AccessApps, a package of over 50 open source and freeware assistive technologies run from a USB stick, has just won the Excellence in Education category at the Scottish Open Source Awards.
It has been developed by the Jisc Regional Support Centre (RSC) Scotland North & East and made freely available following a successful collaboration between Jisc TechDis (the accessibility advisory service) and Jisc's RSC Scotland South & West. Jisc’s open source software advisory service OSS Watch is now also getting involved with the project.
Using open source and freeware applications packaged in this way, users can access assistive software in a flexible way without the stigma of using dedicated machines. The suite includes tools to make reading and writing easier and browsing more accessible, anywhere the user happens to be and on any machine.
Recognising that the education sector has been slow to exploit open source software as a valuable resource, RSC e-Learning Advisors Craig Mill and Kenji Lamb devised AccessApps to enable educators and students to experience the benefits that open source software (OSS) has to offer. Their efforts are paying off, for this freely available ‘bundle’ of assistive technologies has already generated considerable international interest. Sarah Price, manager of Jisc RSC Scotland North & East, is shown here receiving the Scottish Open Source award from event organiser James Ingham.
New DIUS Minister for FE Siôn Simon was equally impressed when shown the software by Jisc TechDis during his first public engagement.
Jisc RSCs around the UK are scheduled to distribute AccessApps on USB sticks to key learning support staff. Also, to promote its wider adoption, users can download a customised version of AccessApps, to match their individual needs, via an online delivery system developed by Martin Hawksey (RSC Scotland North & East).
Comments from across the international community
‘Previously this would have been unrealistic because they would be relying on having access to commercial software but the advent of AccessApps has altered the equation completely.’ - Jean Alcock, Consultant for SQA Dyslexia PDA ‘This will have a massive impact for the future use of assistive technology in the adult literacies world.’ – Don Mackie, Learning Connections, Scotland
‘Thanks for the info and link to help us embed accessibility into the curriculum. We need to get it right from the start.’ - Gill Turner, New Battle Abbey College
‘Great piece of work in pulling all those resources together.’ - Emma Whitelock LEAD Scotland
‘I sincerely appreciate the good work your team is doing and feel certain that others in the assistive technology and disability service domains echo my thoughts. Thanks for providing such a powerful resource.’ - Ron Graham, Accessibility Consultant, Texas, USA
‘I trust and hope the article will raise awareness and promote new ways of supporting our students and users who require universal access.’ Gerry Kennedy, IT Consultant, Victoria, Australia
AccessApps will feature in Jisc’s annual conference in Edinburgh, March 2009.