Sal McKeown welcomes the recognition for Inclusive Technology at the BETT Awards 2014
It was no surprise at all when Inclusive Technology's ChooseIt! Maker 3 won the BETT Award last week in the ICT Special Educational Needs Solutions category.
ChooseIt! Maker 3 is a perfect way for teachers to make personalised resources that will work not just with a touch tablet but also with a mouse, as well as single and double switches. It is also the first easy-to-edit program for creating 'eye gaze' activities so if you have a learner who cannot move their limbs , they can still show what they can do by using their eyes to control a computer.
When you work with children with severe and complex needs you never know what you will need. You might want to make some cause-and-effect activities to see if the children can respond; you might want to check how good their vision is and whether they recognise members of their family. Of course, you can't buy ready-made software with all the elements you want so you need a really good framework program that lets you make relevant and age-appropriate activities for everyone from early years to elderly people who are becoming increasingly frail.
ChooseIt! Maker 3 is that rare product which is an affordable solution to a lot of different problems. It is a stunningly simple idea which works on so many levels. It can be used in nursery settings or for speech therapy activities. It has been used by Great Ormond Street hospital, religious communities and has subscribers from more than 5,000 SEN schools in 52 countries.
Creation of tablet resources from web materials now a possibility
If you have a student or user who loves watching The Great British Bake Off for example, you can take photographs from the web and turn them into simple choice-making activities or more complex games and quizzes. Even better, once you have made your resource, you can download it on to an iPad or Android tablet so they can take it home and share it with the family.
Roger Bates, information director at Inclusive Technology, has campaigned for decades for accessible materials for learners with visual impairments so all the pictures have a black outline around the image and a black-and-white alternative on a clear background. There is symbol support – for both SymbolStix and Widgit symbol libraries – to help those who cannot read English or indeed read text in their own language.
The award is an excellent result for Inclusive Technology and helps to raise the company's profile still higher but it is also an important award for the special needs industry.
In recent years special needs has often been confused with literacy, so products aimed at those struggling in mainstream classrooms have dominated award nominations. But giving access to technology to people of all ages with low-incidence disabilities is a very good thing to do. It is not a highly profitable market but it is one which makes an enormous difference to the quality of life for users and those who support them.
Hopefully, the international recognition which comes with the BETT Awards will encourage other companies to follow in Inclusive Technology's footsteps and we will see more imaginative products available for a wider range of learners.
Sal McKeown is a freelance journalist and author of How to Help your Dyslexic and Dyspraxic Child, published by Crimson. She won TextHelp's Dyslexia Champion Award 2013 in recognition of going beyond the call of duty to help people with dyslexia and to promote awareness of the issue.