updated as things are done.
  •  Get to know new TA  
  •  Make sure ordered resources are received by the school
  • Meetings with Qualified Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Qualified Registered Habilitation Specialist, new TA and old TA to ensure the most effective working practices 
  • Primary staff to liaise with high school to ensure needs are understood specifically TAs and Senco.

What I Wished I had Known

  • The relationship with parents is very different from primary
  • Assumptions will be made that with education can be changed
  • My child would be extraordinarily tired and need lots of down time
  • That learning can be opened up in a different way 
  • The second term is where there might be wobbles
  • Key staff that understand and inspire your child can make all the difference
  • Whatever goes wrong can usually be fixed
  • My child will survive the experience

Mentor Reflections

What helped you make the change between Educational settings? 

  • Transition days, get as many in as you can, arrange individual ones not just the whole school ones. I had so many I pretty much knew my way around before I started so never had that as an excuse for being late to class. As a person with a visual impairment it’s the logistics of moving around, not knowing your surroundings that contributes to feeling anxious so getting that nailed will be a huge head start
  • Routine of where to be picked up from after school. Sometimes slightly further away from the school might be better, slightly removed from the busy areas
  • Getting stuck in (being encouraged to get stuck in) for me it was joining sports teams but any extra clubs that are of any interest will help to feel integrated quicker.

What can parents do to support their children?

  • Just being there when you need them 
  • Letting you off for things like forgetting your kit bag for the first term or two, there will be a lot on the children’s minds and these things are easily forgotten, being supportive and dashing into school with say cake ingredients will be much appreciated 
  • Creating good communication links to relevant people in the school e.g. the Send lead, but not relying on these people to fix things, try to give the child time to work things out for themselves first e.g. which classes to use their laptop in for example. 

What can parents do to help children share when things go wrong?

  • Ask open questions, what did you do today? instead of, how was your day
  • It’s all about balance, and this is not something I necessarily got right as I was probably too stubborn as a child but I guess try to gauge when to step in and when to let the child problem solve. Initially I wasn’t in the class I wanted to be which had existing primary school friends in it, but that just encouraged me to make new friends which over time was positive 
  • Expect less of the class teachers re building relationships with your child as this will be very different to the Primary relationships, instead focus on your child’s relationships with their classmates or their TA if they have one.

Advice – words of wisdom.

  • Re the transition get familiar with the school setting before term starts, this will be a massive head start 
  • Get involved with additional interests on offer e.g., drama club or music lessons or sports teams cooking club whatever it may be. It’s a chance to meet people with common interests but also a chance to build happier, less stressful experiences whilst still in the school setting 
  • Don’t be afraid to hold teachers accountable if they aren’t making work accessible for your child but try to have that conversation with a solution in mind rather than just highlighting the problem e.g., this photocopy onto a3 paper is too blurry, is there an electronic copy of the textbook available that my child can access on their tablet 
  • Try to give your child space but have confidence and back your parental judgement to know when to intervene if you think it’s necessary.