ET live @ ISE London: AV solutions as assistive technologies

On the main stage at ISE London – our first in-person event since the start of 2020 – ET editor Genna Ash-Brown sat down for a live Q&A with Jay Ahmed, AV design manager at Queen Mary, University of London, to discuss audiovisual tech as assistive tools in higher education

The panel

Host: Genna Ash-Brown

In this live Q&A from the main stage of ISE London (24 June), we were joined by QMUL’s AV design manager to discuss AV assistive technologies (ATs) in a higher education (HE) context. 

ATs can be truly invaluable for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and AV’s ability to support stimulating, engaging and interactive learning environments is truly revolutionising the AT field. But it isn’t just SEND students who benefit from such resources – the implementation or provision of assistive AT solutions can benefit a university’s entire learning community.

Here, find out about Jay Ahmed’s extensive experience at the helm of all things AV at one of the most respected universities in the UK capital, and hear his insights on what makes this particular form of technology so impactful across HE sites today. 


On 'everyday' AV assistive technologies

“Microsoft provide their dictation service as part of their packages. There’s also Apple, who [have] voiceover [capability] so that if you’ve got an Apple device, you can use that on YouTube. I’ve got the transcription service, which is free for anyone to use” – Jay Ahmed, QMUL

On the distinction between high-tech and low-tech AV

“Well, low-tech is something simple…not much technology involved. So a highlighter pen could be low-tech, a walking stick, a small magnifying glass – that could be low-tech. Where we come from is obviously the high-tech; we’re looking at AV electronics…So from an engineering point of view, a motorised wheelchair, a high-tech screen, reading software, the Zoom application…these are all high-tech” – Jay Ahmed, QMUL

On the customising AV assistive tools

“…We provide lecture capture in a format so that people can [access] it through their favourite media player which they can adapt…or through a browser, which they can kind of customise. So for example, someone could customise the font size, the colours, and the sounds. These are quite useful things, but the main thing is to let the client decide and then they can customise to their needs” – Jay Ahmed, QMUL

On QMUL's AV innovation

“…going back few years [at QMUL], we had a small unit that supported people with needs. And back then, assistive technology was in its infancy, so it was quite a novel thing. So we provided some of the pioneering stuff like a magnifying glass…converting text to [spoken] words…we found the students did very well – they were very dedicated. And it was quite good for us to see the feedback after they graduated…a lot of them came back and they got good degrees, and one person actually got a PhD and then managed to do some teaching…it was amazing, so positive [to see] as a direct result of what we did” – Jay Ahmed, QMUL

On supporting students with cognitive difficulties

“In classroom settings, one of the things we provide is the ability for people to engage without having to verbally say things…they could participate…through clickers…we try to make it multi-sensory, so that it’s not just about the lecturer…just talking, but also giving them a visual side so that people can concentrate [if they] need [to stimulate] the other senses” – Jay Ahmed, QMUL

On AV ATs developing soft skills

“…people can engage in different ways through AV. So one of the things we do as part of the process is we provide people the ability to record themselves, so someone can [then] do a presentation, [through which] they learn communication skills and confidence…” – Jay Ahmed, QMUL

On lecturers benefitting from AV classroom tools

“We really try to, as a standard, kit out all our teaching spaces with large displays, and then good quality [lighting and microphones]. So we try to kit it out so that the lecturer is  concentrated on students…We provide visualizers, or document cameras, so that can be used to demo things and then be projected onto screens on either sides” – Jay Ahmed, QMUL 

On helping students choose the best tools for their needs

“[At QMUL] we have a dedicated team…that actually encourages students to come forward at the beginning of their courses and tell us about what what their needs are, and how we can adapt services for them. So that gives us the chance to know exactly what’s needed in terms of what we can provide. It’s always good to speak with the students. This is something that as a university we promote, in terms of inclusivity…” – Jay Ahmed, QMUL

On the future of AV assistive tech

“With the equality legislations, obviously, more and more manufacturers, big manufacturers, are kind of pushing things as part of their package, and it’s not so much about special needs – it’s more about differences, and how you provide services for all the differences…So [people] don’t necessarily have to declare any kind of disability as such, but it’s more about [whether] the facilities are there…We’re thinking in the future, things will become more mainstream” – Jay Ahmed, QMUL

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