Category Archives: toolbar

JISC TechDis toolbar

ATbar working with MindMeister for mind mapping support.

In playing with the online browser based mind mapping tool MindMeister we have found that not only does ATbar work well when you are editing your maps but also when you embed them into a website as is demonstrated with this blog.

So you maximise the Mindmeister map presented on this page by selecting the window in the map’s bottom toolbar – it opens a new window in the browser and you can launch ATbar to read the text on the mind map branches, add a tint overlay, use the dictionary etc.  The overlays work best with Firefox and Chrome as then you can click through the tint to highlight text for reading with the text to speech etc.   These features do not seem to work with IE at present.

As you can see from the mindmap we are now developing a system to automatically check all the plugins so that we can make maintenance a little easier and have a quick way of checking when things are not working.

Do tell us about any other ideas or findings you have when using the toolbar as we want to make it as useful as possible.

ATbar new version with AItype word prediction and Acapela English and Arabic voices

ATbarATbar has been rewritten to cope with English and Arabic languages thanks to Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Center). There is a standard Lite version and a build your own version. Plugins can be added to an empty ATbar to offer users a customisable approach to enhanced reading of accessible web pages.

The standard ATbar Lite is a bookmark that can be dragged to the browser toolbar (or added to favorites). It has a set collection of plugins. Fonts can be enlarged, their style changed with increased line spacing to aid readability. There is a spell checker and dictionary. Text to speech for reading selected text uses a female Acapela voice in both languages.

The use of Readability reduces clutter on a web page and word prediction comes thanks to AItype. It works with all plain text edit boxes. The entire look and feel of an accessible web page can be changed to offer high contrast mode with linear text or just colour changes to the text and links. The toolbar colour can be changed. It is possible to reset pages and exit the toolbar at anytime.

When a new web page is loaded the toolbar has to be relaunched.

To customise your own ATbar go to the marketplace and install the required plugins – the toolbar can be saved and used in a similar way to the Lite version.

Please let the ATbar team know about any bugs.

Fix The Web launched to focus on e-accessibility with ATBar reaching 2m users!

Citizens Online has launched an innovative project called Fix the Web with the rather ambitious aim of (at least partially) addressing e-accessibility issues from a grass roots perspective, making use of social media for network effects.

The idea is that disabled people can report faulty websites and requirements for pieces of software which people with technical skills can address. Web fixing tools may be the solution along with emails to web developers. If this can be achieved on a large scale then change is possible!

At this stage input is required from both disabled people and techies on the scope of the project and on developing the website.

Further information can be found at

The ATBar has recently reached over 2 million users. 2m users stats

JISC TechDis toolbar and LexDis participant in the news

This news item comes because recently there have been three articles about the JISC TechDis toolbar – It all started with Lifehacker on 24th June, 2010, followed by The H-online blog during the TransferSummit Conference on 25th June, 2010 and today we had the blog under the title of “Bring Accessibility Features To All Websites With TechDis Toolbar” that has some really good screen grabs.   The server survived some incredible peaks and there have been over 25,000 uses of the toolbar in the last six days.

JISC TechDis toolbar stats

Other good news is that Neil Cotterell of,  developer of Global Autocorrect as a strategy to help his own spelling  has won a Young Achiever Award from the British Dyslexia Association.

Thank you for beta testing the JISC TechDis Toolbar.

The JISC TechDis toolbar is out for beta testing and we would just like to thank all those who have been trying it out.  We are incredibly grateful to the folks who have contributed to the bug tracking.  Any new ideas and issues that have arisen are gratefully received.

We would also like to thank Steve Lee and OSS Watch for all their support with this our first open source project.  We have learnt so much about this community along the way and are now involved in two other open source projects – one for Computer Aid – building a magnifier for a pen drive and another very exciting application that will help those who have communication difficulties.

Garry Paxton has set up a Charitable Trust that is not only developing open source content in the form of the Mulberry symbol set to support those who have communication difficulties, but is now making it possible for Seb to develop an open source application for sharing it on the web – the project is called Picboard .

We will be revamping our Access technologies web pages next week to keep everyone updated on all the projects and LexDis is still open for more student strategies.  There is a quick screen cast of how you can add a lite version of the toobar to Internet Explorer.  Apologies for the poor sound quality… I need to replace my headset!

We have also created a button for the Toolbar that you can embed on your page to start the toolbar:

Toolbar Launcher

PNG format

Launch Toolbar

GIF format

Happy App downloading if you have an iPhone!

Lots of new things happening in the world of Assistive Technology and the good news is that they are even happening on the iphone!   You can now Dragon Search on the Apple App Store!  That means that you can use speech recognition to search the Apple iPhone app store!  The download for the Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking app is also available.

ATMac talks about making the iPhone your own personal library with Wattpad and Papers.

Sometime ago AssistiveWare announced the iphone can become an augmented communication device  – Proloquo2Go: AAC  in Your Pocket

Alan Lawrence has made a version of Dasher, the text prediction software, for the  iPhone.  It is now available for free from the iTunes Store. have a useful list of the  ‘Top 50 Free Education Apps‘  and when you search for spelling apps you may come across Brain Blaze Spelling which is a useful way to test whether you still have the ability to pick the correct word from a list of spelling corrections as if you were using a spell checker!

By the way we have been working with JISC TechDis on their new toolbar which can be seen in action on the front page of LexDis and with luck you may have noticed that it automatically loaded when you loaded this blog!

It allows you to have text to speech, spell checking, font resizing, colour changes and a dictionary and to reference a web page for your notes as you surf the internet.  It works with most browsers as a download or there is the lite version which is easiest to use as a bookmark as can be seen in the image below.

Adding the toolbar to your 'favorites' in Internet Explorer

Adding the toolbar to your 'favorites' in Internet Explorer

All the best for 2010!

StudyBar: Good for website owners, as well as users

Two weeks ago we rolled out a beta version of StudyBar to a select few Beta testers.

During this testing period we have fixed many bugs, and improved a lot of the core features of StudyBar. I would like to thank everyone that has participated in the Beta testing, and encourage them to continue submitting bugs!

Today I would like to announce a new feature that will be available in StudyBar – the ability for website owners to launch StudyBar for their webpages. Without the user having to have StudyBar installed.

How it works

If you operate a website and wish to integrate the features that StudyBar provides without having to re-invent the wheel, or requiring users to install software, you can now include a piece of HTML code in your webpage which will produce a launch button. Once the user clicks this link, StudyBar will be launched for your website. Including a piece of JavaScript on each of your pages that you want StudyBar to work with will allow it to launch for these pages.

Also of note, this functionality is useful as well to users. By dragging the link below into your bookmarks, you can launch StudyBar on whatever web page you are currently on. We’re calling this StudyBar Lite, as it does not require you to have anything installed.

There are some drawbacks – StudyBar will not launch when you open or refresh a page, only when you click on the button. In FireFox, it will be marginally slower than using the installed version, and it may not work on some installations of Internet Explorer on locked down machines. However, no installation!

Why not give it a go? Either click the link, or drag it to your favourites for use later – StudyBar.

Synote and LexDis cross the Atlantic once again!

Both Mike and E.A are heading off to the States this week to talk about the Synote, LexDis, and Web2Access.

As the press release says, Mike is “going to present the latest developments in his award-winning web-based Synote at a symposium at the IBM TJ Watson Research Centre, New York on Monday 9 November.

It will be the first time Synote will be shown with its additional ability to “synchronise live notes taken using Twitter with synchronised lecture recordings and transcripts created using IBM’s speech recognition software.”

E.A. is off to the 12th Annual Accessing Higher Ground – Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference in Colorado on Thursday 12 November to show how Seb Skuse, Russell Newman and Chris Phethean have developed a suite of accessibility tools that can help to make access to the web easier. This work has come about as a result of the findings of the JISC funded LexDis project which, as someone said “refuses to die!” Students are still coming forward with new strategies for the way they cope with their “Technology Enhanced Learning” (to include e-learning and mobile learning) environments and E.A. is keen to continue with this work so that the database can be kept up to date with the latest ideas.

The press release ends by saying: “In her presentation, E.A. will highlight the need to enhance the knowledge of a wider network of ‘informal experts’ and academic staff to enable them to introduce disabled students to the many web-based tools which are currently emerging. This would allow disabled students to further develop their skills and perhaps in time also become informal experts who would be willing to share the strategies they have developed with others as can be seen on the LexDis website.”

Summer Showcase '09

Friday saw the Learning Societies Lab’s annual Summer Showcase. In the Access Group, we decided to take this opportunity to show off all our projects. Chris Phethean, Seb Skuse and Russell Newman were speaking. E.A. was in Birmingham, so couldn’t make it.

Check out our presentation for all the details. Here is a PDF, 3MB:
Access Group 2009 Summer Showcase

Questions after each section highlighted some interesting possibilities for future development. Specifically:

  • Web2Access Validation Toolkit: Can part of the work of checking a site be performed by our server automatically, thus removing the need for a human to do it?
  • StudyBar Text-to-Speech: Could the server cache common sentences and/or websites? e.g. the BBC News site is likely to be a common request, so can we render it once then cache it?
  • Access Menu: Development of a package download service would allow users to add new programs to their pen drives and keep existing ones up to date.

StudyBar update

The core of StudyBar has been successfully implemented into all of the major browsers in use today – Firefox, Internet Explorer (6+), Google Chrome, Safari (Snow Leopard requires Safari to be run in 32-bit mode to use StudyBar), and Opera across the Mac and Windows platforms where applicable.


StudyBar allows users to perform tasks on content displayed in the current webpage, such as inline editing of page styles, spellchecking of text input, dictionary search, text to speech, and much more without need for popups.



At this stage of development the base loading functionality is working in all browsers, as well as a few of the more basic functions. The Spellchecker framework now works in all browsers, so simply needs tuning so that it works more effectively. Efforts are now concentrated on getting Text to Speech linked up and working in FireFox as well as some of the other browsers, referencing and dictionary working and tuning the text and colour manipulation controls.

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