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New computer software for people with learning disabilities to be unveiled at open morning


New computer software to teach people with learning disabilities the basic skills needed for everyday activities like shopping and crossing roads has been developed by researchers at The University of Nottingham.

Using a specially adapted joystick and the click of a mouse, people with learning disabilities can put money into a trolley, navigate themselves around a three-dimensional computer-generated supermarket and find items they need on their shopping list.

In another 3-D street scene program they can practise crossing the road in a number of different scenarios, including using a zebra crossing, a pelican crossing and safely crossing without help near a crossroads.

A computer game dubbed ’Running Man’ has been written, in which users need to move a character across a two-dimensional screen, using a switch to make the character jump obstacles.

The software, which will be on display at an open morning being held in Bilborough later this week, has been developed by a team led by Professor Penny Standen in the University’s Division of Rehabilitation and Ageing, and computer scientist David Brown at Nottingham Trent University. It aims to make computers easier to use for people with learning disabilities who may also have some physical impairment, teach them new social and health and safety skills and develop cognitive abilities such as reaction time and attention span.

The research has been funded by grants from organisations including the Economics and Social Sciences Research Council (ESRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the European Social Fund and the Learning Skills Council.

Professor Standen said: “For many of us activities like going to the shops or crossing the road are very simple tasks that we wouldn’t think twice about. However, for someone who has severe learning disabilities, which may include a limited use of language, and, in some cases, some form of physical impairment, it can be quite a daunting experience.

“Our studies have shown that through the use of this new software, the skills and abilities of the people with learning disabilities who worked with us on this research did improve. The software provides activities that are educational but also fun, therapeutic and stimulating.”

Prof. Penny Standen | alfa
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