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BIS consults over student support

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is carrying out a consultation, to which BATA will be responding, on where the balance of support for disabled students should lie.

BIS is seeking to give primary responsibility for certain types of support to higher education institutions, as part of their obligations under the Equalities Act, and to reduce reliance on grants made through the Disabled Students Allowances scheme.

“The Government remains committed to the principle of ensuring disabled students can access and continue in higher education (HE), and DSAs will continue to help meet the additional costs a disabled student is obliged to incur in order to access their course,” says BIS.

“However, DSAs should not be provided as the default provision where a legal duty to provide support lies elsewhere.”

BIS also wants a better understanding of what constitutes a reasonable adjustment for an HE provider to supply, and how DSAs can best complement such support.

The consultation seeks suggestions of ways of delivering support that are different to the approaches set out, but which could still meet the policy aims.

No type of support in the areas outlined will be completely excluded in principle from DSAs funding, and exceptions would be dealt with on a case by case basis.

The consultation will help the Government to determine which types of support for disabled students should be supplied to students by DSAs and which should be provided in part or whole by HE providers.

If any changes result from this consultation, the Government expects to implement them from the academic year 2016/2017, which should allow HE providers time to prepare for any changes.

Members can reply to this consultation online at https://bisgovuk.citizenspace.com/student-finance/consultation-on-he-dsa-2016-17, by email, or by letter.

The form is available electronically at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/disabled-students-in-higher-education-funding-proposals.

Members can also provide evidence, further information, or a paper in support of your views by forwarding these to the address given in the document.

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UK Assistive Technology Research Review 2015

One of the authors of an annual report on research in AT is trying to revive the publication after the work was taken in house by the Department of Health.

The annual parliamentary report on AT was until last year produced by the Foundation for Assistive Technology (FAST), but the contract was terminated by the Department as a cost saving measure.

Aidan Parr, who helped research the 130 page bible of UK assistive technology research for FAST, believes the recently published seven page document that the Department of Health produced is just paying lip service to a legal requirement to produce an annual report to parliament.

He wants to put together an alternative survey called UK Assistive Technology Research Review 2015.

“There was always a concern that the Department of Health would produce a ‘cut-down’ version of the report just to satisfy legal requirements pursuant to Section 22 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970,” said Parr.

“And lo! Here it is, in all its cut-down glory with little indication as to the diverse and exciting work British researchers undertake.”

Parr, a BATA council member, asks anyone who would be prepared to support the project, either through sponsorship or by purchasing a report, to get in touch with him at info@ukatnews.com.

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Reviving discrete voice recognition software

Speech and literacy entrepreneur Dr Peter Kelway has appealed to BATA members for help in reviving old-style ‘discrete’ voice recognition systems.

The software, which includes older versions of Dragon Dictate, was designed to recognise speech with a small pause between each word. It has been superseded by continuous speech systems such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

However, Dr Kelway, a director of Words Worldwide, believes there could be a demand for discrete recognition software, which is simpler to use for those with learning difficulties and better at recognising hard to understand speech because of its ability to alight on a word from a few letters.

The option to restrict the vocabulary of discrete recognition programs also makes them suitable to use in conjunction with switch controllers.

“Discrete recognition products still exist, mostly obsolete but nevertheless still potentially of use,” said Dr Kelway. “These could be made available commercially at low cost, given the will and initiative of supporters of this concept.

“Old discrete systems were very effective but the technology tended to die out because they did not support more recent Microsoft operating systems.”

He envisages using modern machines to emulate outdated operating systems and in that way allow the software to be used once more.

Dr Kelway is talking to Scope, the cerebral palsy charity, and Nuance, the company that owns Dragon NaturallySpeaking, to gauge whether there are enough potential users to make the project viable and to iron out any technical and commercial obstacles.

If you would like to discuss this project with Dr Kelway his contact details are as follows: Words Worldwide Limited, Charlton House, Wark, Hexham, Northumberland, NE48 3LG. Telephone: 01434-230038, mobile: 07980-177390, email: psk2@btinternet.com.