In September 2016, Trustees agreed funding for additional equipment at 5 of our existing Karten Centres. Successful UK Centres were: Action for Blind People Bristol; Aspire; Jewish Care; Queen Elizabeth's Foundation, and the Centre for Deaf Blind People in Israel was also supported. In addition Trustees agreed to establish 3 new Karten Centres. We are delighted to extend a very warm welcome to The Daisy Chain Project and Motor Neurone Disease Association in the UK and Shalva in Israel.
Trustees will meet in March 2017 to consider the next round of applications. Deadlines for completed applications to be with Dawn (UK) and Debbie (Israel) is 20 January 2017. If you are planning on submitting an application please ensure we are aware as soon as possible as this will enable us to support you as effectively as possible.
New Karten Network Website
Earlier in the year we made the decision to redevelop the Karten Network website. This was done with two main aspects in mind - to make use of newer web technology and to better serve the needs of the Karten Network.
Following a comprehensive review of the old website the structure of the content was refined and reorganised. A new cleaner design was then developed. All of which hopefully will make things a little easier to find.
Considerable amount of thought and work went into improving things behind the scenes. With ease of use and accessibility being critical consideration factors in every decision that was made.
With the ever-increasing use of mobile technology work was also done to ensure that the website is now mobile friendly.
With one of our aims to better serve the network we have included facilities for centres within the network to have job adverts, Karten Centre events and rehoming of old equipment to be posted on the website.
Karten Centres are now shown on an interactive google map. As well as listing them in the original structure. Currently, information about each centre is very limited because we took the decision to take things back to basics. However, we want your help to tell us what information you would find useful there and to help us populate that information. We will be in touch with organisations about this in the near future.
What used to be called case studies has been rebranded as success stories - we would very much like to hear about your success stories.
We have also begun the process of amalgamating the East Midlands Specialist College Group E-Safety Project into our website. This project is a wonderful resource and as the project ended a few years ago we didn’t want the content to be lost. Currently, the e-Safety section of the website is effectively a copy of the existing project website. We would love to extend and update this resource - if you can contribute in any way please let us know.
In the long term we are keen to get more service user engagement with the website. While we have talked through possible ideas around this, we are still unsure exactly what shape or form this will take. If you have any thoughts on this we would be interested to know what they are.
I have made every effort to make sure the website works as it should. But if you find something that doesn’t work for you, please let me know. In fact, I welcome any feedback and suggestions. I have provided a website feedback link at the bottom of each page. Alternatively, you can email me: email@example.com
Update from Mobile Technology Advisor
Technology is evolving so rapidly, as are the ways in which that technology is used. Point a mobile device at a colouring book to see pictures come to life, chase Pikachu down the street or don a pair of goggles and be transported to the Serengeti. The line between what is real and what exists only within a digital world is becoming increasingly blurred.
Augmented Reality (AR) is the overlaying of a digital reality on to the real world. The Aurasma app has been used by at least one Karten Centre to great effect. However, to be fair the technology is still in it’s infancy. Apps like WallaMe enables you to leave virtual messages on walls for other people to discover. While this application is designed for fun, it could very easily be repurposed to leave helpful messages for clients and students.
As the augmented reality technology matures I am sure it will be increasingly use not just for fun and entertainment but to assist people to help find their way, to provide information and instruction.
There are already apps such as Google’s Translate that allow you to translate text, Wikitude that provides information of what’s around you and apps from QuiverVision, Crayola and Octagon Studio that make it possible for pictures to come to life, all by simply viewing the world through your mobile device.
Virtual Reality (VR) creates a completely virtual immersive world that you can easily step into by putting on a pair of goggles and earphones. While this technology is also still in its infancy it is becoming increasingly available and affordable. Headsets are now available from as little as £20, although a high-end mobile phone or computer is also required. While virtual reality content and applications are still quite limited this is beginning to change. Commercially available 360° cameras are also making it easier to create custom content. The potential for the use of virtual reality as a training an educational tool is immense, allowing people to experience and in some cases, interact with a virtual world without leaving the room.
There is currently a considerable amount of research and investment going into developing the augmented and virtual reality technologies with big names such as Google (Project Tango and Daydream), Oculus (purchased by Facebook), Microsoft (HoloLens) and others all getting involved. We are certainly in for an exciting future.
A selfie Mark Zuckerberg took while in VR with his dog and his wife, who called in on Facebook Messenger, with a digital selfie stick.
What is very encouraging is the use of this technology to help people with disabilities. For example, Japanese manufacturer Fove in collaboration with the University of Tsukuba in Japan developed the “Eye Play the Piano” VR system. Using this system, a student with a physical disability could play the piano at their Christmas concert.
If you have begun using augmented and virtual reality in your organisation we would be keen to hear all about it! To find some of the apps mentioned visit the Karten Network Mobile Technology Resource. While you are there please add any AR or VR apps you find work well too.
We always enjoy celebrating success and in this newsletter we turn our attention to our Mobile Technology Adviser, Martin Pistorius. I am sure you will join me in congratulating Martin on achieving this prestigious award. Well done Martin we are very proud of you.
In November Martin travelled to the USA where he attended a series of meetings and gave a keynote address at the Indiana State Promoting Achievement through Technology and Instruction for all Students Conference.
However, the main reason for Martin’s trip was to receive the Edwin & Esther Prentke, AAC Distinguished Lecture award. Martin is the first person from outside the USA to receive this award. Since the award’s inception in 1997 it has been presented each year at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Conference. This year’s ASHA conference held in Philadelphia was attended by more than 14000 people.
Before receiving the award, recipients are invited to give a lecture. Martin’s lecture on leadership was very well received by the delegates.
“Martin receives the award for the Edwin and Esther AAC Distinguished Lecture from Dave Moffatt, president of PRC.”
Martin ended his trip to the US with a visit to Nashville where he collected an Audie award for the best Audio book in the biography category for 2016.
British Museum Touch Tour of the Egyptian Gallery
Tim Simon, chair of trustees of the Ian Karten Charitable Trust volunteers at the British Museum and thought the following would be of interest to the centres.
A Touch Tour consisting of nine ancient Egyptian sculptures is available for visually impaired visitors at the British Museum.
Supporting information for the Touch Tour is available in the following formats:
- Large print
- Tactile drawings with Braille information
- Audio on your own smart phone or tablet
- As a Guided Touch Tour (advanced booking only)
Anyone who wishes to use the Touch Tour can obtain large print or Braille books at Information Desk in the British Museum's Great Court.
An audio-descriptive guide as well as the contents for the large print guide and the tactile drawings and Braille book can be downloaded from the British Museum's website.
To book a Guided Touch Tour, please email the British Museum at least 4 weeks in advance of your visit: firstname.lastname@example.org
They will require the following information:
- Your contact details
- The number of blind / partially sighted people in your party and the number of sighted people (if applicable).
- Your preferred date and time. Note that currently the Guided Touch Tours for individuals and small groups is only offered on Mondays at 15.30, Wednesdays at 10.00, Fridays at 18.00 and Saturdays at 10.00.
News From the Karten Centres
SeeAbility deeply appreciates generous support last year from The Ian Karten Charitable Trust towards the purchase of specialist equipment for SeeAbility’s Millennium Centre in Leatherhead.
We are delighted with the equipment and fixtures which are making a real difference to people with sight loss and multiple disabilities who access our services.
Seeing Beyond Disability
Individuals with sight loss and multiple disabilities face challenges in every aspect of their daily lives especially when it comes to mobility and communication. Computers and assistive technology present boundless opportunities for people who want to overcome some of these hurdles. The right support to navigate through the myriad of options can help to unlock opportunities around education, general social networking and participation in the community. For people who have sight loss, being able to access specialist equipment can make a huge difference to being able to live independently but it can be quite daunting if you don’t know where to start.
SeeAbility’s experienced support teams, specialist rehabilitation workers, assistive technology professionals and IT Tutors are knowledgeable on a wide range of topics and advise people on suitable equipment to reach their goals. They are also very skilful at teaching subjects in the simplest way. Understanding around different technologies and matching individuals to suitable specialist equipment and software is a key aspect of our work. Our IT Tutors keep up to date with the latest accessible technology and work closely with our in-house Rehabilitation Team, Speech and Language Therapists and staff teams as part of a holistic approach to supporting people. Sharing practice in this way ensures that we look at each person’s needs from every angle.
Everything we do is lead by the people we support. Our teams are committed to working with individuals to achieve their aspirations and goals. There are 113 people in Surrey who receive service from SeeAbility and have access to The Millennium Centre’s one-to-one and group sessions. Our support teams, specialist therapists and IT Tutors currently deliver training on such areas as email, how to browse the internet, desktop publishing and the use of smartphones, tablets and specialist assistive technology. Sessions are geared to appeal to individuals and tailored around their interests which acts as an added incentive and contributes to the learning process. This approach also gives people the chance to develop their interests in different ways at the same time as engaging with challenging tasks that enhance their skills and literacy.Encouraging individuals to work towards a project of their choosing is a highly practical approach and gives an opportunity for individuals to tackle real world tasks at the same time as inspiring them to obtain a deeper knowledge around their area of interest. Progress is monitored regularly in the form of a support plan where staff teams discuss with each individual what their aims and ambitions are for the next 6 months and how they can be achieved. This helps to motivate and focus individuals on reaching milestones and succeeding in realising their goals. The work undertaken in each session is recorded in order to help the tutors reflect on what next steps are needed with each individual’s objectives in mind.
In December 2015, SeeAbility unveiled the newly refurbished sensory room at The Millennium Centre. The addition of a new sound wall and the giant Visilift interactive screen (affectionately known as ‘BOB’ by the people we support) creates a new a focal point for activities and fun. The room also has new lighting and themes that create an environment where people with visual impairment can explore light, sounds and textures.
The sensory room is truly a remarkable space and room features bubble tubes, tactile boards, surround sound, lights and games all of which create a relaxing yet stimulating environment. Our teams are using the sensory room within sessions, with people like Chu Man, so as to promote opportunities for development of new skills, particularly in relation to understanding cause and effect, as many of the devices and equipment are operated by switches.
Chu Man lives at our service in Leatherhead. She is 31 years old and has several eye conditions, which means she has an acute visual impairment. She has no verbal communication but that doesn’t stop her from her enjoying the use of her other senses, through listening to music and spending time interacting with others.Chu Man has been working with our Rehabilitation Assistant, Anel Louw, to improve her understanding of cause and effect and reaching out with self motivated movement. This is being done by using the large, Visilift interactive screen which helps Chu Man use her remaining vision and detection of light/shadows.
The goal has been to support Chu Man to engage with different objects and equipment. It took around 3 months for her to become confident in touching the screen and staff experimented with a variety of programmes to support her to use it. Eventually, staff found that she responded especially well to the piano in the Snowflake Suite Software and after consistent support she started to fully engage and tap the keys in a rhythmic manner to the extent that she is now able to make tunes with melody and rhythm.
As well as supporting Chu Man to have fun, and engage with new equipment and experiences, this offers exciting potential to pave the way for introducing more assistive technology to Chu Man and supporting her to develop transferable skills which can be used in other areas of her life.
The Visilift is well used by individuals and in group sessions for a wide range of activities. For example, individuals who attend the Makaton Sing and Sign enjoy using the screen to access YouTube for the songs on which the group has been working, most recently Cliff Richard’s ‘Summer Holiday’. They can also view pictures which supports their signing. Also, The Travellers Club have used the Visilift to support their work relating to learning about different countries, looking at different flags from around the world and taking quizzes on capital cities.
Showing people how technology can fit into their lifestyle encourages people like Ivan to develop their interests and skills in new directions.
Ivan has been working with the Kirsty Archer, IT Tutor, to use the internet to keep up to date with his passion for all things meteorological, and particularly enjoys learning about clouds. Ivan’s practical work on the computer has enriched his spelling, but his slow typing held back his progress with project work and skills development. His clear voice meant that he was an ideal candidate to try Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software to assist with information input. Ivan agreed to give it a go and has been using his British geography project to practice using the software.
Ivan is a member of The Cloud Appreciation Society, an organisation that aims to foster the understanding of clouds, and has also been working towards his goal of creating a presentation about weather. He has already packed his specialist knowledge into 34 slides and has started using the Visilift interactive screen to view images in greater detail and show his presentation to educate others. He has been learning about how to move through the presentation by touching the screen.
The big screen has also given Ivan the chance to enhance his viewing experience of DVDs and he also enjoys experimenting with the weather, cloud and storm related effects on the sensory room app, which allows him to engage in creating stimulating sound and visual effects on the screen based around the natural phenomena he is interested in.
Ivan has become known as being knowledgeable about clouds for many years but his presentation and use of the Visilift will enable him to share his passion with people in a new way.
Having the opportunity to install new equipment in the sensory room also gave us a chance to refresh the space and some of the existing fittings. We have been able to transform the space with comfortable seating, cushions and soft flooring which makes the environment so much more comfortable and inviting. Soft flooring has been grouped into colours to define the areas within the sensory room which enables people to move around the room more independently.
Ellen and Tony (pictured above) are both big fans of the vibrating floor/platform and greatly missed it when it was not working.
The adapted version, which provides more space with the addition of the soft cushioned area, has been a real hit with both of them and they have been pleased to have this equipment back up and running. As Ellen has both a hearing and visual impairment, the sensation of the vibration appears to be particularly important to her – this is something which she responds to very well and seems to support her relaxation which is especially valuable.
Themed projection wheels, purchased with support from The Ian Karten Charitable Trust, have been a great addition to the resources used within the sensory room. Incorporating different topics, these have been used to enhance the visual elements to sessions within which different subjects have been explored through a sensory approach. For instance a picture incorporating different items relating to the theme is used to provide visual effects alongside tactile and audio resources, as well as the use of smell when possible. The sound wall has also been used here, combining audio and visual effects.
The sound wall has recently been introduced to enhance the stories and plays covered by the Intensive Interaction group through drama. This is a new activity and, whilst not all members of the group will be able to use the wall themselves due to the nature of their physical disabilities, others are encouraged to operate the wall to make the sounds as their next goal. However, at this stage, the sounds are being used to add a new sensory element to the session and were recently used when exploring the stories of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Day of the Triffids’.
The Wild Cats Dramatic Society stages plays at the Millennium Activity Centre and the Fairfield Day Centre in Leatherhead. Support from The Ian Karten Charitable Trust helped us purchase a specialist, ceiling mounted projector to expand the boundaries around the staging of plays. Since the projector was installed, the group has staged three original plays – The Wizard of Oz, Babes in the Wood and The Mayflower. The cast is always excited to use the projector to provide exciting scenery and additional interaction opportunities for the players and audience.
Technology is at the heart of every show that the Wild Cats Drama Group produces and includes formatting scripts into Braille, audio and large print, creating posters to advertise performances, as well as creating DVD recordings for individuals to share with their friends and families.
In July, the IT Tutors supported the Wild Cats Drama Group to stage ‘The Mayflower’, an original play based on the Pilgrims voyage to the New World. As part of this, the IT Tutors used bespoke projections and sound effects to bring scenes to life. The audiences were even treated to a multi sensory experience as they were misted with salt water and handed seaweed to heighten the feeling of being at sea!
Assistance from The Ian Karten Charitable Trust
The Ian Karten Charitable Trust’s grant has supported our mission to offer increased leisure activities and educational opportunities which contribute to the health and well being of those with sight loss and multiple disabilities. On behalf of the people SeeAbility supports at The Millennium Centre including Chu Man, Ivan, Ellen, Tony and all the members of the Wild Cats Drama Group, we would like to thank the trustees for making our purchases of life enhancing specialist equipment possible.
Printbox is a Karten CTEC Centre based at Jewish Care's Maurice and Vivienne Wolh Campus in London. It operates as a small printing facility, providing work-based opportunities for working age volunteers with severe physical disabilities.
Printbox's original aim was to operate as a social enterprise, but a lack of high street presence combined with the size of the local Jewish community made us reconsider our approach.
In the summer of 2016, Printbox staff and volunteers began to consider its future aims and objectives. We wanted to find a way to give back to the Jewish Care community, and are now focusing the service on providing products to Jewish Care's customers through its care homes and community centres.
We began by working with our care home colleagues, to create print products that help residents lead meaningful lives.
Once a week, our volunteers come together to design, produce and distribute a range of products. We started with simple products that have Jewish themes, such as mugs, puzzles, cushions, bags, keyrings and fridge magnets based around the Jewish festivals. These products were initially sold in our care homes and are now available in our care homes and community centres.
On the back of this success, we have extended the service to offering personalised, made to order gifts.
Alongside this shift in focus from social enterprise to community activity, we have made significant changes to our working practices, in order for our volunteers to be involved in every stage of the ideation, design and production processes.
Matthew Kayne is now our lead graphic designer, creating designs and artwork for our full range of products.
Chasiya Freilich works in various aspects of production—preparing mugs for heating and packing orders—as well as being an assistant designer.
Natasha Jacobs is our picture researcher, finding images, graphics and illustrations to use in the design of our products. She also works in production, supervising the mug press and helping with packing orders.
The staff and volunteer team has regular meetings about Printbox's operations, including production planning and marketing. It's vital that our volunteers are involved in all aspects of the Printbox service, in order to make sure they learn a variety of work-based skills.
The training room has been transformed into a fully functional and modern facility. The interactive touchscreen and tablets in the charging cage allow training to move in line with the times, and the trainees are now able to complete online activities and job searching in the same area as the training, without the constraints of limited technology.
This refurbishment has facilitated the qualifications to help change the lives of over 100 trainees so far, and this number will only grow over the years. The training is essential in enabling the trainees to develop the skills and qualifications necessary to gain employment, and with the modern facilities now available, we can offer the trainees the same if not better opportunities than everyone else.
Annie came to us from Glenveagh school 5 years ago and has really developed her skills with us. Since she’s been with Orchardville she has worked in Espresso East where she has gained valuable catering experience in a busy customer facing environment. Annie also works in The Orchardville Business Centre where she has advanced to the role of supervisor and ensures all jobs are completed correctly by the trainees. As her skill set is very wide and she’s always very eager to learn new things, we felt she would benefit from more print finishing training. Annie has already mastered stapling, folding and sorting print & mail items.
Previously, Annie has used a manual folding machine for print finishing jobs, this required quite a lot of attention & supervision. The manual folding machine was prone to certain mechanical problems such as jamming & servicing. This was always quite time consuming to fix and also affected Annie’s time training on it with long pauses and delays. The new folding machine is very simple to use and easy to programme. Annie finds it much easier and less time consuming using this machine as there are no mechanical errors. Even when there is the odd paper jam it can be easily fixed by her with the touch of a button instead of a staff member having to take the machine apart. Annie loves working with the new machine and looks forward to more advanced training in the future.
Karten CTEC for Deaf-Blind Arabs in Northern Israel
The Karten CTEC for Deaf-Blind Arabs in Northern Israel is a small branch of our main Karten CTEC for Deaf-Blind Persons, which is located in Tel Aviv. The Karten CTEC for Deaf-Blind Persons is the flagship project of the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons of the Beth David Institute.
Chanin, who was one of our first students in Northern Israel, studies at the community Center in Arara. She was initially quite sceptical about the idea, unsure whether it was worth trying and very hesitant to leave the house without her parents' blessing. Our staff visited her at home, where Chanin was somewhat intimidated to suddenly and unusually find herself the center of attention. Her parents were happy to agree that she could study and grateful for the opportunity to ask questions. We trained another Arab-Israei woman, Chitam, as a teacher for her. This is significant as one of the main challenges with working with the Arab-Israeli population is the lack of appropriate Arab speaking teachers, men and women, who both understand the culture and can communicate directly with the students. Chitam and Chanin get along very well and communicate direct and easily with each other, facts which go a long way towards ensuring the success of the lessons. Chanin eagerly awaits every class and is very keen to learn as much as she can. Her parents continue to be supportive of the idea and help by driving her back and forth for each lesson.
Chanin had no prior experience whatsoever with using a computer. As the classes progressed, Chitam noticed that due to her impaired vision Chanin was not fully understanding everything she signed. Gradually, sensitively and delicately she began to introduce her to tactile sign language. Chanin caught on and began, for the first time, to use tactile sign language. This has made a real difference in her ability to communicate with others and has helped her to make remarkable progress in learning to use the computer.
As she progressed, Chitam covered the use of Internet as well, teaching her for example how to access the news, to communicate with people and to get help with everyday life. A few months ago Chanin began to find recipes on the internet, and Chitam encouraged her to create her own digital cookbook. Now Chanin uses the internet independently to find a recipe that interests her. She uses her new skills to send the recipe to Chitam, who purchases the ingredients and brings them to their next lesson. Actually preparing the recipe together teaches important life skills and strengthens Chanin in other areas as well. They photograph the process (an example can be seen here) and the final product, and Chanin adds her comments and the pictures to the recipe and adds it to her digital cookbook. The community center cooperates fully, allowing them to use their kitchen as needed. The opportunity, for the first time in her life, to prepare food, has proven truly empowering for Chanin. It has proved to her that despite her objective limitations she can function independently, cook and even enjoy the process. All this has significantly strengthened her self-confidence, her social standing and her level of independence.
Another area they work on is a graphics program that enables Chanin to draw pictures and express her artistic talent. We were surprised by how well she manages, despite her very limited vision, to slowly but surely create pictures and to paint them precisely as she wishes.
She asked her parents to give her a computer for use at home. They did so, and now that she has access to a computer and internet to practice on she is learning even faster.
Thanks to the computer lessons Chanin has matured and developed as a person and has made real progress towards independence and empowerment. We are grateful to the Ian Karten Charitable Trust for making this possible by donating the laptop computer with Zoom Text that she uses. Chanin has begun to independently find the information she needs and wants on the Internet, to leave the house occasionally for accessible workshops (that our staff person organizes) and to begin to learn about her rights, for example how to get Israeli Sign Language (ISL) government allotted interpreting hours. She has also been inspired to begin to cook at home as well, and we hope to be able to offer her hours with an SSP (Support Service Provider) to go shopping and so forth. All of this is made easier by the fact that she is now used to leaving the house for her computer lessons and can thus receive additional explanations, information and access to other services as needed. Thanks to the level of trust that has developed between pupil and teacher, Chanin now feels comfortable sharing her needs and asking for help when she needs it. Thus the computer lessons have enriched her life and strengthened her in many ways beyond the actual skills learned.
Immersive Learning at Share – a 6 month update
Earlier this year, thanks to funding from the Ian Karten Charitable Trust and two other charities, Share launched its fantastic new immersive learning centre, supplied by 4D Creative. We’ve called it the Ian and Mildred Karten Immersive Learning Centre because without the IKCT, this project would never have been completed. The space came with some inbuilt content which was great for creating conducive environments. We’ve used the calming themes as background for our yoga class, and the projection of library shelves has helped our creative writers get into the mood. We can connect to the internet, and we’re using the immersive space to run Tai Chi ad Qi Gong classes, which students love.
Our tutors have created new programmes, such as one on money, so that people have an immersive experience learning about different coins and how much things cost. The Centre is used by our Student Voice group for helping people to make decisions – go to the green side for yes, the red side for no, stand in the middle if you don’t know! Our music teacher is using the Centre to show videos of orchestras playing pieces, helping students to link the sound of an instrument to what it looks like, and creating a feeling of being in a concert. And we’re also using the Centre as a gallery, projecting students’ art work onto the walls.
Students in charge
The students themselves have found the system very easy to use, and they’re making choices every lunchtime. On some days, there’s a disco, as students load YouTube videos. On others there’s some quiet music, and at the moment, students are watching the Olympics on the big screen during their breaks. It’s given confidence to those who have been able to develop their skills in using the technology, and it’s given choice and control to all of the students.
We have appointed a Digital Inclusion Manager, thanks to funding from the Battersea Power Station Foundation, and she is developing exciting new content for the Immersive Learning Centre. In particular we’ll be looking at creating content to support numeracy and literacy, as well as to support our independent living programme. This will include filming in local supermarkets, doing more on travelling independently, and looking at everyday domestic gadgets. We’ll continue to explore how the technology can support our wellbeing work, as it’s already doing through the tai chi and qi gong sessions. And increasingly, the students themselves will be designing and producing their own materials.
We haven’t yet started letting out the room to other community groups, so that’s also next on our agenda. But the Centre is used every working day from when we open to when we close, and it’s extremely popular with all of our students.
We’re incredibly grateful to the Ian Karten Charitable Trust for its faith in our work and ongoing support. We’d be very happy to talk with other centres about our journey, and what’s next.
Using a Games Controller as an Adapted Input Method
This abridged case study examines a solution that was used to address the problem of computer access. The solution was developed to help a small number of students with disabilities affecting their mobility and dexterity access computers at home and on campus more independently.
We actively promote the the use of assistive technology in lessons. The student discussed in this case study was provided with equipment and software that they could utilize to independently use a computer in lessons, during out of class study support sessions and at home without having to rely on a person to scribe for them.
The focus is on one particular male student, studying on a BTEC Level 3 Media course, and looks at how we adapted his computer to use a games console controller as his primary input device.
All of the tools and resources presented in this case study are easy to source and are widely available; it is our hope this case study can be used as a road map by other providers who might wish to introduce similar tools into their working practice.
Equipment and resources
Joystick Mapper Software
Xbox 360 Controller
Playstation 4 Controller
mDP to VGA adaptor
Joystick Mapper is a simple to use application that lets you map keyboard keys, mouse axis, mouse buttons and mouse wheel to any joystick or game controller. Put simply it lets you use a joystick or games controller with any application, including those that are not compatible with them.
General use and set up
It became clear that due to the degenerative nature of their condition the student had reached a point where using an ordinary mouse and keyboard was no longer possible for them. It was essential than an alternative way for them to use a computer could be found. A variety of options were explored including smaller keyboards and adapted mice. But after trying several options it became obvious that none of these were working well.
The student mentioned in conversation with myself and other staff that they enjoyed playing on their games console in their leisure time. We decided that since this was a comfortable way for them to use a games console, it could be adapted into a way for them to use a computer.
The student was given the opportunity to use a controller in Study Support on their Macbook laptop. Over a few sessions we altered the settings on Joystick Mapper until they found the controller comfortable to use for extended periods. We used a wired controller as it was easier to set up, but a wireless controller could be used if your Mac supports Bluetooth connections. The diagram below displays how we setup the controller for the student.
Particular attention was given to getting the sensitivity of the left stick correct as this controlled the mouse. The speed at which the mouse cursor moved was crucial to get correct as this is the main way the student interacts with the computer.
Using this controller setup with an onscreen keyboard the student was able to use the majority of the applications they needed for their course with ease.
Up until they started using this controller the student had been using a laptop placed on their lap-tray. Since they now rested their controller on their lap-tray their laptop had to be placed on the desk at a distance from them. A large screen was needed so that the student could view the screen more comfortably at a distance.
Several screens have been provided in classrooms and in Study Support so that the student can connect their equipment to them as required.
Equipment is taken to the classroom in time for the start of the lesson. The support worker allocated to the student sets up the equipment prior to his arrival so that it is ready to use when he arrives.
Large screens and adaptors are available in all the student’s classrooms, we use a mDP to VGA adaptor and a VGA cable to connect the Macbook to the screens, but any suitable adaptor and cable should give the same results.
Joystick Mapper has been set up to launch at startup and the on screen keyboard can be quickly accessed on the menu bar.
Changes over time
After a few months the student requested a different controller as he was used to using a Playstation 4 Dualshock Controller on his games console at home. This was simple to implement. We swapped the controller and made minor adjustments to the speed of the mouse tracking to accommodate the different analog stick placement. Since this controller is smaller the student found it more comfortable to use for extended periods of time.
Why do this?
This adapted input method has had a significant impact on the student's independence at college. They are now able to work for long periods of time without having to rely on a support worker, and can more confidently and comfortably meet the challenges of their course. They have been able to complete written assignment work, video editing, and assessments without the need for them to rely on a practical assistant.
Moreover, this technology led intervention has allowed staff working with the student to have more freedom. They are freed up to supervise, speak to, and monitor other students while working in Study Support and lessons. This means that staff working with this student can use their time in more flexible ways.
The impact this equipment has had on the student has been very positive. He uses this equipment in every lesson and is able to comfortably and independently word process, edit video and audio as well as complete research for his course. He has also used the equipment to complete assessments and timed assessments to good effect.
He has started to use the same equipment at home, and it’s our hope that this way of working will continue to be effective and comfortable for a substantial period of time.
Areas for improvement
This kind of input method could be adapted further for people with more complex needs. For example; the weight of the controller could be reduced by removing the rumble packs, and the analog stick could be altered to be more comfortable for different users. Buttons can easily be removed from the hardware or disabled in software settings. In addition the hard-wearing nature of this kind of device means they could be mounted onto a wheelchair if required.
Anyone who is interested in further adapting a games controller to use as an alternate access method, or who is interested in making playing computer games more accessible, can find the full case study including a list of useful websites by visiting Richard Maclachlan website: https://talkingtechnologyblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/using-a-games-controller-as-an-adapted-input-method/
Keeping in touch
You can keep up to date with the activities of the Karten Network in a number of ways:
Karten Network website – www.karten-network.org.uk
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Dawn Green: email@example.com Tel 07821 723941
Angela Hobbs: firstname.lastname@example.org
Martin Pistorius: email@example.com
Debbie Ben-Tal: firstname.lastname@example.org