The Karten Network March 2017 Newsletter
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The Karten Network March 2017 Newsletter

As I write this introduction to our Spring Newsletter, the sun is shining, the birds sound jolly, the daylight hours are increasing and the spring flowers are a delight to the senses. I always feel a renewed sense of hope and optimism at this time of year, and recent professional experiences have certainly contributed to that.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending 2 days at Jisc's Digifest at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. This was a large exhibition aimed at senior leaders across many educational and training sectors. Further Education and Higher Education organisations were well represented, as were Adult Community Learning and Work Related Learning providers, delegates from the Department for Education, Local Authorities and Examination Awarding Bodies were also present.

Some of our Karten Centres worked alongside me on the Natspec stand to showcase some of the excellent use of Assistive Technology for people with special educational needs and disabilities. Special thanks go to colleagues and students from Beaumont College, Derwen College, Hereward College, National Star College and St John's College for their excellent interactive contributions. Delegates certainly left our stand with a smile on their faces, whether they had left with a jar of Derwen College's luscious jam that they had labelled themselves under the direction of the students, interacted with The Jumblies Project, or had been literally finding the elephant in the room using the HoloLens. Student using a Microsoft HoloLensWe had super fun and really celebrated the some of the excellence and innovation that is going on in our Centres. Later in this newsletter you will see an article written by Ash, a student at Derwen who attended Digifest to demonstrate their jam labelling equipment.

One of the things we were doing at Digifest was launching a new National Assistive Technology service TechAbility. Please refer to the summary later in the newsletter, where you will be able to find contact details should you require further support or information.

In late January, I attended the Bett 2017 exhibition at the Excel conference centre. I am often asked by Centres to make recommendations about particular technologies, so it was really useful to go along and talk to suppliers and see what is new on the market. The emphasis was certainly on experiential and interactive technology. Robotics, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and 3D printing products were found in abundance. I would recommend a visit next year if you want to get some great ideas and see what could be possible in your organisation.

I have been out and about visiting a number of Centres and now that the weather has improved I am heading off for a 4 day mini-tour of Scotland to visit all of our Scottish Centres which will be really interesting. I follow the work of so many of you via Twitter and Facebook that I get excited about visiting for the first time to see the provision for real. If you have something that you want to discuss with me, or you would like to request a visit please email me

And finally, you will see reports from other Centres in this newsletter, remember this could be you. Please send me your news so that we can share this with others in future newsletters and celebrate your successes!

Funding Update

Trustees met in March to consider applications for additional funding and were pleased to award grants to the following organisations:

Cedar Foundation - Belfast and Ballymena, Northern Ireland
IrsALS - throughout Israel
Kisharon - Hendon, North London
Portland College - Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
The Royal Manchester College, Seashell Trust - Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire
Treloar's College - Alton, Hampshire

Watch this space for exciting news and updates as our centres upgrade their equipment.  The deadline for applications to be submitted for the Trustees' meeting in September is 14 July 2017.  Applications should be emailed to

Please ensure that Dawn is aware that you are planning to submit an application as she will need to arrange a visit to your Centre to discuss your requirements and to support you with the process.

Centre Information Forms

Thank you to the Centres who have completed and returned the Centre Information Forms as requested, and thanks to those of you who have sent lovely pictures and other information to accompany the forms. Martin is using the information to update the website so that you can find out more about what goes on in other organisations.

A polite reminder to organisations who have yet to return the information, it is a requirement of funding agreements and future funding that you provide up-to-date information. The deadline for the return of the Centre Information forms has been extended to 13th April 2017.

Download the Centre Information Form

Unfortunately, we will soon need to follow up on an individual basis with Centres who have failed to provide information.

Update from Mobile Technology Advisor

Karten Website

The new Karten Network website was released in November 2016. Since then we have continued to consider ways to improve the website to better serve the network. We are pleased to see that the job adverts section has been used by the network.

We have also begun the process of updating the centre information. The first phase of this was to request centres to complete and return centre information forms – thank you to all those who have done so. Most of that information received has been added to the website. The next phase will be to refine the way information is displayed as well as improving the way centre information can be found and hopefully making it easier for Karten Centre’s to collaborate.

The final phase will be to allow Karten Centre Managers to edit and add to their centre information – so watch this space.

As always, any feedback and suggestions are welcome. I have provided a website feedback link at the bottom of each page. Alternatively, you can email me:

Smart Rooms

Picture of a house with app icons and a person using a tablet to depict a smart homeAs the Internet of Things builds up momentum there more and more “Smart Home” products becoming available. These products are increasingly becoming interoperable making it possible for multiple devices from different manufactures to work together. The way in which we can interact with these “smart” devices in also expanding. Perhaps most significantly are voice control products like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Google Home.

While these smart home products are aimed at the home market there is exciting potential for use elsewhere, especially for people with disabilities. Consider for example, all the possible uses of using a relatively inexpensive smart plug which can be controlled through a mobile device or through voice commands.  App controllable light switches and bubs that can change colour, Wifi connected speakers, thermostat, and an array of sensors. All of which could be used enrich people’s lives, creating new learning opportunities and increasing independence.

I would be keen to hear about any examples where you are using smart devices in your organisation.

Derwen College visit to Digifest - written by Ash (Student at Derwen)

I went on a trip to Digifest at ICC Birmingham on Tuesday 14th March. We had an amazing day out showing people what we do in the Karten Print Shop

Ash beech and friends at the Natspec stand at  Jisc's Digifest I really enjoyed showing people how we use the jar labeller. We make our own jams in the kitchens here at Derwen and we sell them in our farm shop. We gave visitors a free sample of our jam and visitors had a go at labelling their own jam jar after we showed them what to do.

I loved looking at all the other things especially the virtual reality car driving game.


Tech Ability LogoTechAbility is a new assistive technology and information technology (AT/IT) service which aims to improve outcomes for students with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in mainstream and specialist further education colleges.

TechAbility provides a dynamic programme of support through a flexible, mobile team of specialist technologists and Assistive Technologists:

  • Events and workshops to showcasing best practice
  • Online and printed resources to support practitioners across the sector
  • Assistive Technology solutions for students with SEND – from low cost fixes to hi-tech and innovative products
  • AT and IT advice and guidance, from strategic to operational, supporting colleges and other providers and raising awareness at all levels of the organisation
  • Bespoke solutions for your college – an individual service dependent on need.

Use TechAbility to improve your SEND and High Needs provision:

  • Supporting assessments
  • Writing effective outcomes
  • Planning programmes of study
  • Helping students manage their work and record progress
  • Data collection
  • Communication and access tools for learners with high needs.

Tel: 0115 854 1322

News From the Karten Centres

The Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled People

Visit of HRH The Princess Royal to QEF Independent Living Services

On Friday 24 March, the Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled People (QEF) were honoured to welcome HRH The Princess Royal to QEF Independent Living Services near Leatherhead.  The charity is named after our late patron, HM The Queen Mother, and grandmother to Princess Anne.

HRH The Princess Royal speaking to a student at  Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled PeopleQEF Independent Living Services is a residential centre for 45 young adults with disabilities, all of whom are wheelchair users.  Residents are encouraged to develop their life skills in a variety of ways, including living in their own flat within the centre, to prepare for a long-term place to live in the community.  Working with the charity Lattitude, QEF are fortunate to benefit each year from several volunteers on a gap year placement.  Crucially these volunteers are a similar age to many of our residents and provide significant support to them.  HRH The Princess Royal is a patron of Lattitude and she was visiting both their students and our centre.

With support from The Ian Karten Charitable Trust and the QEF Spring Ladies Lunch Fundraising Committee, we have recently completely refurbished and bought new computer equipment for our “Infozone”.  We asked Her Royal Highness to officially open the room and unveil a plaque marking the occasion.  So it was a delight to invite Dawn Green and David Fullerton from the Karten Network and the Ian Karten Charitable Trust to join us and meet our royal visitor.  The Princess knew about the work of the Karten Network and was especially interested in the impact of the new technology on our residents.

Princess Anne unveiling a plague at the Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled PeopleThe new Infozone will be a huge benefit to all our residents.  Our new Tobii Eye Gaze system and wide range of accessible controllers, keyboards and touch screen monitors will enable residents to get more from the technology.  Software such as The Grid 3.0 , ZoomText and ClaroRead will be great support for users too.  We are planning some training to make sure we get the very best from our new facilities.  Thank you so much to the Karten Network for your support and friendship.

The Grange

Absolutely Fabulous star, Joanna Lumley, opened the newly-refurbished building of The Grange Centre for People With Disabilities, Bookham

Miss Lumley is a patron of The Grange, which supports people with disabilities to live independent and fulfilling lives.

Joanna Lumley at the newly-refurbished building of The Grange Centre for People With DisabilitiesShe unveiled plaques thanking charitable trusts and foundations and individuals who raised the £440,000 needed to make The Grange’s Victorian building accessible to people with restricted mobility.

Thanks to its supporters, The Grange now has:

  • Space for more people to learn valuable skills for life. Eight new people have joined already
  • The Karten CTEC Centre – a state-of-the-art IT suite
  • A new room for its fudge mini- business
  • A multi-media arts room with film animation and mug printing
  • A room for Makaton and communications training
  • A Heritage Room for its collection of antique textile collection and royal letters.

The whole building is now accessible with wider corridors, automatic doors and a brand new lift.

Miss Lumley toured the new facilities and met people in the Horticulture, Woodwork, Catering and Creative Arts departments.

‘I love what they do at The Grange,’ she said,’ its friendliness and supportiveness – it’s a flourishing community and helps not just people with disabilities but their families too.

She said, ‘It’s sometimes hard to get recognition for people who need support so that they can live independent lives. I feel very passionate about preserving funding for adult social care.’

The Grange is expanding and its next project is a building in which to offer new people  skills training and a respite care service. The cost will be around £1 million ‘but we’ll do it!’ said Miss Lumley.

Miss Lumley is currently filming a programme about India where she will meet the Dalai Lama. Due out in Autumn.

National Star

Two students at National Star are using 21st century technology to help their friend become more independent at college. Elliott Roberts, is visually impaired and needs help everywhere he goes, including short trips around National Star’s residence in Gloucester. But his friends and fellow students Kristian Harrison and Steve Martin have come up with a unique solution. They are making Elliott a personalised 3D tactile map of Elizabeth House, where they all live.

“The idea came from our discussions with Elliott. We wanted to make something that would make Elliott’s life easier at Elizabeth House,” said Steve, aged 23. Steve and Kristian, who uses a communicator he controls with his eyes, learned to use a special software to create a three dimensional map of the residence.

Then they printed it on a 3D printer which was paid for by a donation from Renishaw. “We made a lot of mistakes but we have fixed them along the way,” said Kristian, aged 18. “I’m really excited about the project and how it can help others.’ The trio were invited to show off their work at the Bett Show, the world's leading education technology event staged in London.

Student’s from National Star College demonstrating the 3D map they designed and printed They are students at National Star, a national specialist college for young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, based near Cheltenham. With the map, Elliott will be able to go from the lift to his room and to his bathroom without support. “It means I can be more independent at college,” said Elliott, aged 20. Simon Barnett, the tutor at National Star who is working with the trio, said there were a lot of challenges in creating the map. “As Elliott can’t feel enough with his fingertips to read Braille we had to create a new language for him. They have surprised me at how well they have done and I am so proud of them.” Mr Barnett thinks it may be one of the first times that 3D printing is being used to create a personalised map in such a way.

The map has raised sections with different shapes to help Elliott differentiate between the rooms. Gloucestershire-based engineering company Renishaw donated £3,000 to National Star to enable the charity to purchase the 3D printer. “The Renishaw Charities Committee is delighted that the 3D printer it funded at the National Star College is being put to such good use to assist Elliott,” said a spokesman from Renishaw. “As a manufacturer of industrial 3D printers ourselves, we know the power of the technology, how it is transforming the way that we can manufacture products and how it is being used to create bespoke objects, including medical devices, that are helping to improve the quality of life for many people around the world.”

This is a wonderful example of how supporters enable National Star to use its expertise, which we have built upon for 50 years, to work with young people with disabilities and help them realise their aspirations,” said David Ellis, Chief Executive of National Star.

Share Community

At Share we have been looking at ways to increase independence and improve how our students communicate. Over the last year digital learning has been incorporated throughout all our sessions to help support this aim. Using the various technologies we have available at Share, we have been able to tailor learning to suit the diverse needs of our students, taking them on a multi-sensory experience to help prepare them for everyday situations and choices.

Student becoming familiar with the communication app on an iPad in shopStudents with complex speech and language needs are becoming increasingly familiar with the communication applications available on the iPad and are gaining confidence in being able to use them independently.

The applications have enabled students to communicate through the use of images, audio and speech which has given depth to their learning. They have enabled students to work through tasks at their own pace in a way that is meaningful to them.

Our immersive learning space has been an excellent way to engage students and has enabled everyone to contribute at a level they are comfortable with. Students who tended to shy away from participating in group activities due to communication issues are now nominating themselves to take part and taking ownership over their learning. This has been an amazing achievement and is part of our ongoing work to empower all our students.

There have been some noticeable changes within our horticultural project with students using story telling applications to create guides on the regular tasks carried out within the project. The process has been an effective way to reinforce learning, as well as enabling students to work more independently. Their usage has had a visible impact on confidence and students are eager to utilise technology more within their sessions.

Student dancing on a projected image of a coin at the share community immersive space We have been using photography and videos to help students explore ‘self’. This has been a great way to build on personal awareness. Students have been communicating their likes and dislikes using a quick response video application. It has been a fun and engaging project which we are planning to continue in other areas.

Lastly, within our ICT project we have been supporting students to create an online identity in a safe and secure way. The exposure to social media and email has enabled students to maintain friendships outside of Share and to communicate with their families and support staff.

Widening the channels of communication has had a huge impact on our students. They are becoming increasingly confident and aware of how to maintain a digital presence safely and in a way that is beneficial to them.

Keeping in touch

You can keep up to date with the activities of the Karten Network in a number of ways:
Karten Network website –
Jiscmail - are you signed up to the jiscmail distribution list?  Let Dawn know if you would like any other members of staff adding to this email group
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter – search for Karten Network

Contact us

Dawn Green:     Tel 07821 723941

Angela Hobbs:

Martin Pistorius:

Debbie Ben-Tal:

Copyright © 2017 Ian Karten Charitable Trust, All rights reserved.

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