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Assessing the provision of ICT for Inclusion: 7 in a set of 8

Sensory or physical needs

A guide to identifying ICT provision to help pupils with sensory or

physical needs

Learners may have difficulty with hearing or vision, or their difficulties may be multi-sensory. They
may have a physical disability arising from a physical, metabolic or neurological cause.

Does the difficulty lie in access to the ICT itself?

Although ICT can be an alternative tool for learners with physical or sensory difficulties, adaptations
to the equipment itself may be necessary before it can be used.

Check that you have explored the ‘Accessibility options’ and ‘Control panel’ settings on your
computer. This will help you configure the computer to meet a user’s individual access needs.
Consider using the following.

0Keyboard and mouse utilities, screen magnification and visual alerts are just a few of the
utilities available.
1If the pupil cannot use a mouse, the ‘Mouse keys’ facility transfers the movements to the
numeric keypad.
2If the pupil cannot use a keyboard, the on-screen keyboard transfers key presses to mouse
clicks. On-screen keyboards are also useful for those pupils who have difficulty changing
their gaze from the screen to the keyboard and back again.

Would providing peripheral equipment improve access?

Peripherals may be needed to improve access through the standard keyboard and mouse. Explore
whether the pupil would benefit from the use of the following.

3Keyguard This is a metal or plastic plate that covers the keyboard, leaving holes over
individual keys. Poking through the holes activates keys. It provides a support for weak
hands, a place to steady shaky hands and a means of avoiding unintentional key presses
for shaky hands.
4Wrist support This is placed in front of the keyboard so that a pupil with weak arms or wrists
can rest on it.
5Armrests These are usually clamped to the computer table to support weak or shaky arms
using the keyboard or mouse.

Would an alternative input help?

Alternative inputs may be needed if the standard keyboard and mouse are not appropriate. You
should explore whether the following will help the pupil.

6Tracker ball and joystick These can replace the standard mouse, and the buttons can be
programmed to operate as a ‘double click’ or a ‘drag-lock’ that enables the pointer to be
moved across the screen without holding the button down.
7Alternative keyboard, including mini-keyboard These are for those pupils with a small
hand movement or expanded keyboards for those with a large hand movement or who
could use a foot.
8Computer with Braille keyboard This is for blind learners.

© Becta 2002 page 1 of 4

published March 2002
Becta | ict advice | timesaver | Assessing the provision of ICT for Inclusion: Sensory or physical needs

9Overlay keyboard This can present whole words and phrases for easy selection, reducing
the physical effort of entering text.
10Switches These may be used as inputs if both keyboard and mouse are not possible.
11Speech-recognition systems These systems convert speech into text and can also allow
the user to control the computer interface.

Would a software utility improve access?

Software utilities can often help learners with physical or sensory difficulties. You should consider the
following utilities and explore whether the pupil benefits from their use.

12Prediction software This works alongside other text programs to display word lists based
on a combination of initial letters and frequency of previous use. The software speeds up
text production and cut down the number of keystrokes by offering grammatically
appropriate predictions that can be entered with one key press. Many can adapt to the
user’s own vocabulary by adding new words to the lexicon. Most offer text-to-speech
facilities so that writers with low vision can check the suggestions aurally before selecting.
13Non-predictive word bank software This can cut down on the physical effort needed to
enter text. On-screen word-bank software usually offers graphic support and text-to-speech
to support those with sensory difficulties. Word banks on overlay keyboards can have
additional tactile clues added to the overlays.
14Braille translation software This can produce text and Braille versions. Pupils can produce
both Braille and standard text printouts for their audiences.

What other hardware might help?

Depending on the pupil’s needs you could consider the benefits of using the following devices.

15Portable tape recorder This can be used as an alternative to note taking.

16Calculator, thermometer and electronic dictionary All are available in versions that have
in-built speech.
17Scanner with optical character reader (OCR) software This can import a page of text into
a word processor on a computer. The word processor can then display the text in a large
font or use text-to-speech to read it out.
18Soundbeam or Midi music processor This can turn body movements or switch presses
into music.

Where can I find out more?

Approaches to teaching learners with physical and sensory difficulties
This document is available on the Xplanatory web site

Free downloadable access utilities

A range of utilities are available on Sensory Software International’s software web page

Keyboards and Keyboard Access

This is an ACE Centre on-line resource. It outlines the various types of keyboards and typing
programs available, and examines a few add-ons that could open up a conventional keyboard for use
with learners with accessing difficulties.

Making Windows Work For You

This resource, from ACE Centre North, shows you how to make adjustments to the settings and
Becta | ict advice | timesaver | Assessing the provision of ICT for Inclusion: Sensory or physical needs

options built into the Windows operating system.


Alternative Access to Computers

This resource, from ACE Centre North, contains information on assistive resources.

An Introduction to Switches
This resource is available from the ACE Centre. It provides an overview of what can be possible by
using switches, from the early stages of cause and effect to full control over the operating system of
a computer.

Using switches
The ACE Centre North has several information sheets on using switches:

19Assistive technology resources to enable learners with a physical disability to surf the web
[ ]
20Developing switching skills
21Switch assessment kit
22Using a switch to control battery-powered toys
23Using a switch to control mains-powered appliances

ICT and physical or sensory impairments

Fact sheets are available from Abilitynet

Using ICT for learners with visual difficulties

A fact sheet from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)

Working with an Electronic Notetaker

This fact sheet is available from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID).

Working with a speech-to-text reporter

This fact sheet is available from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID).

Special note

This guide identifies particular ICT approaches and provision that you may consider using to support pupils’
individual needs. It follows the conventions introduced in the Code of Practice for SEN. The information
should be used only as general guidance, since many pupils are likely to need specific solutions to meet
their individual needs. Where pupils have particular disabilities or complex special educational needs, an
expert assessment should be sought. Owing to the inter-linked nature of pupils’ needs, you will be referred
to other guides in this series for further information.
Becta | ict advice | timesaver | Assessing the provision of ICT for Inclusion: Sensory or physical needs

Becta ICT information sheets

Hearing impairment and ICT

Physical disabilities and ICT
Speech and language difficulties and ICT
Visual impairment and ICT