See the inspiring work being done at the Karten Centre at the Centre for Deaf Blind People in Israel.
Treloar’s are lucky enough to have two Karten Centres based at Treloar College. One is known as TreloarPrint and provides a real life working print shop for internal and external customers where students can gain important work experience and learn business skills. Students within the Centre are working towards their City & Guilds NVQ in Business and Administrationqualifications and other students also attend the Centre for work experience placements ensuring a wide range of Treloar’s students benefit. Amelia (pictured) has recently undertaken a work experience placement in TreloarPrint where she has been getting involved in using different software on the computer, printing cards for a customer and learning about the vast paper stock. Work experience opportunities both prepare the students for life beyond Treloar’s at the same time as building their confidence and self-esteem as they put the skills they have learnt into practice.
Gaining future supported employment can be hugely challenging for our students given their complex disabilities. However, we were really pleased to be able to offer Samantha the job of receptionist in TreloarPrint nearly 3 years ago now, after being a student in the Centre some years previously. Samantha (pictured) gained the job on merit and is really flourishing in the role. As well as her job as receptionist Samantha is now mentoring some of the students in the Centre to boost their confidence and communication skills and help them feel more positive about their next steps after Treloar’s. Samantha is just one of many wonderful success stories to come from the TreloarPrint Karten Centre and we have no doubt there will be many more to follow.
The second Karten Centre is called Treloar Enterprise Printing Solutions (TEPS) which provides high quality printing solutions, to business and the local community, on mediums such as china, textiles and paper. We were delighted to be awarded funding from the Karten Network in 2020 to purchase new direct to garment and wide format printer and a replacement sublimation printer.
The direct to garment printer (DTG) has been a revolution. DTG printing is the process of using a modified inkjet printer to apply digital designs directly to fabric. As opposed to using sublimation paper and inks to transfer prints onto materials. The sublimation process is much more labour intensive and the majority of the work cannot be undertaken by our students due to the nature of the equipment and the risks involved with the high temperatures of the heat press and the difficulties operating the heat press itself. Although the DTG printing process still involves heat pressing the rest of the process can be done by our students. The excellent software enables them to make edits to images, line them up correctly on the garment that they are printing to and then start the printing process. The only help required at this point is to place the garment/fabric onto the printer platen. Enabling students to be a part of the actual printing process, encouraging and enabling them to use their IT skills is such a step forward. As we move further out of COVID-19 restrictions more of our TEPs students will be able to take part in the production side of things. One of our students is going to be starting work experience in September and he will be assisting with DTG printing, which he is delighted about as are we.
Our biggest order to date has been to produce 120 prints onto canvas bags for our outdoor learning centre. There was a design competition and the three winning designs were then printed. The runner up design of a hedgehog has proved most popular with staff and visitors and we are still taking requests for these. Again the beauty of the DTG printer and software is it is as easy to run off one design or a 100, which means even small orders can be turned around really quickly. The quality of the print is superb and needless to say all students and customers are delighted.
The Canon Photo printer again has not been utilised as much as we would have hoped due to COVID-19 however since the start of the summer term we have been up and running again, producing prints for staff and teachers. To date, it has been used to produce our students Silver Arts award photos and large scale Beebot Mats and Board games that are used to support the curriculum. The graphics and print quality is absolutely outstanding so we know that once we are printing for customers they too will be as delighted with the results.
Once again the ease of use means that some of our students are able, with minimal support to change the paper roll, and to get designs printing. The old printer was inaccessible due to the height of the machine, and complexity of loading paper. With its self-feed all that is required is a little help from a member of staff to assist the student loading the roll into the machine, the rest of the set up process can be controlled by the students. The wide range of materials that we purchased as part of the funding mean that we are able to offer a wider variety of products from large scale banner, all weather prints to adhesive backed posters. We are looking forward to getting production back up and running to pre COVID-19 levels and beyond.
Once again we are so grateful to the Karten Network for supporting Treloar’s with funding to enable our students to gain transferable skills and knowledge that will enable them to make an easier transition into the world of work in their life beyond Treloar’s.
This year at Sense College we have had a re-imagining of Learner Voice. Students were asked to volunteer to be Student / Learner Reps for each area and Pathway (Vocational, Creative and Enterprise and Sensory, Interns, FE Students and Flexible Futures) and in our first meeting on March 10th the reps decided to call themselves College Ambassadors.
Technology enabled Ambassadors to do a range of activities that would not have been, otherwise, possible. These activities have also highlighted where we need to develop the use of technology further. Here are some of the activities that have been carried out this year.
One of the College Ambassadors representing the Interns started a learner voice work placement. The intern carried out a range of weekly tasks that included creating a half termly newsletter, carrying out surveys, analysing feedback from the surveys, and maintaining the College Ambassadors / Learner Voice boards.
When carrying out interviews the student used a dictaphone and an iPad to record the questions and answers. This student has Cerebral Palsy with a mild communication difficulty, as well as difficulties with typing, spelling and grammar. Standard speech to text technologies will not work for him, but technology such as Voiceitt would have helped him to be more independent. This is something we may need to purchase in the future.
Surveys and Learner Feedback
Feedback from students regarding the outdoor spaces led to some fantastic ideas being proposed as well as the creation of different garden areas. These garden areas are slowly being worked on by students, as well as staff.
Feedback from students has also led to the painting of a wooden fence in order to turn it into an art installation. The two students involved in the art project used an iPad to take photos of the area and to draw designs onto the photos. The art work should be finished before the end of the academic year.
The outdoor spaces look so much better, even though they are not quite finished. These improvements will continue next year, and we hope to use technology to help make the outdoor areas even more accessible and inclusive.
The College Ambassadors also did a number of surveys to gain feedback about a range of topics. One of the surveys was about students’ experiences of working at home during lockdown as well as the experiences of students who continued to attend College. This information was placed into a bar chart and sent to the College Management Team and to the Governors.
Surveys were available in print, large print, Braille and widget, but it would have been more accessible with the use of voting technology where students could tap the screen to indicate their responses. Additionally, voting technology would help the Ambassadors to get more feedback more quickly and more often when compared with paper based surveys. This is an important area of development for us.
All College Ambassadors were invited to take part in a Question Time session, using Teams, with the College Management Team as well as with the Governors.
The Ambassadors shared their questions and suggestions during the meetings and shared answers and actions from the meetings with the students in their Pathways. Suggestions included having more vegan and dairy free options in the Bell Bar, requesting more iPads for each Pathway and having a card reader instead of paying with cash. Ambassadors now have a list of actions including finding out how many students have a debit card and how many prefer to pay in cash. This will then be fed back to the College Management Team and Governors and a decision made.
Newsletter and blog
The first College Voice newsletter was created with lots of interesting articles about being a College Ambassador and a peer buddy, as well as interviews with the Principal and Work Placement officer. The newsletter will continue to be created half termly, and next year the College Ambassadors will also create a whole College Learner Voice blog. The blog and newsletter will be managed by a small group of students as part of a marketing work placement. More iPads and / or tablets would help the students with this activity, so this is an area for development at College.
During the rest of this academic year, and into next year we will continue to work on incorporating learner voice into all activities, including sessions, interviews with new staff, meeting and greeting visitors and prospective students and creating a film about the importance of learner voice using the College Media Hub’s filming equipment and editing software.
In sessions students will be asked to evaluate the session and voting technology and the use of switches would help to make sure all students are heard. With any interviews or meeting of visitors students with communication difficulties will be able to use an AAC devise, iPad or tablet to ensure that students from different Pathways can take part.
Next year we also want the College Ambassadors to continue with all the activities we carried out this year, but develop those further. For example we would like College Ambassadors to run Green awareness events, take part in the College’s self-assessment report, and hold Learner Voice events for current and prospective students. Technology will play an important role in the continued development of learner voice at Sense College Loughborough.
Equipment purchased from the Karten Network grant was used in the print projects: Face Mask design and print; The Many uses for a Blanket project; the comic book Zine project and the Emotions and Feelings project. We also use the large screen purchased for the interview with Iain and Verity from Coronation Street.
The many uses for a Blanket project.
This was in partnership with Platform arts.
Face Mask design
The Masked artist – Face mask design and print
This was in partnership with Hot Bed Press
The Zine project
The Zine project- Comic book creation and print
This was in partnership with The Heart of glass and Rudy Loewe
Introduction to screen printing
This was in partnership with Artist Kate Hodgson
Emotions and Feelings project
We have also been working with members to create personal feelings and emotions charts. These have been so effective for members who have difficulty expressing their feelings.
Our media groups have been enjoying getting to grips with planning and broadcasting their Radio Shows.
Buzz TV has recently launched with the interview of Verity and Iain Mc Cloud, writer and Producer of Coronation Street.
We have launched our accessible cook along videos, BUZZ GRUB. The videos will be accompanied with accessible recipe cards.
Zack’s Story is a short stop-motion animation that United Response created with the help of people we support to highlight the issues of climate change. In this third chapter of Zack’s story, Zack notices lots of plastic washed up on the beach and in the sea. He sees a documentary about climate change and gets very worried about the effects human behaviour is having on our planet. Keen to help before it’s too late, Zack and his friends think about what they can do to change things for the better.
The Karten photo printer was used to print some textures for the beach scene and one of the potential Karten students was involved in animating.
Discover more about the making of Zack’s Story in our Animation Diaries
Sense College Bedford thanks the Ian Karten Charitable Trust for their very kind and generous donation which is benefiting students of all different abilities through the use of technology.
Charlie has been using the big screen to play interactive games that promote fine motor skills and the use of numeracy and literacy. Charlie loves the interactive part of these lessons, this interactive board is Charlie’s favourite piece of equipment as he is very much a cause and effect motivated learner.
As per the pictures shown, Charlie can be seen pairing the cups to the saucers. This task corresponds nicely to his objectives and his ability to show a clear understanding of contextual numbers and counting.
In addition to this, this task also incorporates the use of literacy in the form of praise (as per the last image) where Charlie has completed the task and is being given praise in the form of “Well done!”.
This allows Charlie to understand clearly that he has finished the task correctly and can move on to the next one. The use of technology has been used to increase Charlie’s educational and psychological wellbeing as it combines something he enjoys in an educational setting to produce a desired outcome for his termly progress.
In December of last year, a new and truly life-changing innovative Wearable Assistive Technology device was launched for visually impaired people by a company called Envision who are based in the Netherlands. The company began by developing a fully accessible app for smart phones which is designed to assist with managing everyday tasks such as:
- Reading printed and hand-written text (mail, newspapers etc
- Describing what’s around you when you take a picture;
- Colour recognition;
- Barcode recognition;
- Facial recognition;
- Locating different objects such as chairs, tables, phone, etc.
The app is now used by many visually impaired people all over the world and is hugely popular. After a lot of positive feedback, Envision decided to integrate the app into a pair of smart glasses. This has now been achieved and I am delighted to say that the Envision Glasses are now available for purchase in the UK. The glasses have all of the app features as well as an explore mode which will tell you what’s around you in real-time and they also have a video-calling feature. This feature really does give these glasses an advantage over other wearable solutions as it allows you to connect with a sighted family member, friend or carer, who can then describe what they see through the camera of the glasses from the screen of their own smart phone. A constant and reliable internet connection is therefore required, but this can easily be achieved either by connecting the glasses through Wi-Fi or via the personal hotspot setting which is found on most up-to-date smart phones. You can also connect headphones or certain hearing-aids to work alongside the glasses either by using Bluetooth or through the USB-C charging port. So I think it’s fair to say at this point, that these glasses really do have everything covered! It’s also worth mentioning that all the information conveyed through the glasses is spoken or audio feedback, but if you are used to listening to a screen-reader on your computer or smart phone, then you shouldn’t have any issues with this. The glasses are operated using a touchpad which is found near the front of the right arm, so again, if you are used to using the VoiceOver or TalkBack Screen-readers on your smart phone or tablet, you will have no issues whatsoever in terms of learning how to use them.
My User Experience
I actually pre-ordered the Envision Glasses and have been using them since November. I can honestly say that they are one of the best purchases I have ever made and are worth every penny. I mainly use them for reading my own mail which is a great experience, as it means I don’t need to keep taking letters and post to my Mum and asking her what they are. I also used the glasses at Christmas to read a hand-written card sent by my neighbour. This is the first time I have been able to do this independently and I was really impressed in terms of how accurately the hand-writing was captured and read. I also use the glasses when out-and-about with my Guide Dog to describe my surroundings. On a recent walk, I went to my local park and took a picture of what was in front of me. I was told that there was a tree next to a bench. I was absolutely amazed by this, as I have walked around that park time-and-time again for the last fifteen years and had no idea that they were there. The video calling is my favourite feature though. I mainly use it when I’m stuck with a particular task such as organising tins in my cupboard or if my computer is not working and I need someone sighted to tell me what is on the screen. I now have all of my family members contact details stored, so if I’m ever struggling, I can just call one of them directly from the glasses and they can help me out. Think of the possibilities! I have always had difficulty knowing when to step-out to get on buses as I had no idea what number of bus was approaching. Not anymore! I’ll just call my Mum and she will be able to see the bus approaching through the camera of my glasses and keep me right. I also have serious problems finding an empty seat when I eventually manage to find the correct bus. Not anymore! Again, I can just call a family member and they can direct me to an empty seat. The possibilities are endless and to be honest, the only thing that will hold you back when using these glasses is your own imagination.
The really cool thing? This is only the beginning! Work is currently being done so that you will be able to control the glasses using your voice and there may even be the possibility of a navigation feature before too long, exciting stuff!
The Envision Glasses currently retail at £2695. Sight And Sound Technology are the UK distributor. However, we do work closely with Sight And Sound, so if you would like a demonstration or for more information, please contact Stuart Beveridge.
My name is Nicholas Cornwell, I am 21 years old and lockdown has had a drastic impact on the way I live my life. I have severe cerebral palsy with multiple complex health needs such as scoliosis, visual impairment, and a learning disability. My scoliosis has caused damage affecting my lungs and other internal organs, meaning that I have lessened lung capacity. All of these factors have made the covid experience extremely difficult and challenging for me and my family.
Before the pandemic, my friends would have described me as extremely extroverted and social. I ordinarily enjoy trips to the cinema, bowling, visits to the Apple store, as well as train journeys around the country. Missing out on social events such as these has taken a big toll on my day to day life.
Not being able to attend Hedley’s College (a specialised college for people with disabilities) has meant I have received limited access to my speech and language therapies, as well as my physio and hydrotherapy. I especially miss my hydrotherapy sessions, as this form of therapy is the only way I can achieve free movement and reduce spasms and discomfort.
The government guidance for the first lockdown was for me not to leave my house, and to limit all social contact. This change was staggering not only to me, but my family too. Being completely isolated from the outside world, I resorted to services such as Disney Plus and Audible, where I could watch all my favourite movies and listen to autobiographies from my favourite celebrities (I must give “The Meaning of Mariah Carey” a shout out here).
Getting Through It
Having to cancel my 21st birthday trip to Disney World Florida was a huge downer. I couldn’t even leave my house to go into the garden due to building work going on outside. My 21st birthday was not a disappointment, though. Drive-by visits from my friends, family and carers reminded me that there was light at the end of the tunnel. And although the first lockdown was definitely a challenge, it also had its lighter moments.
Daily FaceTime calls from my carers kept me entertained and were very uplifting, as well as zoom calls from College, St Oswald’s Hospice and quizzes with my friends. I was lucky enough to be loaned an Innowalk from Made for Movement. This is a specialist medical device that affords fully supported movement, a bit like a highly specialised cross-trainer.
A Word from Nicholas’s carer, Mary
During the first lockdown, I called Nick daily to keep him up to date with any drama going on in my life, as well as to laugh our way through random Facebook pages, such as Rate my Plate.
It is important to mention how much Nick really does love a bit of drama – I even added him to one of my group chats with some of my friends so we could keep him up to date with all the goings-on and just have a good chat! The main objective whilst Nick has been shielding has always been to keep him as happy and giggly as possible. If I can’t do that, I don’t think I’d be doing my job properly!
Getting Out and About
I mean what would life be like without any drama? Mary’s FaceTime calls did keep me totally up to date and well entertained! The second and third lockdowns have been somewhat easier than the first, as I’ve continued to access support from my care team (thanks to increased PPE supplied by Gateshead council and carer vaccinations) and even residential trips. We were so lucky in January, as I was able to go away to Brickhouse cottages in Blackpool for respite and finally use a hydrotherapy pool!
We can now go for drives and trips to places such as Starbucks, Dominos and Wagamamas (mainly to appease Mary’s obsession with the place when she is working) as well as lovely walks in quiet areas. This is completely different from what I was able to do in the first lockdown. However, there are still some challenges. The passing of Valentine’s Day and my anniversary has reminded me how much I miss my beautiful girlfriend Emily. Luckily, we did manage to have a FaceTime dinner date which made up for how much we missed each other on these special days.
One of my biggest concerns in the aftermath of the pandemic is losing access to places like the Bendrigg Trust. The Bendrigg Trust is a specialist outdoor activity centre providing residential opportunities for disabled people. I have been able to zip wire, abseil, canoe and do much more at Bendrigg, and these experiences have been life-changing. However the Bendrigg trust is currently struggling to survive with a lack of funding, and it would mean the world to me if this issue could be shared more widely.
Although the past few lockdowns have had their ups and downs, the help of my family, friends and carers has helped me make it through! I can’t wait to go back to the cinema and see my friends again. I just hope everyone is keeping well and staying safe, don’t lose hope – the end is in sight!
Over the past 12 months, many people, including people with learning disabilities, have felt lonely and disconnected. Working in partnership with Learning Disability England (LDE) and their members, SeeAbility launched a six-month programme called Creating Connections. Funded the by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport via the National Lottery Community Fund, Creating Connections tackles isolation and loneliness among people with learning disabilities by helping people to connect with others online.
Veronica Mulenga, the Programme Lead, explains:
“The project started during the pandemic when we were concerned about people with learning disabilities feeling isolated and lonely. SeeAbility’s all about helping people to be involved in their communities, and we could see the pandemic being a real barrier to that.
“Even before the pandemic, more and more aspects of life were moving online. The last year has just seen a real acceleration of that process, and more and more people, especially with learning disabilities, are finding that process difficult. It affects every aspect of inclusion, from education to employment to just staying in touch with friends and family. There are huge parts of life that have become inaccessible if you can’t get online. We had to step in and do something, and that’s what Creating Connections is all about.”
At the heart of the programme is collaboration. SeeAbility is acting as a facilitator, bringing together lots of organisations and self-advocacy groups from across the country. It’s a project that is ultimately led by people with lived experience, designing a programme that works for them.
“It’s a real partnerships project” says Veronica. “We’ve linked up with LDE and there are 23 self-advocacy groups from across the country who have been delivering the activities of the project. They’ve been instrumental in making all this work and building connections within their communities.
“The other aspect of the project is our role in recruiting volunteers to support people to learn digital skills. This is exciting as it’s a whole new approach to volunteering. Traditionally volunteering has always been face-to-face, but we’re pushing the boundaries of how people are able to volunteer and get involved online. Many of these volunteers have learning disabilities themselves.”
Together with our partners we have reached 1473 people and delivered nearly 400 online sessions. Crucially, this work is helping people to develop skills, build meaningful relationships and support their peers.
Thanks to support through Creating Connections, people like Jess are going on to act as a peer supporters and create change for other people with learning disabilities.
Training to get online and access video calling has opened up a world of opportunities for Jess. Since learning how to download Zoom and join calls, Jess has attended social and activity groups that have helped her stay connected and meet friends.
Jess, 35, is passionate about sign language and has been supported to facilitate a virtual British Sign Language (BSL) group. In the future, Jess wants to gain a qualification as a trainer of BSL and become an interpreter.
Jess says: “I want use sign language as a way of helping other people. I have lots of deaf friends and they wanted me to teach them. Now I want to help more people to communicate how they feel through sign language.”
In a digital society, access to technology enables people to connect with their communities. We’re working to extend the Creating Connections programme to end isolation and digital exclusion for people with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss. We know that communities are stronger when people pull together and connect to support each other.
We are pleased to introduce Oscar. He is a student at Treloar College and has cerebral palsy and communication challenges. He spends his days learning within an Ian Karten Centre (IKC) at Treloar College, set up in September 2001 to provide a real working environment in which to offer a range of qualifications. Known externally as ‘TreloarPrint’ for marketing purposes, this successful and popular enterprise provides a high quality printing and finishing service at competitive rates for a wide range of customers.
Oscar is studying for his City & Guilds NVQ Level 1 in Business and Administration within the IKC/TreloarPrint and can get involved with things like assisting customers, preparing quotes and seeing a print job through to completion and delivery. These work experience opportunities are helping to prepare him for life beyond Treloar’s and at the same time building his confidence and self-esteem.
Oscar has some fabulous and wide ranging interests including mythology, ancient weaponry, true crime stories, his charity work, cooking and poetry. We are delighted to share with you here his wonderful and extremely powerful poem.
Oscar even had the honour of his poem being read at The Company of Communicators Poetry reading evening in December 2020. There were almost 40 members from the Company who attended, including the Lady Mayoress of the City of London, Mrs Hilary Russell who said Oscar’s poem was beautiful and very moving.
All at Treloar’s are extremely proud of Oscar and are very grateful to the Karten Network for their generosity in providing opportunities for our students to learn and grow in confidence in this way.
In 2018 FitzRoy was lucky enough to be awarded Ian Karten Charitable Trust funding to buy 8 iPads and a Clevertouch screen to be used at our On Track day service for those with learning disabilities in Petersfield, Hampshire.
Each day, before the COVID-19 pandemic, these items were being used to support our members via a daily menu of activities, from playing games on iPads, through to watching sensory projections on the Clevertouch screen.
This equipment was already well used and well loved but by the time the COVID-19 pandemic struck little did we know how vital a role these items of assistive technology would play during the past year.
When On Track was lawfully required to close its doors in March 2020, our support workers set about doing all they practically could to help those who needed it. Their outreach programme included phone calls and as many doorstop ‘hellos’ as possible, but while the virus raged, most of our On Track staff were re-deployed to support the challenge of keeping our registered care homes for those with learning disabilities fully staffed.
However, as summer came, and our On Track staff resumed their usual roles, they began to think about how they could use the iPads and Clevertouch screen technology to bring the usual schedule of daily activities into the homes of those they support.
They were acutely aware that the absence of daily contact had taken its toll on our members’ mental health, who were telling us that they were feeling isolated, lonely, and depressed because everything they enjoyed had been taken away from them. Our On Track team were also concerned about the impact the sudden loss of support was having on the households and carers of those we help. These people were finding it particularly tough; they knew they had to stay at home and keep their loved ones safe, but they too were feeling alone, bereft, and exhausted, having dedicated all their time since March to caring, with little or no time for respite.
With in-person activities impossible, the team decided to embrace technology and find a virtual way to be with people in their own homes instead. As part of this they loaned Karten funded iPads to individuals who did not have access to a digital device and began using the Clevertouch screen to deliver online classes. These classes take place Monday to Friday, are 30 minutes long and happen six times a day. On Track has been running these virtual sessions since September and the response has been fantastic!
Each day our staff use the Clevertouch screen to beam themselves into the homes of around 30 people who have chosen to take part in an array of activities. The daily schedule of activities includes arts and crafts, Makaton, Zumba classes, Disco afternoons, and themed Fridays such as Toy Story day and Grease the Musical Day. The team have also been using a Karten funded iPad alongside the Clevertouch screen to create a breakout group for those who need extra help, and to get close-up images of any of the activities which they might be doing.
The most popular event so far has been the hugely enjoyable Pancake Day Zoom! In the run up to the occasion, our dedicated staff took each On Track member two pancakes and toppings such as chocolate spread, jam, sugar, and sprinkles, before everyone came together over Zoom for a pancake decorating competition and lots of enthusiastic pancake tossing!
The Karten funded technology has transformed the way On Track has been able to operate during the pandemic. Danielle Styles, On Track’s Activities Coordinator has said how ‘incredible’ the Clevertouch screen has been, saying ‘we wouldn’t have been able to deliver activities as well without it. Using a TV screen or laptop screen just wouldn’t have had the same effect’. This technology has also had many other benefits on our On Track community. Because of it our members have continued to engage with the service despite not attending in person. Friendships have been maintained with other service users and staff, members have been more active, and feelings of isolation and loneliness have reduced.
The mother of one of our members has been extremely thankful emailing to say the ‘Zoom sessions have been a really great resource, especially as they offer such a wide range of supported activities each week-day. The difference they have made to Mark’s life has been enormous.’ She like many of those we have spoken to have highlighted how essential these Zoom sessions have been to not only improving mental health and well-being during this time, but also for the respite it allows the carers of those we support.
Everyone in our On Track community is so grateful for the funding we have received from the Ian Karten Charitable Trust. Although our members are very keen to see each other in person and not on a screen, the Clevertouch screen and iPads have been, and will continue to be, an essential lifeline into the months and years ahead.
The coronavirus pandemic has made us all think about different ways of working with young people and Sense College Loughborough has had to be creative in developing the curriculum to fit in with the restrictions and challenges, as well as ensuring students at home were able to access the curriculum. The Karten Network funded technology has played a big role in making this happen.
The majority of students have continued to attend Sense College throughout the lockdown period and have accessed the curriculum in College.
Our Sensory Pathway students have been using iPads and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) equipment to communicate with their peers and with staff. The sensory tent has a range of equipment to stimulate or relax students. This includes technology that was purchased through the Karten Network grant, for example the projector, fibre optics and colour changing equipment, as well as bubble tubes and switches. Every Friday, students in College and at home attend a live Zoom drumming workshop, using the smartboard.
Students with sight loss have continued to use a range of appropriate technology from the Karten Network Sight Loss Hub to enable them to access the curriculum. All of the equipment that is available is out on loan with students who use it daily. Students are able to use video magnifiers, colour detectors, and scanner readers as well as other access technology to complete their tasks. The iPads and tablets have a range of apps that can also support students with sight loss.
Media students have found the Media Hub iPads funded by the Karten Network to be very useful for their learning. Students have been making stop motion films and designing a food truck. They have also been filming around College with a 360 camera mounted on a bike helmet in order to make a virtual tour film of the College for prospective parents and students. These students have been able to gain valuable transferable skills when completing their tasks, eg working as a team and good communication.
The Interns are writing a blog supported by College marketing staff, as part of a work placement. Students at home have been able to take part in blog team meetings and complete their tasks remotely. The Interns have also been writing a half termly newsletter and a professional newsletter for employers who work with us. These activities would not have been possible without the use of a range of technologies, and have been a key vehicle for learning important work focused skills. This is particularly important as the Interns have not been able to attend external work placements during lockdown.
Students have been able to join sessions via Teams so that they can take part in different sessions, tasks and activities, as well as see their peers. The work sent home has also been linked to different sessions so that students can also join in and carry out the same tasks as the students who are in College.
In the Team Work session students are working together to prepare for a Hidden Disabilities Awareness Day that they are organising. The students in College have been making sunflowers to decorate the College, as well as making sunflower badges, sending emails, making films and PowerPoint presentations about the Sunflower scheme. Students at home have joined in sessions to take part in or lead team meetings, as well as to chat with their friends. They have also been able to join in with the team to make sunflowers and films and PowerPoint presentations etc.
Media students have taken part in a food truck design project from home and have joined in with their peers in discussions and votes to choose their favourite food truck designs. The students used graphic tablets and iPads as well as pen and paper to make their designs. Some of the students have also made films at home about health and safety signs and other topics and been able to share their work with their peers.
Some staff have had to shield and work from home. Technology has had a huge impact in making sure staff can continue to teach. Staff have been able to deliver sessions from home to students who are in College as well as those who are working from home. The ICT tutor has had live Teams sessions, which has enabled her to remotely provide 1:1 support, resolve issues and give feedback to each student in the group. In the Sensory bubble students used Teams and a projector to connect the students with the teacher who was shielding. The iPad was placed on a tripod so that it was easily moved around. This meant that the member of staff could interact with the students, see their work, and provide instant feedback and support as needed.
As well as remote learning, tutors have used Teams and Zoom to carry out tutorials, discussions and attend Annual Review meetings. The Vocational Pathway students and Interns who are at home also meet with a tutor daily via Teams to make sure work is being completed, and to provide feedback on completed work, as well as to ensure that students are not feeling isolated during lockdown. Students have found this particularly helpful in terms of their mental health, as they also have opportunities to chat with each other and with staff during the daily meeting.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions have been challenging, the College staff and students have risen to the challenge. This would not have been possible without the use of technology. The Karten Network funded equipment in the Sight Loss Hub and the Media Hub have proved to be invaluable in maintaining an at home curriculum for students who are not in College, as well as helping students in College to access a fun, varied and useful programme of study. The use of appropriate technology in College has increased and it is now just a normal part of everyday College life.
A video presentation showcasing Shalva and the services Shalva offer
Over the last 12 months we have implemented the use of the technology funded by the Karten Charitable Trust. There have been some clear successes and some challenges, particularly because of the coronavirus epidemic.
Construction/Transportation Virtual Simulator
Over 50 young people had an opportunity to use the forklift truck module on the simulator. This has been used as a break-out activity when having IT lessons, on a rotational basis. What has been very powerful is seeing those most disaffected students, who don’t usually engage in technology, get excited about using the fork lift simulator.
We have worked closely with Tenstar Simulations in keeping the software updated and ensured the machine is maintained. To ensure the device is being used as a pathway on to further progress we have made links with Mantra Learning around the ‘Pathway to
Apprenticeship’. This was part of the ‘next steps’ approach for those young people who demonstrated an interest in driving forklift trucks. So far, we haven’t enrolled anyone on the course with Mantra Learning due to progress being hampered with COVID. Once we are able to be back on site, and move across bubbles more, we will hopefully develop the technology further and enrol students with Mantra Learning.
ClassVR, Oculus VR and 360 Camera technology
Just before lockdown we were still in the exploration phase of VR. We used VR headsets in 4 different ways:
ExploreVR – Using the Google Earth VR app and the Oculus Rift equipment to take students to places they could never have imagined visiting. We have had huge engagement with this project where students have been on a rota to visit places around the world, visiting places like San Francisco, Rome, Paris, New York or even Wembley Stadium!
What has been incredible is the immersive reality that the technology brings whereby students have been excited to feel like they’ve travelled far and wide when many have never stepped out of the local town. We spent some time creating video tutorials as the experience is a solitary one and as we introduced new students to the technology we wanted to guide them through it which worked really well.
TransitionVR – Another exciting development was the use of the 360 cameras and the ClassVR headsets to support transition from college to the workplace. We started the project by filming footage at the RSPCA and Atrium Cafe where we had work placements ready for students.
This allowed students to feel less anxious before their placement by using the headsets within the classroom and taking a tour of the building virtually.
We only managed the one transition before the first lockdown happened but we are keen to explore further when we return.
CurriculumVR – The other opportunity we explored is the use of VR
headsets supporting the learning experience. This has involved visiting the
Titanic, seeing the pyramids and moving through our solar system. The 360
experience has really brought alive some of the different curriculum we offer our young people.
RelaxVR – Some of our more complex learners have been using the ClassVR and OculusGo headsets as ways to relax when in a state of heightened anxiety. We have had several cases where students have been exhibiting challenging behaviour and the use of the headset has helped them to calm. Its remarkable what a swim with Dolphins can achieve!
After being donated amazing printing equipment from Karten Network we were all excited to create various projects but unfortunately, our location (although beautiful) had a terrible internet connection, and this was proving to be a major issue in carrying out the work.
This is when Openreach saved the day by fitting a £25,000 Fibre line and getting us back online. But again, we found we had the issue that this wonderful fast connection was not working as it should as our server was outdated!
Again, we were saved by Karten Network as they donated a new server and we were up and running at last.
Coronavirus and lockdown brought new pressures on us all, but we have remained open and carried on as well as we could, creating new ways to keep busy for both the trainees who attended and the ones who were shielding at home.
One of the ideas the Trainees came up with was to produce a ‘positive’ newspaper full of happy news and promoting the business.
Trainees have been busy creating their own articles.
Presently, as we are preparing to come out of lockdown and a number of Trainees are back in Lakeside Printing, they have been working on marketing ideas and have decided to offer monthly deals on our products, starting with personalised canvases at discount prices.
Cedar’s Southern ‘Inclusion Works’ brain injury staff have had to get creative in more ways than one in terms of service delivery during the lockdown, to support service users to engage in activities they could enjoy from the comfort of their own home. The staff and service users feel that learning a new skill like crochet can help support recovery from Brain Injury by supporting concentration, developing the ability to stay on task and maintain focus.
Susie Blake takes part in the online Crochet sessions and has said “Being on the Cedar Inclusion Works programme has helped to hasten my recovery, improve my social skills and participate more fully in my community”.
She went on to say: “Taking part in the Crochet group has also helped me build on my crochet skills, having learnt the basics from my grandmother over 50 years ago! It’s increased my confidence and supported me in attempting bigger more complex designs”.
Fiona Campbell of Flo’s Crafty Crochet agreed: “Crochet has also been proven to help fight insomnia through the calming motions (when it is going right). It reduces stress and anxiety levels providing time to take your mind off whatever is going on out in the real world. It can also relieve depression and instil a great sense of achievement which in turn boosts self-esteem. Trying something new and the mathematical structure of crochet can also help cognitive function”.
She further commented: “Alongside learning the skill of crochet our team of ladies also had to get to grips with the use of technology which allowed them to engage in online classes. Cedar supported the ladies getting set up for online learning through step by step instruction and also by providing tripods and headphones which would leave their hands free and minimise any distractions”.
Sinead and Helena from the Cedar Foundation enquired about the possibility of running beginner crochet course for some of Cedar’s service users.
Fiona tentatively agreed to give it a shot and she said “It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’ve seen the ladies become so much more confident over the weeks as they enjoy the crochet and craic, they are also keen to accept any new challenge that I set for them which is fantastic!”.
Another service user, Binky Paxton, said: “I have only started my crochet class in the last few weeks and Fiona is a great teacher. I am getting on really well with it. I crochet every night as I love it and find it very therapeutic. A massive thanks to Helena from Cedar for helping me get enrolled.”
Sinead from the Cedar Inclusion Works Southern team commented “Having the ability to sample courses in the comfort of the service user’s own home is a fantastic resource to have. It solves the problem of bringing people from various localities to one place and trying to organise transport. It also takes away the fear of walking into a room full of strangers as people can be very nervous, especially with learning a new skill. We are so grateful to Fiona for providing so much support and encouragement and we are so very proud of the participants and how far they have come in such a short period of time.”
Well what a challenging year. That feels like quite an understatement. Challenging is certainly one description.Our charity Buzz Hub St Helens CDP provides activity and opportunities to young people and adults who have a learning disability. We closed the service on March 23rd. The feelings were of complete and utter devastation. Our services are vibrant, creative and most of all fun! The day after the lockdown announcement we were sat at our base at Nuttall House in complete silence.With lingering uncertainty, our challenge was to do everything in our power to reconnect with our members.
Our regular telephone contacts were highlighting the growing difficulties being experienced by our members. Lack of routine and with no particular reason to get dressed in a morning. Anxiety and for some members a growing isolation were prevalent over this time.
The GOOD NEWS STORY starts at our discovery of the Facebook portal. The portal is a device witha remote camera. We invested in some portals and delivered them to a group of members. We undertook a test with seven members together on screen. They had not had contact with each other for weeks. The test lasted over two and a half hours. They were so reluctant to leave the screen. It proved to be a turning point. We invested in the purchase of more devices. We had a kind donation and received some funding to purchase more. We rolled them out to both members and session facilitators.
We Currently have over 70 devices distributed!
I would like to pay tribute to our staff team as they have been and continue to be magnificent over this time. We got to a point early on where we were delivering over 140 sessions remotely. The sessions as best we can mirror the activity menu of choice available prior to lockdown. In some cases the activity was secondary. The fact that members and staff were reconnecting was the complete joy. Our evening social portal activities are extremely popular. We have game shows, bingo, quiz nights, music and Karaoke. Feedback has been amazing with parents and carers regularly joining in with the activity. As we plan to phase members return to service and activity the portals will allow members shielding to be a part of activity taking place from the safety of their own home.
It cannot be underestimated the value and impact that the portals have made to our members, their family’s, our staff team and our service as a whole. They remain an integral part of our service going forward.
We currently deliver over 200 sessions throughout the month.
We would like to send our Best Wishes to everyone within the Karten Network.
Our Summer 2020 newsletter featured Derwen College Industry Champion, Neil Bevan, and the work his company had been doing with Derwen College in the development of their award-winning ‘Support Work’ mobile apps.
The lessons learned, the success of the project and the collaboration with the college, which includes the ‘Working in a Printshop’ app used in Derwen’s Karten Printshop, prompted Neil to separate out the app development side of his design and marketing business to form a new company – Starfish Labs Ltd.
Starfish Labs has recently launched the first of a suite of apps to support people with special educational needs and disabilities to understand the changes in society and regulations due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
The app, ‘COVID-19: Staying Safe’, has been part funded by the Welsh Government rapid response Covid-19 RD&I scheme, and is unique in allowing carers, parents or teachers to customise the content using their own photographs, video and spoken word, and simple steps to make the wearing of masks, lockdown restrictions and hand washing etc. familiar and relevant to the user’s own environment and to the changing regional and local lockdown rules. Generic content is available in English and Welsh. You can find out more about how the apps can be customised and a link to download at: https://starfishlabs.co.uk/products/
A further two apps, ‘COVID-19: Social Space’ covering social distancing and the concept of support bubbles etc., and ‘COVID-19: Happy&Healthy’, covering general health and wellbeing are due for launch during February.
The first app is available now for iPhone and iPad from the App Store, and will shortly be available for Android on Google Play. The additional apps will be available on both platforms as soon as they are published. The cost of the app is £3.99 and proceeds will be re-invested in further projects to support vulnerable people.
The apps were created in collaboration with Derwen College, working with their tutors on content, and feature Derwen clients (many of whom are former students) demonstrating the correct use of face masks, how to wash your hands, the use of hand sanitiser and other aspects of Covid-safe support through videos and photographs, along with cartoon images and Makaton symbols.
Teaming up with two additional directors, Neil and Kirsten Bevan established the new tech startup at Aberystwyth University Innovation & Enterprise Centre, to take advantage of the R&D collaboration opportunities with the University. The company is specifically focussed on developing apps for the SEND sector, to support people with training apps to improve their lives, and to developing relationships which will also be financially beneficial or will provide enhanced learning and enrichment opportunities to the people and organisations with whom they work.
The company has already created employment for two graduates and is about to employ a further developer, having recently won a significant export project in the SEND sector in the UAE.
Starfish Labs Director, Neil Bevan, says, “As the Covid-19 pandemic is still very much with us, the ongoing changes in lockdown rules and guidance in different parts of the UK are confusing for many people, and especially for those with learning difficulties.”
“So much of the existing guidance doesn’t really mean very much to someone who has Autism or who doesn’t recognise that generic images of hand washing, or face coverings have any meaning to their own life. We recognised that a suite of apps could help to simplify the guidance – breaking instructions down into understandable short sequences – and the ability for people to use their own photos or videos of their own masks, their own washbasin, and their own local environment would make the rules much more relevant.”
Neil continues, “We are grateful to Welsh Government for supporting Starfish Labs in funding the development of the apps, and we’re proud to be developing them in Welsh, as well as English, to support vulnerable people in Wales who may have Welsh as their first language. We’re also really pleased to be working with Derwen College again on this project.”
Starfish Labs is also looking to develop versions of the apps in other languages, such as Urdu and Punjabi.
Further information from:
Neil BevanDirector – Starfish Labs Ltd – email: email@example.com
Ellie is one of the hundreds of disabled people whose lives have been enhanced by a new state of the art sensory suite, which was generously funded by The Ian Karten Charitable Trust.
The gift of £24,582 for Percy Hedley’s adult day services in Forest Hall has been used to create a sensory suite with a range of specialist equipment which will improve the lives of the many disabled people across the North East.
Ellie has a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, she is quadriplegic in all limbs, has visual impairment, severe learning development delay, epilepsy and is not able to communicate verbally.
The care team at Percy Hedley have an interactive session in the sensory suite with Ellie every week. These sessions are calm and soothing incorporating music, visuals, lighting, massage and tactile touch, creating a perfect environment for increasing bonding and reducing sensitivity to touch.
Over time, as a result of the sensory therapy, the stress which Ellie has experienced in daily life, where touch is needed, has reduced. This has impacted on her overall stress levels, her happiness and her ability to become socially involved with her family, friends and peers. These sessions have drastically improved Ellie’s life and have opened up opportunities to her which she would have been otherwise unable to engage in.
Every day the staff team at Percy Hedley see first-hand the benefits that this new environment is having for the disabled people who we care for. Some of the changes that the disabled people who use the sensory suite have experienced includes reductions in stress, improved bonding, sensory development, behavioural changes, reduced sensitivity to touch, improvements in communication and better emotional well-being.
Patrick Smith, Support Worker, described the suite as “ a great area for our service users to calm and relax themselves, where a frown can quickly into a smile. Service users who are tired and showing challenging behaviours find the sensory beds a good place to relax. We see improvements in behaviours daily.”
Carole Harder, CEO of Percy Hedley says “The support which The Ian Karten Charitable Trust has given us over recent years has positively impacted on thousands of disabled people’s lives across the North East and continues to do so. We are thrilled that we are able to provide this new facility especially as this will make a such a difference to everyone who uses it. We are extremely grateful for your continued support and commitment.