TechAbility Conference 2020: Access to a digital future

The TechAbility conference is moving online for 2020!

Our main event will be on Tuesday 3 November – registration details to follow soon.

As you might expect, presentations will include:

  • What organisations have learned during the C19 crisis
  • How accessibility must be considered in remote learning
  • Ways in which learners have benefited from the shift to digital

Alongside this will be presentations detailing:

  • Recent developments in Assistive Technology
  • Updates on Assistive Technology projects, research and CPD
  • Launch of an auditing tool to support The TechAbility Standards

A programme will be launched soon for 3 November along with supported pre-recorded sessions which will be released before and after the live conference.

Save the date and make sure you are signed up to the TechAbility mailing list for updates.


Introduction to Accessible Gaming

Join our TechAbility team for this free webinar!

This exciting webinar will focus on the range of technology available to make gaming accessible to all. This will include what software and hardware is currently available and what the future could bring.

Contributions from guests will cover the benefits of gaming for disabled people from the perspective of an able gamer and bringing gaming to the classroom. This webinar will suit those looking to integrate gamification into the classroom, but also those seeking to play for recreation. There will be options for a wide range of devices so we cover a range from consoles to web browser games.


Register here for this webinar


Introduction to Mental Health and Technology

Join our TechAbility team for this free webinar!

Mental health is a growing concern for many and intervention can be highly effective. Apps, social media, fitness and much more – we cover the features of these and talk about the main areas to consider.


Register here for this webinar

Focus on Assistive Technology for Parents and Carers

Join our TechAbility team for this free webinar!

With many learners breaking up for the holidays here is some guidance for parents and carers. Expect a basic introduction to technology that can help learners with disabilities to access technology with some useful resources and advice.


Register here for this webinar

TechAbility drop-in and update

The third in TechAbility’s series of drop-in sessions, Fil and Neil will discuss general updates relevant to Assistive Technology at this time. This session is also an opportunity to bring your questions, insights and discussion points to the session.


Register for this webinar here

The recording will be available on our YouTube page a couple of days after the event



Microsoft Teams as a Virtual Learning Environment to deliver remote learning

Join this webinar to see how a specialist FE college turned their Microsoft Teams provision into a basic Virtual Learning Environment in just one week.

Darren Morgan from Employ My Ability explains how they achieved this and has some hints and tips on implementing this in your setting.


Please register for this webinar here

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The recording will be available on our YouTube page a couple of days after the event

TechAbility drop-ins and updates

Fil and Neil will be running a drop-in session where they will discuss general updates relevant to learners with disabilities. This will range from free software options to sharing best practice observed. There will be time for questions, enquiries and discussion.

Please register for this event here


The recording will be available on our YouTube page a couple of days after the event

TechAbility Standards: a route-map to excellence in assistive technology

Neil BeckNeil Beck, assistive technologist at TechAbility and National Star, explains how the recently developed standards can help providers ensure that their learners are making the most of assistive technology.

This article first appeared in Quality Times, Natspec’s member-only quality focussed publication.

What is assistive technology and why is it important?

When we talk about technology, people often think ‘cables and complex elements’ and that can be a turn-off, so I always prefer to talk about what technology can do for an individual, rather than what it is:

  • a student writing poetry using their voice
  • another reading emails for the first time, using a screen-reader and proudly replying
  • a young person making choices to look through family holiday photos with switches
  • a woman recovering from a stroke regaining lost independence: being able to communicate and return to work.

In our field we focus on assistive technology that improves educational and therapy outcomes for learners. It is a diverse field and covers everything from literacy tools to eye-gaze.

Where did the standards come from?

In the years that Fil McIntyre, my fellow assistive technologist, and I have been working for TechAbility we have found a wide unmet need around assistive technology. Support for assistive technology has come in waves for the specialist FE sector, with pockets of excellence and outstanding professionals driving this forward. We realised how important it is that colleges are able to take responsibility themselves for making effective use of assistive technology and for continuous improvement in this area, rather than relying on external support. Our focus has always been on making learners independent; now we realised we needed to improve the independence of colleges.

So, in the way that another Beck created the London Tube Map to simplify navigation, we decided to create a map to show how to navigate the technology out there – and the plethora of considerations to getting excellent outcomes. We wanted to demystify assistive technology for colleges. Our aim was to create a resource, available to everyone, that would lead to lasting improvements across the sector.

What are the standards?

The standards are a series of categories, which are then broken down further into specific recommendations with resources to help meet them. Let’s take an example:

Assessment Standard iconThe assessment standard recommends:

  • trained staff
  • standardised assessment
  • review point
  • appropriate environment
  • accessible documentation
  • appropriate equipment.

It then develops each of these points to explain how to achieve them and provides useful resources.

The categories cover everything from access skills to transition and are written to assume no prior knowledge.

Technology advances quickly, but the standards aim to provide guidance around the infrastructure and tools that have remained common.

How can the standards be used?

  • as a self-audit tool
  • to identify training needs
  • as a guide for inspection
  • to identify areas for improvement

Can I contribute to the standards?

Yes! The standards have been authored by Fil McIntyre, Rohan Slaughter and me, with the support of a wide range of groups and individuals who have contributed their feedback. We plan to update the standards periodically, so please send us any suggestions for improvements or additions, along with links to additional resources you think we could usefully reference. I’m also happy to field any questions you may have about the standards.

Where can I find the standards?

The standards were launched at the recent TechAbility Conference 2019 – Raising Standards, and are available on the TechAbility website.

What next?

We will consider if there is a demand to tailor this resource to fit mainstream education and if there are any omissions. We will also look to turning this resource into a specific online audit tool in future should there be call for this.

I hope the standards help you and that they give us all a platform to build from.

Neil and Fil are also going to be leading a workshop at Jisc’s Digifest on the 10 March about the TechAbility Standards, if you’re eager to learn more.