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According to the UK's Office for National Statistics' Labour Force Survey (2006), disabled people are more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to have no qualifications (26% compared to 10%). 

Image of the BCS Logo

Responding to this, the British Computer Society (BCS) has created a unique format test system; the Multi Accessible Test System (MATS) which will support disabled candidates who wish to take the various user qualifications it offers, including the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL).

The system is aimed specifically at deaf candidates who are British Sign Language (BSL) users. However, it also addresses the needs of other major disability groups. Candidates can sit the ECDL tests with a choice of text only or with the additional support of either video clips showing  British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation or a human sounding synthetic narration. The system utilises the "EasyConverter" software package developed by Dolphin Computer Access, an international market leader in assistive technology.

This software has enabled BCS Qualifications to generate the audio output for the test materials. It will accommodate individuals with visual impairment, specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, deaf candidates who have a low literacy level in English, and candidates for whom English is a second language. The "EasyConverter" software will also allow BCS to produce materials in large print, Braille and Daisy formats as well audio so it can provide a wider range of accessible services.

Pete Bayley, BCS director of qualifications explains:

"BCS is committed to meeting its accessibility responsibilities as required by legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act and we believe that this innovation will have a significant impact for disabled candidates."

Noel Duffy, Managing Director of Dolphin Computer Access adds:

Dolphin Computer Access, commends BCS on their ambition to create a more accessible testing environment and are delighted they have chosen to use one of our products, EasyConverter, to support dyslexic learners."

The system is currently being offered as part of a pilot project and feedback from Centres has been very positive, including confirmation from the Royal National College for the Blind that the voice used is clear and easy to listen to.

Further information can be found at: www.bcs.org/qualifications and by contacting Derek Mills, Social Inclusion Specialist for BCS Qualifications via email to derek.mills@hq.bcs.org.uk or call +44 (0)1793 417571.

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