Category Archives: events

BBC Accessibility Champions

In August Vicky Johnson and Marcus Friday from our Team were invited to present to the BBC accessibility champions event at BBC Media City in Salford.

BBC Accessibility Champions

BBC Media City, Salford

BBC Media City, Salford

This day was organised to bring together many BBC accessibility champions. The group included people who design BBC websites and apps to ensure accessibility. The audience consisted of programmers, user experience designers, researchers and testers, business analysts, assistive technology users and accessibility specialists.

The BBC now has approximately 85 accessibility champions which span across many BBC departments, eg TV, radio, sport and children’s. Presentations were given to explain the ways in which the champions ensure that accessibility is considered early in the design process, and that testing is carried out as a website, app or game is developed.

‘Physical’ ICT Accessibility

Vicky and Marcus, from the Barnsley AT team, were invited to speak at the event in order to provide the audience with an insight into how users with severe physical impairments access technology. The focus was on their clients who predominantly have upper limb physical impairments and sometimes have associated visual and cognitive difficulties. An overview of the Barnsley AT Team was provided, along with some powerful case studies of clients using their AT systems to enable computer access, control of the environment, and access to communication.

Three breakout sessions took place in the afternoon and we listened to the Head of Accessibility and Accessibility Specialists provide an insight into the developments in the accessibility of BBC output in recent years. Part of the discussion focused on how to ensure that breadth of BBC output is accessible to those with visual, cognitive or physical difficulties.

Looking to the Future

The day ended with a fun session spent in the Blue Room. The BBC have dream jobs where Technologists are employed whose role is to keep aware of new mainstream developments which may have an application or scope for development of interest to them.

We tried the Amazon voice recognition system called Echo which uses the protocol IFTTT (if this then that) which provides a flexible system, where for example the system recognises your request and you program it to perform any number of actions e.g. control your environment, interact with an app in order to order a taxi or food or action another command programmed in other IFTTT enabled apps. We also had time to try Google Glass and a relatively cheap head worn display called Glasshouse.

It was a privilege to meet some of the people behind the iPlayer TV and radio apps, including the Good Food site. Overall, it was an informative and enjoyable day which has opened up the opportunity for Barnsley AT Team to work further with the BBC.



William Merritt Disabled Living Centre (WMDLC) in Leeds recently participated in GameBlast16, a nationwide gaming event to raise money for Special Effect, a gaming charity that helps people with disabilities access popular home video games.  The event ran 24 hours from 1 pm on Friday 26 February.  As it wound down, several staff and gamers alike had that glazed look in their eyes that comes with staying up all night, although most participants did the event in shifts.

Maxine McDonnell of WMDLC reports that gaming represents a natural progression for users who have mastered and perhaps become bored with switch-operated toys.  Judging from the focused attention of the young gamers in the room, the activity was highly motivating.  It is easy to wonder if video gaming is a better medium for some users to develop their access skills when learning to use adapted interfaces.

WMDLC’s support of accessible gaming extends well beyond the annual GameBlast event as the centre holds regular accessible gaming days throughout the year .  The knowledgeable and supportive staff have a variety of adaptations to hand to help gamers access popular consoles such as Nintendo WiiU, Sony PlayStation, and Microsoft Xbox.  The Maxgear CrossFlight allows an Xbox controller to operate a WiiU console.  For example, if a user is proficient with an Xbox controller but not with a WiiU controller, the CrossFlight allows you to use the Xbox controller on the WiiU.  The Titan One similarly allows users to swap controllers on numerous consoles, such as using an Xbox controller to operate a PlayStation. It also has an interface called MaxAim DI that supports keyboard and mouse support for accessing gaming consoles.  It can also run with OneSwitch Pulse software which is a programmable list of commands that switch users can scan through and send to a gaming console via a computer.  The Console Switch Interface Deluxe or C-SID is a switch interface that allows you to break out a button from most console controllers to a switch.  WMDLC frequently uses this breakout feature with game adapter cables to form teams of gamers controlling a single avatar.  In this setup, members of the team each control specific functions (button presses).  McDonnell revealed that many gamers that can play games independently prefer the social camaraderie that comes with working together.

WMDLC’s accessible gaming days are perfect for building up stamina for next year’s GameBlast event.  Although the service is drop in, it is helpful if call ahead on 0113 350 8989 or so that resources can be allocated.

Launch of the new Yorkshire and Humber AAC Clinical Excellence Network

On 21st October twenty-two professionals from across the Yorkshire and Humber region came together for the inaugural meeting of the AAC Clinical Excellence Network in Leeds. The group is affiliated to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, but membership is open to any professional working within the field of AAC across the Yorkshire and Humber region.

On the agenda was the official swearing-in of the committee members, followed by the AGM. We then shared our experiences of this year’s Communication Matters Conference which was also held in Leeds, on the 13th-15th September.

Andrea Kirton gave the group an update on the role of the Barnsley Assistive Technology Team in its role as the Specialised Service for AAC and Environmental Controls (EC). For further information please see our website pages at:

Helen Robinson talked to the group about the extensive range of training opportunities offered by the Barnsley AT Team. The current courses we offer and dates available are on our website – but please also get in touch with ideas or requests for training.

Finally, each professional gave the group an update on how AAC is currently provided in their local team. As part of the Barnsley AT Team’s role as the Specialised Service for AAC and EC we are rapidly expanding the areas we cover and it is really valuable for us to understand AAC provision across the region. Over the coming months members of our team will be meeting with local services to discuss how our service will support their clients with AAC.

There was certainly a real buzz about the CEN and attendees were pleased to have the opportunity to come together and discuss AAC. We did have quite a long list of people who wanted to attend but couldn’t due to the room capacity. Our next meeting is at Henshaw’s College, Harrogate on 20th January 2016 and we will have a much bigger room so hopefully all those that wish to attend will be able to! Tickets will be available via our eventbrite site shortly.

We hope to see you at the next meeting!

Phonemes, Decisions, Identification, Services, Eye Tracking and Assessment!

Phonemes, Decisions, Identification, Services, Eye Tracking and Assessment. This is the range of diverse topics that members of the team will be presenting at the ISAAC 2014 conference later this month. ISAAC is the international conference relating to Augmentative Communication.
The Barnsley AT team is pleased to have had six papers accepted for this prestigious conference. A summary of all the papers is below. If you are attending ISAAC, please come and find Simon or Andrea to chat about these topics!
The work being presented at ISAAC has been supported by Devices For Dignity and Sparks Charity

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Festival of Life – Technology of the Future

The Barnsley AT team will be demonstrating some communication aids and environmental controls at the University of Sheffield’s ‘Festival of Life’.  The Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Group and Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare (CATCH) have organised an event as part of this festival titled ‘Technology of the Future‘.

From Loss to Hope

We have  been informed of a project running from Sheffield around sharing people’s experiences of Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

The project title is ‘From Loss to Hope’ and will culminate in a creative exhibition to share people’s voice in raising awareness of MND amongst members of the public. This is a Sheffield based project. The first workshop is Saturday 17 May at the Humanities Research Institute in Sheffield.

If this is of interest to you, please see the attached invite poster .