Assistive technology in free computer roll-out

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A suite of assistive technology software is being included on every computer issued under the Government’s new Home Access scheme, which provides free computers and internet access to low income families.

The scheme will initially provide funding, via pre-paid smart cards, to around 270,000 families with children in Years 3 to 9 that are eligible for free schools meals or in receipt of certain benefits. Successful applicants can use the card to purchase specified packages from a range of approved suppliers. Following a pilot scheme, the Government’s technology promotion agency, Becta, is currently rolling-out the initiative across the country.

The assistive technology element of the packages is made up of three software programs, Read&Write, MindView 3 and Izoom, which come pre-installed on all systems. Families of children with additional needs, who qualify for the scheme, can also apply for extra equipment, such as an adapted mouse or keyboard, and a further level of bespoke support is also available via assessment, where children have more complex or profound needs.

The avowed aim of Home Access is to improve educational opportunities for children and families who do not currently have access to computers and the internet. Speaking to SEN Magazine, Becta Executive Director, Niel McLean, said: “There is a strong evidence base that suggests that access to technology at home makes a huge difference in terms of school performance”.

By providing educational technology directly into homes, the scheme is also hoping to encourage greater parental involvement in education. “Parental engagement with kids learning is also a big predictor of how well those kids do at school,” said Mr Mclean.

For an in-depth look at Home Access program, and its provision for families of children with SEN, see the March/April 2010 issue of SEN. To subscribe to SEN Magazine click here

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