Dolphin Newsletter - December 2005
- Seasonal Greetings from Dolphin.
- From Steve Palmer and Noel Duffy.
- Dolphin Producer will be launched at BETT 2006.
- What's happening in Development - from John Rye.
- What's happening in Sales - from Steve Bennett.
- An interview with E A Draffan.
- Staff News.
Dolphin Computer Access would like to wish all their customers a merry Christmas and best wishes for 2006. We value our customers and continually develop features to improve the lives of our users. We are very proud of the Dolphin product launches in 2005, the highlights of which are the Dolphin Pen, Pocket Hal, Dolphin Tutor and Dolphin Producer, we hope that the changes we made in 2005 have made a difference to all of you.
Perhaps it's our age, but 2005 felt like it was the quickest one yet, it passed by in a blur. On closer inspection however, Dolphin has accomplished a tremendous amount in a variety of ways, so it can't have been that quick.
Since this time last year we have re-positioned ourselves and we are now firmly entrenched in a wider print impaired market. Our dyslexic product Dolphin Tutor has been released and we are adding to our digital talking book range with Dolphin Producer; which makes massive strides in demystifying the creation of DAISY books, so much so in fact, with Dolphin Producer they can be created at the press of a button. Our DAISY tools are proving very popular with both visual and print impaired clients. Our sales team has been expanded to bring in both front line and sales office staff to support our new print impairment product range. We are also pleased to see many of our existing dealers have opted to take up the expanded product range.
In addition to Dolphin Producer and Tutor our development teams have released Pen versions of our most up to date access products and more recently Pocket Hal has been released for the Pocket PC platform. You can now have access to commercial, off the shelf, PDAs and whether you choose to use a third party Braille device, a wireless keyboard or just use as is with Pocket Hal you now have affordable access to mobile computing. Next month, our text reader Cicero is going to be re-launched with a new improved UI and the latest Abbey Fine Reader engine.
As we write this, we have just emerged from a couple of days of product planning and prioritizing for next year. There was no shortage of exciting ideas presented and clients and dealers were also well represented by Steve Bennett, our esteemed sales director. We have taken a fresh look at our existing products and focused on some very nice ideas for new products in the year ahead, which we hope to be able to surprise and please you with again during the course of next year.
All of us at Dolphin hope you have a wonderful time over this holiday season and please accept our best wishes for the New Year.
I am sure that you have all been following the developments of Dolphin Producer with interest. Dolphin Producer combines a simple word reading tool and a revolutionary DAISY Digital Talking Book (DTB) creation tool. It allows on-screen information to be converted into audio and read back directly from the computer, as well as quickly converting the on-screen text into a fully synchronised text and audio DTB - all at the push of a single button.
Dolphin Producer will be released for sale on 19th December, and will be formally launched at the forthcoming BETT 2006 show in the UK and the ATIA Conference in North America.
All of the functionality of Dolphin Producer is available from the simple to use toolbar. The toolbar is automatically loaded within Microsoft® Word®, and can be positioned anywhere on the screen. By using the simple Dolphin Producer toolbar, Word® documents can be read back instantly from within Word®, with the text being highlighted in time with the corresponding audio.
Text colours and word highlighting colours can all be customised to suit the individual's requirements. Navigation controls allow the user to move through the document quickly and easily, by word, sentence or paragraph.
Once the DTB has been created it can be played back on any DAISY software or hardware player, including Dolphin's EaseReader, which is included with Dolphin Producer. Alternatively the audio can be played on any MP3 player.
Now everyone can create their own DTBs at the push of a button!
Now that Pocket Hal, the first complete screen-reader for off-the-shelf PDAs has been released attention now moves onto the next release of the desk-top version of Supernova, version 6.53, followed by version 7.
The updated, improved and easy-to-use Cicero version 3 OCR package is completing its beta test stage and will now be formally released at BETT in January. Recognition accuracy of the new Cicero is greatly improved over earlier versions of Cicero and it now deals with more language fonts.
Work on a new Swedish voice - Anders, is also in progress and will be incorporated into the next release of the Dolphin Pronouncer synthesiser.
Work also continues incorporating new UK Grade 2 Braille standards into all Dolphin Products supporting Grade 2 Braille.
As this is the last contribution for this year, may we wish all readers a Merry Christmas and A Happy and Prosperous New Year.
The launch of the new Dolphin Producer this month has been a cause of much interest and is keeping our Education team very busy. Paul Thompson, the new Education Product Manager has been speaking to teachers, support staff and parents and the response has been fantastic.
Dolphin Producer meets a core need in the challenge to improve literacy and understanding - it allows pupils to listen to documents. The key to Dolphin Producer is its simplicity - in just one click you can convert a Word document into an MP3 audio file or a DAISY book. No specialist knowledge or training is needed.
This has great implications for those dealing with challenges in literacy. DAISY is an inspired concept for "accessible-to-all" digital talking books - but the common complaint has always been, "where can I find DAISY books?" Now anyone can make their own with Dolphin Producer! Teachers and support staff can convert standard Word documents (such as classroom handouts, web pages or homework) into audio and DAISY files. Students can then listen to them on a standard MP3 or DAISY player, either handheld or on the computer.
Overseas, our team has been busy preparing the translation packs for the new products, and Dolphin Producer will be available in several European languages, together with a tutorial in DAISY format.
Dolphin Producer has EaseReader built in, so you can immediately browse and read your new DAISY books on your PC. EaseReader is already available in several languages including Dutch, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish and the newly released Polish version, these language editions for Producer will be made a priority.
Dolphin will be exhibiting at the forthcoming BETT 2006, which will be held on 11th - 14th January 2006 at Olympia in London. Dolphin will be formally launching many new products at BETT 2006, including the new Dolphin Producer and Cicero v3.
This is the leading UK education show and is open between 10am - 6pm daily.
If you are planning to attend the show, please drop by and speak to the Dolphin team, at booth number SN50.
Dolphin will be exhibiting at the forthcoming ATIA 2006 Conference, which will be held on 18th - 21st January 2006 at Caribe Royale All-Suites resort, Orlando, Florida. Dolphin will be show casing its latest range of access products as well as the new solutions for literacy and the print impaired. This will be the formal launch platform for Dolphin Producer in the USA, and Dolphin will be presenting Dolphin Producer and Pocket Hal as part of the conference programme
If you are planning to attend the conference, please drop by and speak to the Dolphin team, at booth number 208.
TRLD exhibition 2006
Dolphin will also be attending the Technology, Reading and Learning Difficulties (TRLD) Conference, which will be held on 26-28 January 2006 at Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco. This is one of the leading US Education conferences, and Dolphin will be demonstrating our range of new solutions to help with literacy and print impairment.
If you are planning to attend the show, please drop by and speak to the Dolphin team, at booth number 311.
Special Needs Exhibition Worcester
Dolphin will also be sponsoring a new exhibition in Worcester, which will show case Dolphin's range of access and education solutions. The exhibition will also include support from the British Dyslexia Association, the Dyslexia Institute and the Worcester Association for the Blind, so visitors can get expert advice and information on the day. There will also be several access technology dealers present, so you will be able to get demonstrations of their latest products. The exhibition will be held on 26 th January at the Worcester Guildhall, which is located in the middle of Worcester High Street, a short walk from Foregate Street train station. Admission is free and the exhibition is open between 10am and 4pm.
Last month, Noel Duffy and Steve Palmer caught up with EA Draffan to discuss what it means to be print impaired in the UK.
One of the best known and certainly the most energetic campaigner for students with print impairments in the UK, EA works tirelessly to improve access to assistive technology in colleges and Universities. After training as a Speech and Language Therapist, she worked with people who have communication difficulties whilst specialising in assistive technology. In addition to working with print impaired students in Further and Higher Education, she has also set up an Assistive Technology Centre. Today she provides staff development, maintains an on-line database of assistive technologies and collaborates with a research group at the University of Manchester. EA is a self confessed serial conference attendee, where she speaks on assistive technology issues and helps out her colleagues across the world to deliver new and better solutions to the industry.
Q1 Hi EA, although understanding of print impairment amongst the professionals seems to have risen in the past few years, awareness elsewhere still seems to be low. Who, in your view, tends to be affected by print impairment?
A1 Thinking of print impairment can conjure up visions of Braille and audio books that may take rather a long time to arrive. Blind and partially sighted people are in fact just a small subset of the total print impaired sector. The other group in the sector which thankfully has received much needed press of late is dyslexic readers. Print impaired can also include people with aphasia (as a result of a stroke), colour blindness, poor literacy skills and others with learning disabilities. We shouldn't forget those who are deaf or hard of hearing and have BSL as their first language or international students who have English as a second language. Typically people with any type of print impairment can have difficulty with both the mechanics of reading and interpreting the message.
Q2 Have you got any numbers on this?
A2 This is a tough one to answer as the statistics come from many different sources. The Higher Education Statistics Agency has published figures for those students who have visual impairments and specific learning difficulties including dyslexia separately so for instance in 2004 the percentage of disabled UCAS applicants was around 4.54percent of which 2.44percent came under the specific learning difficulties category and 0.13percent came under the Blind/partially sighted category. When it comes to Further Education this is even tougher and when I was talking to Alistair McNaught from TechDis the figures he mentioned related to a Parliamentary Question raised by Gordon Prentice who said there were 4,700 blind students in FE. Other figures that have appeared relate to students who are statemented at school level. For instance Warwickshire LEA Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC) came out in 2005 saying the percentage for Specific Learning Difficulty (Dyslexia) was 10.93percent and Visual Impairment 2.20percent.
Q3 Wow, these are big numbers; what do you recommend to help people with print impairments and in particular those with reading difficulties?
A3 There are a variety of ways of helping with reading electronic text such as highlighting the text that is being read and providing synchronised speech feedback. It is helpful also if the text has clear navigation and good punctuation to help those using speech output software. It is important to allow for changes to be made so that text enlargement is possible or fonts can be altered and styling changed.
But reading is not the only challenge facing the print impaired population. Difficulty with writing may go hand in hand with poor reading and some of the better tools such as Dolphin Tutor address the reading and writing issues together with clever use of reading aids, which incidentally can also help with proof reading ones own work. Other writing components include predictive typing and the inclusion of spell checkers and homophone databases. Ideally these tools should be simple to use and work with e-learning environments, PDF and word processed documents.
Not all students with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia like to use concept mapping for key wording or generating ideas in a graphical form but it is often advised as a useful tool and can be very useful when words do not act as good triggers for the memory. As organisational tools, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) can now have in built screen readers like your Pocket Hal for speech output making them ideal for people on the move and can be used with spellcheckers and portable keyboards.
Q4 Are you satisfied with the provision currently being made for students with print impairments?
A4 Many people working in the field have been arguing for a solution with a more mainstream approach. As you can see from the numbers involved this could have a very broad impact, so the concept of universal design for learning, (i.e. if we remove the barriers to learning) has to be welcomed. The Disability Discrimination Act has helped to raise the level of awareness that educational establishments need to make reasonable adjustments in anticipation of the attendance of disabled students. The new Disability Equality Scheme requires an even more proactive approach to be taken, with the involvement of disabled students.
The Disabled Students Allowances which facilitates a more personalised approach, at least allows for individuals to have a discussion with an assessor with the opportunity to explain the need for more individualised study and technological support.
However I remain concerned that many students coming from the secondary sector are still unaware, when they enter Further and Higher Education, that there are study support resources available as well as assistive technologies.
Q5 Interesting, is there a communication vacuum in the secondary system?
A5 I am always rather embarrassed when students who have disabilities or specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia do not know about the technologies available to enable them to work more easily. Perhaps it is to do with the language we use, for instance departments are called different names from school to college or university; technologies may be described as access, assistive, enabling or adaptive and teachers talk about ICT and ILT. Somehow we need to increase awareness between the sectors and make it easier to learn about what is available. We have recently conducted an assistive technology survey across second and third level institutions and are hoping to draw attention to this issue in the future.
Q6 This survey you mention sounds very interesting - have you got anything to share right now?
A6 I am afraid we are only just collating and beginning to analyse the data at present, but it is hoped that we will be able to understand more about the issues that arise for students who apply for a Disabled Students Allowance. We hope to learn how they feel about the process and perhaps gain insight into how they use the technologies they have received.
Q7 When and where will the survey results be released?
A7 I am not sure where the final report will be published but I promise I will make sure we disseminate the results across the usual mailing lists and you will receive a copy!
Q8 EA, I know you are a big fan of DAISY. Perhaps you can explain what it is and why you think it is special?
A8 Yes I am a fan of Daisy as I feel there is a need to organise digitised texts into a format that can be recognised everywhere. So much of our printed material can be digitised, to allow synchronised speech and text. This makes it much easier, to listen to a CD in the car, but also for those who have visual difficulties and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia to follow the printed word on a computer screen. The ability to navigate sections of text, start, pause, resume when using a portable player or to be able to highlight text and choose only the bits you want read aloud when using a computer is very empowering, if I can use that term!
Q9 Are you surprised how slow the take up has been in the UK, especially compared to say the US and Scandinavia, where implementation is much more widespread?
A9 I feel the late take up in the UK compared to other countries may be related to the way our students are supported by individual allowances. But there still remains a lack of awareness about the Daisy system and how audio/digitised text can be easily achieved. It is thought by some to be a complex, time consuming process and depending on the tools that are being used this may still be the case. Certainly with the introduction of your EasePublisher, even for large books with lots of graphics, tables etc.; creating a DAISY book now a much simpler task. The big change however has been brought about by Dolphin Producer for converting those instant notes, lectures and articles in Microsoft Word into digital talking books. Once people realise how much easier it has become to convert this kind of content, the tide will turn!
Q10 Finally, where should an interested teacher or a parent of a child with a print impairment look to get a better insight into what's available or perhaps to find out what funding exists?
A10 Besides the technology solutions already mentioned there are now many guides on-line as well as videos for not only those who have difficulties with print but also for professionals. The British Dyslexia Association offers guidance on their website. The Adult Dyslexia Association and LearnDirect have a guide for tutors working with Adults who have dyslexia and these are available as downloads on their websites too. The RNIB's See it Right pack has advice about clear print. Most university and college learning resource centres or disability offices have guidance for prospective students and can offer advice on day to day study skill concerns, such as working in the library or extra support during lectures or seminars and extra time during examinations. There are a number of interesting national sites such as the Department for Education and Skills: National Bureau for Students With Disabilities websites, the National Association for Special Educational Needs and the National Parent partnership Network.
Please note that the Dolphin office will be closed from December 26th and reopen on January 3rd. This month we're sorry to say goodbye to two colleagues, John Worsfold from the Marketing department and Chris Hunt from the Tech Support team. We wish both John and Chris well in their future endeavours.