2003 Conference Proceedings

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"Trainer Certification, a must for good quality training."

Dr. Mike Townsend
Email: miketownsend@talk21.com

Mr. Stephen Plumpton
Email: btcsadmin@bcab.org.uk

Visually impaired people are using assistive technology at work, at home, with leisure and in public. The hardware and software giving access to computers is extremely complex. Most people feel the need for training to make effective use of the technology, and, in a lot of cases, basic training to even take the first steps.

In Britain, until recently, there has been little training for trainers, and no independent standard to supply and monitor quality. Many horror stories abound highlighting the ineffectiveness of assistive technology training. A lawyer describes how his trainer was learning the software right alongside him, and the trainer was rather a slow learner! The older lady, who, as a mature student, received three days training in a screen magnification product she could not see. But the trainer assured her that it would soon "all become clear". In Britain, anybody can say they train in assistive technology.

Demand: The British Computer Association of the Blind collected much anecdotal evidence indicating a severe failure in the training available. A survey covering the quality, success and effectiveness of trainers was carried out by the Royal National Institute of the Blind. This confirmed the anecdotal evidence.

Supplier resistance: The proposal to establish a "Trainer Certification Scheme" was strongly resisted by the trainers and vendors of assistive technology. Problems included: Independent validation, quality assurance, vendor competition, existing disability wide accreditation, and the feeling that RNIB would use the scheme as a power vehicle in the industry.

Supplier support: To gain support in the industry, the scheme was handed over to an independent self help group of expert computer users, The British Computer Association of the Blind. Start up:

beBCAB employed Stephen Plumpton as scheme manager, and took offices and administration services. This was quite a venture for this small 250 member self help group. Three areas of validation for certification were identified.

  1. Training skills.
  2. Product knowledge.
  3. Visual disability awareness.

The Certificate:

The scheme is known as "The British Computer Association of the Blind Trainer Certification Scheme, or BTCS. Its management is responsible to the BCAB board, and has an advisory group drawn from the trainer and vendor industry.

1 Training skills.

We were fortunate to find a module in training delivery skills provided by the Institute of Information Technology Trainers. This was available for both beginner and experienced trainers. The method promotes a structured interactive method for transferring knowledge, and is validated and certified by the Institute.

At this point there will be a short demonstration.

2 Product knowledge:

products for training range from notetakers and stand alone scanners through to screen readers and magnification systems. A trainer must obtain validation in each training product.

It was hard to get comprehensive feature lists relating to each product from vendors or manufacturers. Some were very supportive, and saw the process as a tremendous benefit to the quality of their product and its marketing and effective usability. Others felt that only they could provide training in their product. This was despite the fact that in Britain their own in-house trainers were some of the worst, and that there is no monopoly in training.

By various means, comprehensive product profiles have been developed, and they are updated with each main mark change.

Each trainer is presented with a scenario. The trainer then submits a training course plan and a specific detailed script for a course segment. The plan and script must demonstrate knowledge of the assistive technology product.

A live training session with the trainer and a product expert takes place covering another segment of the training course. The written material and the live session are monitored by an independent assessor.

On the basis of this work, the certificate is awarded.

3 Visual disability awareness training is provided where necessary.


Still far we have had over 40 people through stage one. Many have now completed their product knowledge phase. The certified trainers receive positive support and promotion for their services, and they have their details recorded on a website available database.

Trainers can use the scheme logo in their own marketing and quality control. They agree to abide by a code of practice.

Next steps:

The BTCS scheme is gradually gaining impetus with those that buy training. This is particular so with government purchase. The qualification is being incorporated into the government monitored qualification and curriculum process.

It will then become eligible for government funding.

Issues: One of the big issues has been price. Many small independent trainers find it difficult to justify the cost of certification. It is hoped that government funding for in-work training will help with this.

Many local resource centres and rehabilitation workers give front line advice and training on a wide range of assistive technology products. A lower level certification to improve quality in this area is being developed. All indications are that this would be a very popular move meeting a much felt unmet need.

Approaches are being received from many countries to develop an international quality certification process. The future is bright.

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