Special Educational Needs Assistive Technology Advisory Service senatas

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Special Educational Needs Assistive Technology Advisory Service SENATAS
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Simple changes for pupils using technology
Updated May 2016



The set up of the computer is an essential point to enable the user to work safely. There are various areas that need to be looked at in regard to the working area which is referred to as ergonomics. The following are things that demonstrate good practice:-

  • Monitor at arms length

  • Eye line should be level or slightly under the top of the screen

  • Don’t have light shinning in your eyes or on the screen

  • Screen and keyboard should be square to the line of vision

  • Your forearms and hands are in a straight line about 90o from your spine

  • Thighs should be at 90o from your spine

  • Chairs that provide support for the back should be used

  • Feet should be flat on the ground

  • There should be a clearance under the work space (bench/table)

  • The workspace needs to be clutter free for any additional peripheries required.

Often space is difficult for the amount of workstations in a room, such as in an ICT suite, but with careful planning and using the above as guidance this should be possible.
All these factures should be taken into account when pupils are using portable devices such as laptop, tablets etc.
Time spent on technology should be monitored and if pupils need to do a long piece of work they will need to take regular breaks which should include change position such as standing up.
Remember to think of the users rather than what the set up looks like.

There are lots of things to think about for those using tablets. The nature of tablet use will immediately put you in a poor ergonomic position but here are some things that demonstrate good practice.

  • Do not use flat ideally it should be at eye level or positioned on a table

  • Take breaks often at least every 20/30 minutes. This can be looking around but ideally moving around

  • Blink eyes the tendency when staring at a screen for a long time is to get dry eyes

  • Change position regularly don’t stay in the same position for long periods

  • Do a variety of stretched for your, hands, fingers, neck, shoulders and back

  • Use an additional keyboard it will put the tablet in a better position

  • Have a case that has a stand to raise the angle of the tablet

  • Ensure the tablet isn’t too far away from you so you are stretching, bring it closer to you

  • Sit comfortably elbows flexed at 90°, hips 90° and feet on the floor

Using inbuilt features


The following are changes that could be made on the system to allow easier access for many pupils. In some cases setting up a pupils profile may be required to include some of the features mentioned below. This will probably need to be done by an IT technician.

  • Enlarged icons

  • Customising the look of the desktop to allow easy access to the software pupils need such as program shortcuts, make sure there aren’t too many icons displayed

  • Accessibility Options

  • Process for saving and finding work is easy

  • Folders set up clearly where work needs to be saved could be subject specific.

  • Naming and dating files when saving for easier retrieval

  • When using Word set to full screen (useful if pupil tends to want to spend too much time altering fonts etc) or Normal which is found in View on the main toolbar.

  • Keyboard shortcuts

In some Primary schools the right click is disabled but this can cause staff and pupils working in programs such as Clicker 6/7 problems, as the right click is used to activate some features such as the speech. I would suggest schools get advice about allowing the right click on their computers from the school technician.

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Standard icon and pointer Enlarged icons and pointer with good colour contrast


There are a variety of options available on tablets to make them more accessible. These are some taken from using iPad’s and Android tablets. Windows tablets will have the same settings as computer.


  • Display and brightness change Text size and make it bold

  • Accessibility options include – large text, speak selection(text-to-speech), button shape, increase contrast

  • Zoom by pinching


  • Font size

  • Magnification gestures

  • Text to speech

Making text easier to read on the screen

Here are some alterations that could be made to make accessing text easier on either computer or tablet.

  • Change colour of background (Format – Background)

  • Set the default font size in programs to a suitable size

  • Set the default font. Generally Sassoon (fat) or Comic San (fat) for Primary Schools more flexible for Secondary Schools most popular is Arial (fat)

  • Alter spacing between words and lines

  • Use Auto Text for adding in date and pupils name

  • Set up Speak in a Word document for text to speech


Primary Schools often have class or year group log on e.g. group.a. In Secondary Schools they will have individual log on e.g. John.Smith.

Alterations to a group log on will mean that all those using that log on will have the same settings. This might be beneficial to lots of pupils however it may be more appropriate for an individual profile to be set up to meet their needs. This will need to be done by the school IT technician.
For some pupils the log on can be difficult for various reasons and is an unnecessary barrier for them to access the computer.

Possible solutions:

  • Shorter log on e.g. just initials or first name

  • Use lowercase letters only

  • Start with shortened first name e.g. tom rather than Thomas


There are various alterations that can be made to allow simpler access to the computer. Here are some things to think about.

  • Uppercase keyboard or lowercase keyboard

  • Keyboard stickers – focus on letter keys and space, enter, shift, backspace the main keys pupil will be using

  • Colour combination of sticker, good contrast

  • Use the legs at the back of keyboard to angle keyboard for better access

  • Change setting repeat rate on control panel so line of letters doesn’t appear when key held down

  • Size of keyboard from the standard desktop/laptop or smaller devices such as Netbooks, tablets

  • Variety of different sized keyboards available which can be plugged into a computer using the USB cable

  • Smaller keyboard maybe easier for those who type using one hand as it reduces the movement around the keyboard

  • Some pupils need to have that sensory feedback from pressing a key on a keyboard which you do not get when you are typing directly onto a tablet. There a Bluetooth keyboards which can be used with the tablet which may be a solution.



There are various alterations that can be made to allow better control when using a mouse to access the computer. Here are some things to think about.

  • Size of mouse compared to size of hand

  • Pointer size and good colour contrast to background – various settings within Windows e.g. Extra Large Black but there are also some free download on the Internet

  • Double click speed can be changed in Control Panel – Mouse – Pointer Options

  • Alternately to double click - single click then press enter

  • Mouse settings within Windows – pointer speed, double click speed

  • Alternative device that could provide better control trackball, joystick, touchpad etc

  • Putting a sticker or piece of Blu Tack on the select button so pupil can feel which side of the mouse to click

  • Disabling the touchpad on a laptop if pupil tends to rest hands in that area when typing

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Many of these suggestions require access to the Setting and Control Panel to make the alterations. With Network set-ups these options may only be available to a few people and this may mean getting either the schools IT coordinator or IT technician to make the required changes to a pupils profile.

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