I’m a researcher and developer working with people who have autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities. I joined Mencap’s Multimedia and Learning Disability Research Project at the University of East London in 2002, following ten years in teaching, latterly as a senior manager in an all age school for severe and profound learning difficulties. In 2004 the Mencap research project became the Rix Centre for Innovation and Learning Disability where I remained as technical lead until 2013.
With family commitments now greatly limiting my travel and time, I’m currently developing a few niche apps in my own right and juggling a handful of projects in Special Ed, the charity sector and academe.
Over the past 20 years I’ve worked on well over 100 projects related to eLearning, internet and assistive technology use by people with intellectual disabilities, multisensory impairments and autistic spectrum disorders. Highlights include:
- 2016/Current: Access Darts – an accessible iOS game which is being developed with and for VI users, switch users and young adults with complex needs.
- 2012/Current: Light Box and Sound Box are popular paid for apps for youngsters with VI/CVI, ASD and other complex needs. Desktop versions are freeware.
- 2000/Current: SEN Teacher was a site for teachers created when I was twilighting as a NOF trainer for the CLEO Consortium. I was one of several authors who helped to adapt the Pearson PLC teacher-training materials to SEN contexts. In 2015 SEN Teacher is still popular receiving well over 300,000 page views a month.
- 2011/12: Heads Up was a Nominet Trust funded short study evaluating free head and eye tracking mouse replacements for students with complex needs. We’re following up this project in 2017 including a greater range of pointing devices and the new breed of cheap and Open eye gaze solutions.
- 2010/15: Worked up a range of web based accessible survey and interview tools for young people with complex needs for Action for Kids and the Sparking Change Project.
- 2008/10: Was a consultant researcher on Inclusive New Media Design – a 2 year AHRC funded project with UEL and Leeds University examining the role and attitudes of web developers and related professionals in surmounting the barriers to online inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.
- 2003/2010: (Rix Centre) Led development of over a dozen of ‘Easy Read’ content management systems for small charities and six LDPB serving audiences with intellectual disabilities. LDPB in particular had a statutory requirement to report on their work in formats which were accessible to service users.
- 2004/06: (Rix Centre) Lead role on AHRC/ESRC funded Project @PPLE with Xtensis, Mencap, UEL, UEA and Macromedia which developed and evaluated accessible approaches to web-based VLE for learners with complex needs and intellectual disabilities
- 2003/04: For Xtensis worked on accessible UI and created user/AT and curriculum taxonomies for the diverse access requirements of students with complex needs. Great platform still, check it out.
- 2002/11: Authored most of the eLearning materials and developed the Trans-active Communication Passport web application for Mencap. Trans-active won the IPPR/Guardian Award for eInvolvement in 2002. Around 200 UK special schools for students with moderate through severe intellectual disabilities used this web based multimedia profiling system to support self-advocacy within 14+ Transition Planning. The application was still in regular use until 2011.
- 2002/03: Was the developer of the second phase of VOLCO – a virtual community exploring cultural divides which engaged young people from a range of backgrounds and several countries.
- 1998/2001: Kingsbury School Site. A single-switch accessible site which used MSAgent to provide multimodal text-to-speech, interactive avatars and voice command navigation. All the technology involved was free, ran in Internet Explorer and was pretty simple to implement. The intention was to produce a site all of our own students could access, but in 2001 we had to migrate the site to a commercial datacentre to handle the volume of traffic from other special schools internationally. After that I was hooked.
Papers and Suchlike
I have little time for travel and the conference circuit these days, but have still accrued some credits, including:
- 2004: International Conference on Adaptive Hypermedia and Adaptive Web-based Systems
Accessibility through Personalisation for People with Cognitive Disabilities – a Presentation of work in progress on ‘Project @pple’
- 2005: CSUN Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities
Individual difference and the World Wide Web: developing an online learning environment for learning disability communities in Project @PPLe
- 2008: CSUN Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities
Multimedia Advocacy for People with Intellectual Disabilities – Models of Best Practice
- 2009: ICTA International Conference of Information and Communication Technologies and Accessibility
Intellectual disability and e-accessibility: Raising awareness of web accessibility’s invisible community. Proceedings in ICTA, Edited by Jemni, ISBN 987-9973-37-516-2.
- 2010: Chapter on INMD in Designing for the 21st Century: Volume 2, Tom Inns, Gower Press. ISBN 1409402401.
- 2011: Journal Article Can the Web Be Made Accessible for People with Intellectual Disabilities? in The Information Society, Volume 27, Issue 1. Routledge. ISSN: 1087-6537
- 2013: Co-Authored Chapter in Understanding Creative Users of ICTs , Edited by Herold, Sawhney and Fortunati. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-69747-7.