There is a great way of custoimisng the Quick Access Toolbar in Word 2007 to reflect some of the features available in commercial (and open source and freeware) literacy support tools such as text-to-speech, homophone identifier/checker, look up word meanings, text extraction etc. This means that it is possible to make custom toolbars for different learning needs. It could be useful for those students who aren’t eligible for a DSA or just require some basic literacy tools to get by.
Word 2007 quick access bar

The feature will be much improved in 2010 allowing users to you create a customised ‘tab’ in the Ribbon with their own tools. There will also be an option to export the customised ‘tab’ so it can be used on other computers.

From what I’ve read it should possible to export the customised tab to a USB drive so it can be easily accessed on different computers, at home, college etc. Once we get a working copy of 2010 I’ll put a demo/trial version together so you can download and test it.

By simply highlight text in Word the ‘Speak Highlighted Text’ will use the default voice to speak back text. The ‘Identify Confusables’ does exactly what it says – highlights words such as ‘were’ and ‘where’, ‘there’ and ‘their’ etc. There’s also the ‘Look Up’ feature for finding the meaning of similar sounding words. Detailed meanings of the homophone can be found buy using the ‘Look Up’ feature.

The highlighting option allows you to select large amounts of text and then extract the chosen text to another document. The text can then be checked using the grammar options and/or the ‘Identify Overlong Sentences’ option.

It’s easy to do and replicates some of the great features in Chris Stringfellow’s FX Toolbar for Word 2007 but without the required installation.

Watch out soon for the ‘how to’ tutorial!


Some of you might be familiar with the DAISY format. DAISY stands for Digital Accessible Information System and is associated with providing a standard for publishing digital talking books. DAISY is particuarly beneficial for blind or partially sighted users. The clip below shows an example of Jamie Cutherbertson using a tradtional ‘CD’ based DAISY player.

However recent developments have increasingly made DAISY an invaluable resource for everyone, and more importantly, a resource which is free and easy to make. What am I getting at here? Well to be more precise, free digital talking books or e-books which can be made by using Microsoft Word 2007, a free plug-in and best practice in using Word, i.e., Word documents as they are meant to be with headings, page numbers, and alternative descriptions etc, in a nutshell, accessible Word documents.

So here’s how you go about it. First of all you’ll need either Microsoft Word 2003 but preferably 2007. Don’t worry if you don’t have either of these as it also works with the open source alternative to Microsoft Office, Open Office.

The Accessibility tab - part of the "Save As DAISY" add-in

The Accessibility tab - part of the "Save As DAISY" add-in

Download the “Save As DAISY” add in for Word

First of all visit the DAISY website and download the free “Save As DAISY” add-in for Word. Or alternatively the “Save As DIASY” for Open Writer.
So, for the purposes of this tutorial I’ll use Word 2007 as the example. Once you’ve installed the add-in you should see a new Accessibility tab in Word’s ribbon.
The next stage is to create an accessible Word document using appropriate headings etc. There’s plenty of advice and examples that you can gleam from the excellent JISC TechDis Accessibility Essentials series. I’ve also got some Creating Accessible Word and PDF tutorials on this blog. Alternatively you can download an example here.

When your document is ready you need to save it in the normal way and then click or select the “Validation” button which is located in the “Accessibility’ tab. This will check to make sure your document reaches the DIASY standards for publication. If there are any errors the Validation tool will give you advice and recommendations of the required changes.

Validating your Word document


The next stage is to save your document so it can be translated into the DAISY format. To do this click the Office button and then select ‘Save As DAISY’ and finally “Full DAISY (from single Docx) – this option will provide audio narration and text. The final audio will depend on the quality of the synthetic voice you have on your computer.

Save As DAISY Pipeline

Save As DAISY Pipeline

You should now see the progress bar, similar to the illustration below:

Running the Pipeline translator: progress bar

Running the Pipeline translator: progress bar

Read and listen to your e-Book

Once your document has been converted to DIASY digital talking book you need a reader to be able to hear and read your conversion. I would recommend either the open source AMIS or the Book Wizard Reader. The Book Wizard Reader has some nice features such as options for Braille display, audio, text etc. It also works as a portable application which means you can carry it about with you on a USB pendrive and use it whenever you want.

You can read or listen to your e-book

You can read or listen to your e-book

So now you have it – a portable, easy-to-use free e-book!

How can you ensure your Word and PDF documents are accessible? Creating Accessible Word 2007 and PDF documents is an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide whiCreating Accessible Word Documentsch will keep you on the right track.

Although the Guide is designed for delegates attending a workshop it can also be used as a standalone resource, e.g., as an introductory resource for those who are new to Word 2007.

The Guide is also supported with online video tutorials on the RSC Scotland North & East Youtube channel.

To find out more visit the ‘CC Guides’ section of the e-Inclusion blog.

Happy New Year! To celebrate the start of 2010 I’ve redesigned the blog, given it a new name, a new URL - the e-inclusion blog.

On reflection 2009 was a particularly successful year for all things access and inclusion at the RSC Scotland North & East. However, I don’t want to rest on my laurels and I have some new exciting and innovative projects planned for 2010!


AccessApps logoAt the top of the list of 2009 was the continued success of AccessApps which won major awards at both national and international levels. December 2009 also marked the 10,000th download of AccessApps from our EduApps site. We receive emails on a daily basis from people all over the world with queries, requests for more apps and letters of appreciation for such a great resource.


I’ve also had a great deal of interest regarding the AddApps project which is similar to AccessApps but with programs more suitable for learners with complex learning needs. The interface is switch accessible and supported with open source symbols. The project is ongoing but has received a significant number of downloads, mostly from schools but I have some big plans for future developments.

e-Quality Newsletter

The newsletter e-Quality increasingly grew in popularity with over 300 subscribers and loads of downloads – particularly in alternative formats. I also spent a great deal of time ensuring that the newsletter, which is also available in PDF format, was accessible and inclusive for all, with appropriate heading and image tags. With over 20 contributors and an average of 30 pages per newsletter I’d like to thank everyone for its continued success. It’s possible that 2010 will see the newsletter develop into a national resource with support from JISC TechDis and other RSCs.

RSC Access and Inclusion Online Forum

Another success was the development of the RSC Access and Inclusion Online Forum. The forum now has over 250 members and a range of interest groups, such as assistive technology, e-inclusion research, open source etc. It’s an extremely lively and informative forum with member posting articles on a number of e-inclusion related issues. The online forum also won a prestigious award - runner up “The Best Educational use of a Social Networking site”. If you’d like to join the forum then please get in touch - leave a comment in the comment box below to let me know.

windows-vista-logoWindows Vista Ease of Access Centre Guide

The Windows Vista Ease of Access Centre Guide was well received judging from the amount of downloads and email queries. In terms of providing access to a computer for learners with addtional support needs the Ease of Access Centre is big improvement on some of the access tools in Windows XP – but thankfully it still retains some of the old favourites such as StickyKeys and FilterKeys. However, the real jewel in the crown of the Ease of Access Centre is Windows Speech Recognition which offers great voice recognition accuracy and allows users to control the Windows environment with voice commands. The good news is that I’m in the process of updating the Guide for Windows 7 which has improved access features such as full screen magnification, scalable on-screen keyboard and even better voice recognition!

Inclusive eLearning for All

To be honest I was really surprised at the impact this publication had on the FE and HE sector.  I wrote it in response to a query from a college to provide advice for their accessible ICT strategy – I never believed for a moment that some of the ideas and recommendations in the publication would be adopted and implemented by the college. Other colleges have since used some of the recommendations and suggestions to enhance their ICT strategy. With the release of Windows 7 I’ll make sure this is updated and improved for 2010.

Xerte Sandpit

With the good work of JISC TechDis and the developers from the University of Nottingham (and my colleague Carol) we now have our very own Xerte sandpit. If you’re unfamiliar with Xerte it can be best described as a learning authoring tool for creating accessible and inclusive multimedia and interactive learning content. But one of the best things about Xerte is that it is open source – it’s free! I launched the sandpit back in November of 2009 but I have some exciting ideas to extend its so that colleges and learners can benefit from the potential Xerte has to offer.

dsa_guideThe DSA Assessor’s Guide to Feeware and Open Source Applications

The DSA Assessor’s Guide to Freeware and Open Source Applications is an initiative which followed from a presentation to members of the Scottish Government and the Disabled Stakeholders Group. The aim of the presentation was to highlight the potential of open source and freeware assistive technologies as an alternative to commercial software. This seemed to strike a chord with the audience who requested that I compile a Guide for DSA Assessors which would form part of the DSA Toolkit. The Guide is an ongoing project which will be updated on a regular basis.

And the rest…

These are just some from a selection of successful projects and innovations from your local RSC. As well as our workshops and other activities remember the RSC Scotland North & East is your first point of contact regarding elearning, accessibility and inclusion. With your help and continued support (and ideas) we will hopefully be expanding the projects to ensure that access and inclusion in e-learning is a reality for all.

Best wishes for 2010

Audrey Graham e-learning advisor for curriculum and access at the RSC

Audrey Graham e-learning advisor for curriculum and access at the RSC

Thanks to Audrey (RSC ni) for this post:

JISC TechDis and RScni held an Accessibility and Inclusion Regional Event in the Northern Regional College on 3rd December 2009. Representatives from all the Area Based Colleges in N Ireland as well as  Stranmillis Teaching College attended.

Dr Simon Ball from JISC TechDis gave talks on Everyday Accessibility:  using Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and PDFs, to Maximize Accessibility. This was very beneficial, pointing out simple changes we could adapt to make our teaching more accessible.

Simon’s second talk focused on Achievable Technology: making teaching more inclusive using simple techniques such as Podcasting and Screen Capture.
Lastly, Simon looked at Accessibility: Roles and Responsibilities – whose job is it anyway? This emphasised the fact that it was indeed the responsibility of us all.

Craig Mill from RSC Scotland North and East expertly demonstrated some of the more common AccessApps – over 60 free and Open Source portable applications covering a range of assistive technologies from  word processors and text-to-speech software to the  innovative application where typing of text and manipulation of the menu  bar was controlled by voice commands.

Finally, I introduced Xerte, an easy to use, Open Source tool used to create accessible interactive learning content.

All in all, the day was a great success, and judging from the feedback, many of the delegates will be putting into practice many of the tools discussed.


Keep a look out for the launch of the new e-inclusion blog - a new accessible design, a new URL, new features, resources and more!

With 17 contributors from across the sector and the UK, the latest edition of e-Quality is the best yet!

  • Discover how learning support staff at Jewel and Esk College redesigned the learning support section of their virtual learning environment (VLE) to benefit all learners.
  • Find out how the innovative use of switch access can help support learners with complex learning and access needs.

Plus there’s news, events, resources, reviews, hints and tips and more!

To download the newsletter in PDF format select this link

To download the newsletter in MP3 format select this link

To download the newsletter in DAISY (digital talking book) format select this link

To download the newsletter in large print select this link