Travelling along a technological highway!

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Why Use Structured Documents?


By using inbuilt Styles and Structures to format headings you will be increasing accessibility of documents.  Microsoft Word has several inbuilt styles of heading, allowing users to select their own preferred style.

The benefits of using structured documents for our dyslexic and EAL pupils is enormous:

  • Pupils don’t have to trawl through endless pages of text to find the relevant piece of information
  • Pupils can navigate directly to the required section relatively easily through the Document Map (navigation panel) which provides an overview of the entire document
  • A table of contents can be created from a structured document and paragraphs can be moved around to change the layout when editing
  • Predefined headings enable consistency of style throughout a document

Benefits for partially sighted and disabled pupils:

  • The ability to use ‘textflow’ has particular relevance for visually impaired uses using screen magnifiers.  Not using ‘textflow’ would otherwise involve much horizontal as well as vertical scrolling.
  • Motor impaired users can access the whole document using relatively few keyboard/mouse movements

Using structured documents will save a great deal of time and alleviate some of the barriers to learning that our pupils face.


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New Experiences

Twitter Social

Last week I didn’t even know what a Twitter Social was.  I cannot believe just how much the world has moved on since my ‘word processing’ and ‘desk top publishing’ days of 25 years ago!  Where have I been? I was struggling so much to understand certain technological terms, nevermind what they actually did and how to use them, but an hour into a ‘Twitter Social’ (like a Facebook chat I guess – yes, I just about know what that is) and I’m much clearer on a couple of terms than I was  previously.  I now know how to structure documents on a blog post (ok there’s not much to structure here but there will be soon I’m sure) and I’ve ‘favourited’ lots of tweets that will be of interest as soon as I get the time to look at them.


I’ve learned how to set up a Google account and how to open and structure a Google Doc.  Although I haven’t yet completed a Google Doc I’m sure it won’t be long and at least I know how to do it.


Well, I’ve successfully downloaded Jing and managed to take a screenshot (see above) and get it put on this blog post so am feeling fairly pleased with myself.  I still need A LOT of practice because at the moment it takes a very long time to do.  Perhaps it’s worth carrying on after all…



 Why make a document accessible?

When we go to the effort of producing a document our aim is for it to be available for as wide an audience as possible.  If a person cannot access a public document because of a disability, they are being denied their right to access.  Documents therefore need to be modified in some way to enable them to reach a wider audience.

How to make documents more accessible?

Documents can be made more accessible by modifying the documents and also by using alternative formats ie., ways other than basic print of publishing information.

How can documents be modified?

  • large print (size 16-20)
  • Word documents can be made more accessible by changing background colour, font size and colour, increased spacing, structuring documents to make navigation easier and quicker
  • using cream paper rather than white will reduce glare
  • include fonts for maximum accessibility eg., Sans Serif, Verdana, Ariel or Helvetica.  Stroke thickness is especially important for low vision readers because thinly stroked letters result in poor contrast.  For low vision readers choose font size of 16-18 points and for normally sighted use 9-14 points
  • spacing between lines of text should be at least 25-30% of the print (font) size
  • consider paper finish and texture.  Glossy paper can produce additional glare.  Opaque or matte is recommended.

What alternative formats are available?

A wide range of technologies are now available to enable people with disabilities to communicate with others or to access information.  Some of these include:

  • braille (by using Braille transcription software)
  • audio recorded information or CD and electronic files – e-books read digital books and periodicals similar in form to a tablet computer
  • audio notetaking (Nuance, Audio Notetaker)
  • specialist software can be used to convert Word documents to MP3 format and stored onto CD.
  • screen readers convert text displayed on a computer monitor to voice using a speech synthesizer or to Braille.
  • extra wide binding margins for low vision aids such as stand and video magnifiers
  • speech input and synthesized speech output
  • screen magnifiers
  • screen projectors
  • intelligent word prediction software
  • touch screens
  • mobiletext viewers – portable multimedia players and smartphones.  Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iPod can be used through a variety of e-reader apps
  • simplified tactile images

Groups of people who may need alternative formats

There are many groups of people who may, for one reason or another, require alternative formats.  Some of whom are:

  • those who are blind or partially sighted:
    • elderley or those who have age-related macular degeneration.  The leading cause of visual impairment in the developed world and affects central vision
    • those who have glaucoma – usually affects peripheral vision
    • those who have diabetic retinopathy – can lead to patchy vision resulting in orientation difficulties.  May require large print and good contrast
    • those who have cataracts – where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque.  People who have laser treatment can usually begin to read large print and need materials with good contrast
  • those who have a physical disability that makes holding documents difficult
  • those who have an intellectual or cognitive disability
  • people who are dyslexic

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What I’ve learned this week…

How to achieve a Clear Print Document

Many thanks for sharing the link,  This is something I can definately take back to my colleagues and also consider myself when producing work for my pupils.  It was very clear and very concise.

Alternative Formats

My thanks for EA Draffon for her inspiring video presentation.  Some quotes I particularly like:

  • “One size does not fit all”
  • “we like to read and listen to content in different ways at different times”
  • Always offer multiple formats where possible because we don’t know all the answers (in terms of what works best)

Use of Structured Documents

Oh how I wish I had known how to use these before I did my Level 3 Dyslexia qualification.  Formatting would have been so much easier and much much quicker.  I asked my niece this weekend if she had been taught how to structure documents.  Her answer was “no”.  She is studying Forensic Science at University.  I can feel a screencast coming on.  Watch this space…..

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Making a difference – Dyslexia

Future libraries

Libraries are probably not your first thought if you or a member of your family  are dyslexic but our 3 year partnership with Dyslexia Scotland has changed that in Edinburgh and made a real difference

In line with this thrilling year of Sport, come and toast the Dyslexia Awareness Week programme  in style with a glass of bubbly, in the company of great representatives from the sporting world, all of them Ambassadors for Dyslexia Scotland…be mesmerised by Keith Cook, fencing champion and inspired by Paul McNeill, Scottish Football Association and Chris Tiso of Tiso Group Limited.

Edinburgh Central Library  (Mezzanine Level), Tuesday 6th November, 6.30-8pm
Book online or phone 0131 242 8022

Dyslexia Awareness Week  – Tuesday 6th until Saturday 10th November 2012


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As a story-teller Sally Gardner is unsurpassed. Her new novel Maggot Moon is as they say ‘something else.’ I like books that look extremely promising for the first few pages, only to notch up the level of promise higher still as you read.

Sally Gardner, Maggot Moon

Set in 1956 Maggot Moon feels as if it could have been written then as well. It fits right in with the classic books we used to read a few decades ago, except we thought they were all depicting a rather terrible future. In Maggot Moon we look back to what was, and it’s real.

Standish Treadwell ‘can’t read, can’t write and isn’t very bright.’ And still Standish is one of the most fantastic heroes I have ever come across. He is no fool, and once he’s found a friend in Hector he is completely fine. Except Hector disappears. The Motherland keeps tabs on what everyone does…

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What a minefield of information!

My desire to provide the best in education for my dyslexic learners drove me to join the Inclusive Technologies for Reading Course run by Dyslexia Action and the RNIB.  I need to drag myself kicking and screaming into the 21st Century and get to grips with social networking sites as a means of collaborative learning – or so my Course tutors are trying their best to convince me.  I have spent an hour and a half trying to start up this blog and am still mightily confused.  I live in hope that the more I use it the easier it will become and I dream that my ‘lightbulb moment’ is not too far away.  SO, I apologise in advance if I write something silly or do something wrong.  Please bear with me.

I am trying to learn as much as possible about the technologies out there in the big wide world that can help my little ones (primary children) to access print more easily.  Of course, due to restraints on school budgets, these technologies need to be, preferably free, or at least dirt cheap.  If anyone can help, I would be more than pleased to hear from you.  Please provide information that is very easy for a ‘numpty’ to understand.  Thank you!