‘Solve for One, Extend to Many’ – Let’s #hackcess education for ALN/SEND

Anything that can help improve equity of access is really important to me and my team. One of my lecturers on my PGCE would always challenge us by saying ‘you can’t do it, YET’, if things were a bit tough. Her words have stuck with me ever since.

One area where I see huge potential to support learners in new ways is through the use of technology. At this point, I should add that I am grateful to work with many talented people who share my desire to want to be part of change and look for new opportunities.

Simon Senik states we, should start with, ‘why?’ For me, it’s more of why not? Why not collaborate, share ideas, try new ways of working.


I am a big believer in universal design. If we design well and with accessibility in mind we allow access for all at source, we need to make less adjustments because they have been considered already. If you haven’t already thought about this, I thoroughly recommend the below as a starting point about how accessibility should be at the heart of every design process.


Now, before we get into the five, this list is nowhere near exhaustive. Every week another piece of software or App is released which I think could have an impact on teaching, learning or support for learners.

I hopeful you find the below useful.

5 +1 to follow on    twitter-icon

1. Hector Minto – Assistive Technologist at Microsoft – @hminto

2. Jenny Lay-Flurrie – Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft – @jennylayfluffy

3. Saqib Shaikh – Software Engineer at Microsoft – @saqibs

4. Mike Tholfsen -Product Manager at Microsoft – @mtholfsen

5. Ian Fordham -Director of Education at Microsoft UK – @ianfordham

Bonus – Paul ‘Lanny’ Watkins – Teacher at Bae Baglan school all-round nice chap – @Lanny_Watkins

1. Microsoft Translator










Available across Apple, Android and Windows this app has an amazing amount of potential. I was so impressed by its ease and user experience that my team are working on a supported learning experiment using the PowerPoint plugin (more on this shortly) and an android tablet to support a learner.

Not only does it offer live language translation via its app into over 50 languages (text and voice), translate text using the camera on your device and allow numerous participants to join the translation in a virtual room, it has a PowerPoint add-in which will scan your Deck and using the AI will provide live subtitles!


  1. Allows D/deaf HI learners to view live translation of what the teacher/lecturer is saying.
  2. You can download the transcript of the end of the lesson, this could be stored in a learners notes.
  3. Easy to use for teachers and learners – available across multiple devices
  4. Downloadable PowerPoint plug in.
  5. Useful for meetings, annual reviews or communication with parents/carers with EAL.
  6. Free!
  7. Can be used in an App or in a Browser

Downloads and More Information




2. Seeing AI

seeing ai seeing ai iphone

Seeing AI has the potential to be a truly wonderful application. Using AI, the app turns what it sees via the camera into an audio description for the learner. So far it has had over 100,000 downloads and helped with over 3 million tasks, quite impressive! It continues to be developed and new features added all the time.


  1. Allows blind/ learners with a VI to access the world around them through narration.
  2. Teachers/Lecturers can design resources and lessons with the app in mind.
  3. Free!
  4. Wide range of features – text, money, scenes, colours, product recognition, currency, persons, images in other apps.
  5. Personal to the learner and unobtrusive on phone, tablet.

Downloads and More Information




3. OneNote Learning Tools

onenote     OneNote-Learning-Tools-general-availability-1

I’m a big fan of OneNote, I use it for jotting down ideas, taking notes in meetings, distributing content and planning.  My team use to help learners with organisation, planning, idea generation and by using Classbook designed a six lesson learning programme for learners on how to use the assistive technology itself. In short, I am yet to find a better alternative.

So, how about we turn that dial up to 11? Enter, Learning Tools. A feature built into some versions of OneNote, available as a download plug-in and in Word, Edge, Outlook and Office Lens. You can dictate, change the text size, colour, reading speed, contrast and have it highlight, verbs, nouns and adjectives too.


  1. Allows learners to access screen-reading software in a personalised way
  2. Importing of text from other sources – Office Lens, worksheets etc
  3. Available across numerous devices and OS
  4. Downloadable plug-in.
  5. Free!
  6. Can be used in an App or in a Browser
  7. Improves comprehension, independent reading, authoring and focus
  8. Easy to use for teachers and learners.

Downloads and More Information





4. Office Lens

lens    office lens screenshot

Another firm favourite of mine, Office Lens has been around for a little while, however, it’s feature packed , easy to use and has built-in OCR. It is available across devices and OS and is a free download. Simply use the camera function to snap pictures and text using the inbuilt guidelines, save to your phone, OneDrive or OneNote.

The ability to scan a document, upload it into OneNote for digital inking or use in Immerse Reader is really useful and enables learners to capture physical notes for later use.



  1. Allows learners to access text in an accessible format with OCR and Immersive Reader
  2. Saves paper (you environmental hero, you)
  3. Available across numerous devices and OS
  4. In App OneNote button for sharing
  5. Free!
  6. Easy to use with a good user experience.
  7. Can take shots from numerous angles.
  8. Useful for live marking and sharing.

Downloads and More Information

3 Time-saving tips from teachers using Office Lens





5. Soundscape

soundscape   Microsoft-Soudscape-1

The newest app on the scene, literally a few days old. The app is currently only available for IOS, and much like Seeing AI has the potential to transform. Designed in conjunction with Guide Dogs UK, it allows the learner to build a ‘3D sound map’ by placing audio and labels in 3D space, mirroring the direction of the points. The phone tracks movement using its location sensors.


  1. Useful for access to school/college campuses.
  2. Personalised to the learner and unobtrusive.
  3. Teachers can plan for activities with the learner and app in mind.
  4. Free!
  5. Potential for integrating beacons around campus – i’m already thinking how these could be placed around our Success Centre, ALN Hub, labs etc.
  6. Chance for learners who use the app to engage with development.

Downloads and More Information




Let’s collaborate and be awesome together.