Three teachers put Oldham, Greater Manchester, on the world map for innovation in special needs technology
Queen’s Award winner Inclusive Technology receives recognition from Queen and Deputy Lieutenant of Greater Manchester for giving gift of communication to millions of children with special educational needs world wide
Three former teachers today (Friday 9th September) put Oldham, Greater Manchester, on the world map for innovation in special needs technology when local business Inclusive Technology was formally recognised by the Queen for giving the gift of communication to millions of children and adults worldwide. Anna Reeves, Deputy Lieutenant (DL) of Greater Manchester, presented a beautiful inscribed cut-glass bowl on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Queens Award for Enterprise 2016 winner Inclusive at a packed champagne reception at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.
Set up in 1996 by three teachers with expertise in special educational needs (SEN), the company - which is also celebrating its 20th anniversary today - is widely known for its development of accessible software aimed at children who have very limited voluntary movement. The award specifically recognises Inclusive’s achievements in international trade and its HelpKidzLearn service, a collection of software that enables young children and those with learning difficulties to play online - used for free by 25,000 subscribers in 148 countries.
An enhanced version of the service is available on paid subscription for special schools around the world, with more than 70% of subscribers in 32 overseas markets. The United States is the largest user of HelpKidzLearn accounting for 53% of the company’s £4m+ world revenues. Together with its associated resource ChooseIt! Maker 3, which allows teachers to make personalised learning apps and download them to an iPad or Android tablet, HelpKidzLearn has a presence in 48 of the 50 US States and 14 countries in Europe. It is available in eight local languages - Catalan, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish, as well as American English.
Showcased at the event was Eye Gaze, a product that allows immobile users to control the computer using eye movement alone. Originally developed for behaviour marketing purposes to track the eye movement of shoppers in supermarkets and to optimise product placement, Eye Gaze was adapted by Inclusive to serve a far more worthy cause - providing children with little or no movement with a means to communicate and express themselves via a computer.
But the good news doesn’t stop there. Inclusive has raised £80,000 to allow parents to stay with their desperately sick children at the new Manchester Children's Hospital. It did this by devoting all receipts from its popular switch-accessible 'Bob the Builder' software to the hospital and this continues. Inclusive is very grateful to HIT Entertainment for allowing the use of Bob, a licensed character, in this cause. Normally children with disabilities could never afford to play with characters like Bob!
All proceeds from Inclusive’s 'Switch Skills - Champions' - totalling £21,000 so far - have also gone to Leonard Cheshire Disability, a charity that helps disabled people in the UK and around the world to fulfil their potential and live their lives as they choose.
Commenting on the award Martin Littler, Chairman and CEO, said, “ Our business can give some children without speech a chance to communicate and others with severe disabilities the chance to play and learn. Many of our staff relish the fact that they are making a difference for these children and really enjoy their visits to special schools to try out new programs and devices. We are absolutely delighted to be recognised for our achievements in this field.
“Inclusive’s major 'competitor' is ignorance of the wealth of resources which can transform the learning of youngsters with severe learning disabilities (SLD), profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) or those without speech who need alternative or augmentative communication (AAC). Official recognition by Her Majesty The Queen will do much to change this.”
Commenting on Inclusive’s award, Anna Reeves, Deputy Lieutenant Greater Manchester, said; “Having seen the impact of Inclusive Technology’s considerable contribution to the field of assistive technology, supporting learning for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in this country and overseas, this Award is a fitting tribute. I know this award will motivate Inclusive Technology to produce further high quality resources for special education schools and settings and many more children and young people will continue to develop and achieve in their education as a consequence.”
About Inclusive Technology:
Inclusive Technology was started by three teachers with special needs expertise – Martin Littler, Roger Bates and Trish Hornsey. In September 1996 they began as a division of a Manchester-based computer games company. In April 1998 they led a management buyout and the current company was formed.
Inclusive Technology grew very rapidly and, within three years, set up a subsidiary, Inclusive TLC,
Inc. in New Jersey. This later became a franchise operation and then in 2014 Inclusive TLC was sold to its management, freeing the UK company to work through a much wider network of dealers in the United States and Canada.
'Inclusive', as it is widely known, develops accessible software aimed at children who perhaps can only make a single voluntary movement, and provides alternative keyboards, joysticks, rollerballs, switches and touch screens these learners may need. The company is also an expert in eye-gaze technology which is increasingly important in the field of SEN.
Although the child is the end user of its technology, its customers are the teachers or therapists working with that child. Inclusive seeks out the latest and most effective special needs software and hardware from around the world to meet their needs. As well as stocking and supplying assistive technology, it is frequently involved in the design and specification investing time, market knowledge and, occasionally, cash for tooling.
Inclusive’s major 'competitor' is ignorance of the wealth of resources which can transform the learning of youngsters with severe learning disabilities (SLD), profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) or those without speech who need alternative or augmentative communication (AAC).
Inclusive’s plan is to support and serve those working in the more severe end of special education around the world with a software product range delivered online and paid for with an annual subscription.
Inclusive’s business can give some children without speech a chance to communicate and others with severe disabilities the chance to play and learn. Many of its staff relish the fact that they are making a difference for these children and really enjoy their visits to special schools to try out new programs and devices.
Charitable work to help others…
The company is also a good neighbour. It has funded pensioners' coach outings, supported the local museum with a photographic exhibition, and each year sponsors matches for the Delph and Dobcross Cricket Club.
For several years it has acted as main sponsor for the Huddersfield Choral Society's Christmas Messiah, which it is doing again this December.
In order to raise funds to allow parents to stay with their desperately sick children it has raised £80,000 for the new Manchester Children's Hospital. It did this by devoting all receipts from its popular switch-accessible 'Bob the Builder' software to the hospital and this continues. Inclusive is very grateful to HIT Entertainment for allowing the use of Bob, a licensed character, in this cause. Normally resources for children with disabilities could never afford to play with characters like Bob!
All proceeds from its 'Switch Skills - Champions', totalling £21,000 so far, have gone to Leonard Cheshire Disability, who offer programmes of supports to the disabled in the United Kingdom as well as internationally.
In Europe on two occasions it has supported colleagues working in Bosnian orphanages with grants of money and equipment.
Internationally there are territories where technology is too expensive and disability not a priority. Over the years it has offered major sponsorship to international conferences such as the Inclusive & Supportive Education Congress (ISEC) and online services such as European Experts Network for Enabling Technology (EENET) aimed at informing developing countries about developments which can help disabled people.
Its webinars, videos and online magazine Special World are all free. SpecialWorld.net (Section E) is international in character and provides free information to anyone involved in special education and disability around the world.
Over the years Inclusive Technology has supplied help to learners with special needs and disabilities totalling £72 million. The more it can spread development costs the less it has to charge. The less it has to charge the more people can afford the resources. It's a very virtuous circle!
Further awards won in the last five years include:
· 2016 ERA Education Resource Award - 'Best Special Educational Needs Resources - ICT',
· 2016 Innovation & Excellence Awards -‘Most Outstanding Educational Technology’,
· 2015 ERA Education Resource Award - 'Best Special Educational Needs Resources - ICT',
· 2015 AI Business Excellence Award - 'Innovation in Special Needs Software',
· 2015 ACQ Global Awards - 'UK Niche Technology Provider of the Year (Education)',
· 2014 CODiE Award - American Software Industry Assoc. - 'Best Solution for Special Needs Students',
· 2014 BETT Award - 'ICT Special Educational Needs Solutions' (also won this in 2008 and 2005)
· 2013 BETT Award - ICT Special Educational Needs Solutions - Highly Commended,
· 2011 ERA Education Resource Award - 'Best Special Educational Needs Resources - ICT',
· 2010 BETT Award - 'ICT Company of the Year'.
Before this Queen’s Award, its high point was in 2014 winning the top Special Needs Awards in both the United Kingdom (BETT Award) and the United States (CODiE Award) for its SEN online subscription service ChooseIt!Maker3.
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