Tag Archives: Beaumont College

Inclusive dance at Beaumont College

Sarah has worked at Scope’s Beaumont College since 2007 and was originally employed as Dance Artist in Residence. She was blown away by the students, their ability and potential, so she studied to become a tutor and is now a Pathway Coordinator for Independent Lifestyles and Vocational Skills, with a focus on creative arts.

She teaches and makes sure the students are maximising their opportunity at Beaumont as well as having plans for when they graduate.

Part of my challenge here in Lancaster is to develop more opportunities for young people with learning and physical disabilities within the arts. I do this by developing links with arts organisations, which is how I became involved with The Big Dance.

Here at Beaumont, we’ve taken part in The Big Dance since 2012. A group of students from the college who have since graduated, learnt and then performed The Big Dance choreography. They were invited to perform it in a short film at the Olympic Village in London, and it was played across the world as the dance premiered.

This partnership led to further discussions with Richard Parr, the Producer from People Dancing, to think more about accessibility. These changes could really be seen in 2014’s choreography, where a broader range of people were included in the launch film.

Every year, here at the college we’ve adapted and interpreted this fantastic opportunity to dance and it has brought the community together to enjoy sharing movement. We have worked with local schools, community centres and brought a little bit of sparkle to the everyday grind in corridors at the college too.

This year, I was invited to be a Guest Artist Adviser as part of the creative process, in which they choreograph the Big Dance and the Schools Pledge. You can watch Akram Khan, internationally acclaimed choreographer talk about why he wants everyone to embrace dance. Amran Khan talking about the Big Dance

“I work in an outstanding college”

Fortunately I work in an outstanding college that supports and values innovation. I sit amongst many ‘Change Makers’, so I was supported to be able to impact on this national campaign. I hope also that it will help others who don’t identify with being a ‘dancer’ to get involved and have a go at expressing themselves.

On 6 November, after a 4am start, three trains and a long walk in the rain, I arrived at the dance studio in Roehampton University where I met Akram Khan and 30 dance students. They insisted that I participate in the warm up which was a great way to break the ice and fortunately not any of my muscles! After the warm up, I was able to watch The Big Dance choreography for the first time. It was a very rare treat.

But what could I offer? Well, that’s what I worried about to begin with. I’m a dance tutor at a specialist college in little old Lancaster and I’m not disabled myself. However, I could advocate for all the young people I’ve adapted choreography with and for. Young people who are unable to voice their own passions and needs.

Young people who explore their own physical capabilities, explore techniques and develop their creative and physical voice every day. I’ve learnt so much about dance through working at Beaumont, about the value and power of all movement and the contribution of all bodies as different, but equal.Sarah sitting with other people in a dance studio

I talked to Akram Khan about this and asked about what was important in his choreography.

I saw a change of emphasis from the creative team as they moved from specific movements being of great importance, to them considering and discussing what the significant points of the choreography are. They discussed what was more important: the convention of exactly mirroring the movement by these non-disabled dancers or the intention behind each movement being explored and interpreted.

They acknowledged the value in all responses to the choreography. Thankfully, my presence in the room was a significant development that showed a real shift in approach.

I’m excited to see how they’ve taken our input on board. I’ll continue to drive forward change for the young people I work with, and make sure their voice is heard to create new, exciting opportunities that provide rich and meaningful life experiences.

The Big Dance Pledge is now available,  with a worldwide performance day on 20 May. The Big Dance Week is 2-10 JulyFind out more and sign up!

Interested in Beaumont College courses? Visit their website and find out about inclusive dance

“Technology gives me freedom” #100days100stories

We first shared the stories of how technology has enhanced the lives of disabled students at Beaumont College in Lancaster in December 2014. We’re republishing it here as part of Scope’s  100 Days, 100 Stories  project.

David, 20: “It gives me freedom”

DavidFor verbal communication, David uses a Liberator communication device, which he controls with his eye movements. It has a Bluetooth adaptor, so it lets him use any PC or Mac by sending commands through the Liberator.

“It was just the best feeling when I learnt to use it – it took me a couple of weeks. Communicating with people was very difficult before.”

He also has an ACTIV controller in the headrest of his chair in his bedroom, which means he can control his TV, Blu-Ray and music players.

“Technology is very important because it enables me to communicate and be more independent, which gives me freedom.”

Shaun, 20: “It means I can do more”

ShaunShaun uses a Liberator communication aid with a head switch. The device scrolls through different rows and columns on a screen, and then he hits the buttons if he wants to create a message. He can also control things in his bedroom with it such as, open and close the door, curtains and windows, as well as his TV.

“I find it easy, but it took a couple of months to learn. It was life-changing – it means I can do more things. Before, I found communication with people was hard if they did not know me. It has changed my life for the better.”

Dominique, 22: “I wouldn’t be able to talk to my family on Facebook”

DominiqueDominique uses a joystick to move a mouse pointer and then clicks the switch with her head rather than the mouse button.

“It’s easy to learn, but it can take a long time to get used to – it took me about three weeks before I was nine out of ten!

It was weird because it was new, but it is very important. It lets me use a computer, and communicate in shops, on transport, in restaurants and pubs. I talk to my family on Facebook every day, and without my technology I wouldn’t be able to use Facebook.”

Cameron, 19: “I can produce my best work”

CameronCameron drives his wheelchair with a joystick. When using a computer he uses a different joystick, a touch screen and a large keyboard.

“It takes a bit of getting used to, but I am a very, very determined individual who will not stop until the task is completed to my own expectations! It took a fair few weeks, but I continued to push myself. It was a strange sensation – it’s kind of like when you play your first game of wheelchair basketball, because you have to use your strength to propel an object, only it’s a touch screen or keyboard rather than a ball.

Assistive technology helps me complete my college work – without it, my work wouldn’t be as effective. Because I’m at a college where the technology does exist, I find I can produce my work to the best standard I can do.”

Alice, 20: “Every time she uses it, she has a big smile”

AliceAlice has complex learning, visual and communication difficulties, and uses a communication device with a PODD Grid to communicate. It’s an onscreen grid of symbols, and Alice uses a head switch to scan through them and point to the one she wants. She has a speaker in her headrest, and the device reads each symbol out loud. Her assistive technologist, Zak Sly, says:

“Alice has used a PODD book in the past, but before someone had to turn the pages for her – it took a lot longer to get to the words or sentences she needed. She learnt to use the new device in a few weeks and is now building up her skills, using it more and more in her day-to-day activities. When she first got the device, she smiled lots and every time she uses it, she has a big smile.”

Find out more about 100 Days, 100 Stories, and read the rest of the stories so far.

Using Windows-based tablets as assistive technology

Guest post from Trevor Mobbs, Assistive Technologist at Beaumont College. 

Scope’s Beaumont College offers both residential and non-residential programmes for young disabled people, all of whom are between the ages of 19-25 years.

Hand selecting a TV channel to watch on a touch screen

In recent years, the College has attracted an increasing number of learners with complex needs and those on the autistic spectrum.  As an Assistive Technologist, it is my role to provide bespoke solutions for individual students to access IT and communication technology. This includes assessment, provision, training and on-going support for students, tutors and support staff.

Over recent years, the use of mainstream tablet computers as assistive technology has increased significantly and many of our learners are now benefitted from this mobile technology.  The solutions which we provide are tailored for the individual, and so therefore we do not standardise on one particular operating system.  We have many students using iPads (in similar ways to those described in Margie Woodward’s excellent blog post), but they are not necessarily the most suitable devices for everyone.  Here I will attempt to illustrate why Windows based tablets can be a better alternative for some.

Choice of input methods

Hand using a special keyboard

The standard USB port on a Windows tablet enables any kind of input device to be used.  This includes head mouse, eye gaze, switch, joystick, rollerball, high contrast keyboard etc etc.  Most of these are either not possible or have severe limitations on an iPad.  Having this full range of access methods available is a key benefit of a Windows based device.

Special access software

Screenshot of Grid 2 - special communication software

Having access to software packages like the industry leading Grid 2 software on a Windows tablet means that individual solutions can be created for communication, environmental control, social networking, office productivity etc.  The software available is more powerful and fully featured than the cut down or ‘lite’ versions which are available as apps (e.g. GridPlayer, Clicker Docs).

Accessibility of the operating system

Screenshot of access features in Windows

Even without any additional software, Windows has many in-built accessibility features via the “Ease of Access Center” such as a magnifier, voice recognition, on screen keyboard, high contrast colour schemes, text to speech etc.


A Windows tablet can be joined to an enterprise network, and thus configured and managed in exactly the same way as any other computer.  This means that our students can access their documents and email on the device, and more importantly all their customised settings will be applied whether they log on to their tablet or a desktop computer.  They thus have a unified user experience, irrespective of which device they are using at a given time.

Computing power

With recent advances in hardware, Windows tablets such as the Microsoft Surface Pro are now available which have as much computing power as their desktop counterparts.  This means that multitasking or more demanding applications such as games or video editing are now possible.

“Instant On”

Waiting for a Windows computer to boot up used to be a frustration, and perhaps an argument for using an alternative such as an iPad.  However with a combination of the software improvements in Windows 8 and the speed boost brought by solid state hard drives (SSDs), the time taken to start up a Windows tablet can now be measured in seconds rather than minutes.

Case study: Dominique

Dominque using a computer attached to her wheelchair

Dominique has moved from using a specialised dedicated communication aid which was very costly and somewhat limited in computing power, to a wheelchair mounted mainstream tablet (or “Wheeltop” as we like to call them!).  The tablet is a £700 Microsoft Surface Pro which meets her needs for communication (using Grid 2 software), web browsing, listening to music, social networking, Skype, environmental controls or anything else she fancies.  The next step is for her to trial an “iPortal” controller which will allow her to control the tablet with her wheelchair controller and eliminate the need for an additional joystick.

Olympic torch stars from Beaumont College

Jessica smiles broadly as her Olympic torch is lit, the flame bright against the grey sky. Despite heavy rain and flood warnings, thousands have lined the seafront in Morecambe to support Jess and her fellow torch bearers.

“It’s a moment she will remember forever,” says Jess’s mum, Louise. “I couldn’t be prouder,” she wipes away a tear and gives her 19-year-old daughter the thumbs up sign. Jess throws her head back and laughs – too excited to care about the rain which falls relentlessly, soaking everyone.

Jess is one of five disabled students from Scope’s Beaumont College – an educational service rated outstanding by Ofsted – who took part in the Olympic torch relay across Lancashire on 22 and 23 June. All were nominated for their commitment to giving disabled people a voice, their work spans everyday matters like more choice in the college restaurant to campaigning on national issues including cuts to legal aid.

“Since I’ve been at Beaumont, I’ve learned to be independent,” says student Tom Green, 21. “I like helping people get involved. I give talks in schools about being disabled and I do a lot of fundraising. When I was told I was a torch bearer, I just thought ‘wow!'”

Taking the torch from Morecambe to Preston

Tom is taking part in the relay in Preston. As he waits to take the torch from his friend and fellow student, Dan Crowe, 20, both families look on nervously. “This is such an exciting event,” says Tom’s dad, Peter. “We are exceptionally proud.” Moments later, Tom’s torch is lit and fitted to his wheelchair to loud cheers. “How are you feeling?” shouts a voice from the crowd. “Happy days!” responds Tom.

Vicki with a statue of Eric Morecambe.It wasn’t just Beaumont College students who took part in the Olympic relay. Vikki Brier, 53, a learning support worker at the college, was also a torch bearer. “It’s such a buzz that we’ve all been chosen,” says Vikki who is a tireless fundraiser for Scope and local charities. “To me, Beaumont College is all about creating opportunities. Taking part in the Olympic relay is, quite literally, an opportunity of a lifetime. We are making history!”

Vikki’s torch relay included a pit stop at the statue of Eric Morecambe, the comedian who changed his last name as a mark of respect to his home town. As she balances on the top of the memorial Vikki holds the flame aloft, so it appears Eric is holding the torch. “I think it’s going to be a couple of weeks before I come down from my cloud,” she jokes.

Unlike most torch bearers, who have a well-earned rest after their moment in the spotlight, Vikki, and Tom are now touring local mainstream schools with their torches (which cost £215 to buy!) to talk about the relay. “It’s also a great confidence boost for the young people. They were chosen as torch bearers for their achievements, not because of their disabilities. We are so proud of each other.”

Find out more about Beaumont College.

Film with Beaumont College students seen by Queen

Beaumont IT Technologist Zak Sly reports on an exciting development:

Over the past six months a group of students from Beaumont College, Lancasterhave been working with the BBC R&D (Research and Development) on a research partnership to make television more accessible for disabled people.

As part of the partnership some of the students got to opportunity to visit MediaCity in Salford, the BBCs new centre in the North. The students had a great day and thought this couldn’t be topped… Well…

On Friday 9 March three students Rebecca Hall, Jodie Turner and Hannah Dilworth were asked if they could have one final session with the BBC to do some filming. They were told that the short show reel will be shown to a VIP at MediaCity on 23 March. The VIP’s identity was secret at the time of the filming taking place.

The three students were filmed using a switch and a head mouse.

For those of you interested in the technical details – the switches were used to control a grid set from ‘The Grid 2’ on a normal laptop, which was connected to another computer (via a router) running a modified version of Mythbuntu (an open source Linux operating system with a media centre application built in). The operating system has been adapted to implement BBC R&D’s Universal Control API, and the Universal Control Mythbuntu files can be downloaded from GitHub.

The switch and head mouse allow the person using them to control a communication aid, which as well as giving them a ‘voice’  means they can do lots of everyday activities from talking to their families to controlling their environment (lights, heating, TV) and ordering a take-a-way or booking tickets to the cinema.

A couple of days later an email came from the BBC  to let us know that VIPs due to watch the show reel were Her Majesty The Queen, while Lord Patten (Chairman of the BBC Trust) and Mark Thompson (Director-General of the BBC) had seen it at a previous screening. Read more about the opening of the BBC’sMedia City and the Queen’s Jubilee Tour.

The three students were all really excited about this! Rebecca Hall said “When I got the email off Zak about the Queen I was really excited.” A staff member who was with her at the time said that when Rebecca read the email she screamed with excitement! Jodie Turner said she was very excited and Hannah Dilworth agreed.

Beaumont College welcomes the Bishop of Blackburn

Bishop of Blackburn with Beaumont College student

Beaumont College, Scope’s Further Education College in Lancaster, was proud to welcome the Bishop of Blackburn earlier this month as he met students to learn more about their life at college.

The Bishop took up his position in March 2004, and has since used his seat in the House of Lords to press the Government on issues relating to young people and disability. This was his first time meeting staff and students at Beaumont College – situated in his Diocese – and his visit proved to be inspirational not only for staff and students of the college, but also for the Bishop himself.

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, said after his visit:

“I was very, very deeply moved and impressed by everything I experienced at Beaumont College. For once it was neither hyperbole nor romanticism to talk of miracles.

“Futuristic technology, endless patience, imagination and care by tutors and support staff, and reservoirs of realistic compassion that ought to hallmark every Christian community, combine to proclaim for people with severe physical and learning difficulties new life in all its glorious potential.

“Everyone – students and staff – was so open about what they were doing, in helping me to understand what was being achieved. I came away deeply grateful for all I had experienced, and so better informed to be able to talk of the College’s wonderful work in wider communities.”