Hi, welcome back after the summer break.
If you are reading this update on our website, the observant amongst you may notice that, whilst our website seems the same, the structure is actually slightly different, as it now has a couple of new pages/sections on it and it also has more accessibility features.
Overall, I have tried to simplify things even more. (You can read more in the section: ‘NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL REAL ACCESSIBILITY’).
In this update you will find sections entitled:
As I always say, I know how busy everyone is, so please feel free to read just the sections that are of interest to you, or read everything; the choice is always yours.
Don’t forget, to ensure that you never miss out, you can get my SEN updates by completing your email details below, using our new App (‘SEN.fyi’), or by following me on one of the Social Media platforms that I use listed at the bottom of this page.
You can also easily share this update with others (please only do so if it may be relevant to them), by using one of the icons to the right of this page (if on a computer), at the top of this page (if on a mobile device), or on our new 'SEN.fyi' App (by using the ‘share’ feature at the bottom of the page).
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT!
As you may know, I have successfully represented parents of children and young people with SEN for over two decades now. As a solicitor now specialising exclusively in SEN and as a physically disabled person myself for most of that time, I have always tried to help anyone involved with children and young people with SEN or disabilities (whether that be personally or professionally).
But I realised a long time ago that I couldn’t help everyone personally so, many years ago, I set up this website, www.SpecialEducationalNeeds.co.uk, with as much free information on it as possible. By 2015, the site was receiving over 1 million page downloads a year – I must have done something right!
So now, continuing this theme and as the logical next step for me to try and help people, I have decided to create a free App for Smartphones and Tablets entitled ‘SEN.fyi’. By putting everything about SEN in one place, I hope that I can help people always have relevant and important information to hand when they need it and thereby ultimately help more children and young people with SEN or disabilities.
You can download ’SEN.fyi’ (for free) through the relevant App Stores (it is available for iOS for iPhones/iPads and also for Android for Smartphones or Tablets) by clicking on the relevant image below.
In the App, you will find six sections dedicated to:
The App includes a copy of my eBook: ‘A Guide To The SEND Code of Practice [Updated for 2016/17]’, which contains a copy of the Code itself (see more below under ‘YOU CAN’T GET BETTER THAN FREE…’). There is also the ability to choose (in Settings) whether you want to be notified of any updates and which.
I have tried to make ‘SEN.fyi’ as simple as possible to use, so I have only put in the main things that I feel people need to know. I will add to the sections as time goes on.
I have put the App together with the help of Piota (which stands for ‘Put It On The App’), who build high quality apps for schools and educational institutions throughout the UK. I understand that the interest in school apps has increased exponentially in recent years, as times are changing and schools are looking to streamline processes and update operations in new and intelligent ways. Piota create sleek and individualised Apps that help schools and parents communicate effortlessly and in real-time.
If you work in a school or educational institution, I encourage you to see what Piota can do to help you.
Finally, as you probably already realise, the ‘Updates’ section of the App contains these types of ‘SEN Updates’, which means that you no longer have to read them on our website (although you can still do that, if you want to!). I genuinely hope that ‘SEN.fyi’ helps people - I have done all the hard work so they don’t have to!
P.S. I would be so grateful if you could recommend ‘SEN.fyi’ to others – here are the links again…
YOU CAN’T GET BETTER THAN FREE…
It probably feels a long time ago now, but the new SEN framework only came into force a couple of years ago in September 2014.
If you have followed me at any point since, you know that, over the summer of 2014, I wrote an eBook entitled ‘A Guide to the SEND Code of Practice’ to help everyone prepare for the changes (with the tagline: ‘The Guide that the Government should have written but didn’t!').
My Guide was written as an eBook only, as it contained a lot of internal and external hyperlinking and the whole of the Code of Practice, which would allow people to quickly and easily find information they needed and have it to hand. From the comments that I have received from people, both personally and by email, I am very flattered when I hear many people refer to it now as their ‘bible’.
I updated the Guide for the academic year 2015/16 and have now done so again for 2016/17. Although it sold previously (for £4.99), given that I am now including a copy of the Guide in our free ‘SEN.fyii’ App, I have decided to to now also give it away for free (yes, you heard me correctly, 'free'!).
I should say that the version of the Guide in the App is a PDF copy, but the interlinking will still work, provided you open it in a dedicated PDF reader (I recommend ‘Adobe Reader’).
However, if you want to get the eBook version to read on a dedicated eBook reader, you will need to download a copy through our website here, or get it on one of the eBook stores like the Kindle store, iBookstore or Google Playstore.
There is no catch, I genuinely am giving my Guide away for free now, as I really want to help as many people as I can.
NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL REAL ACCESSIBILITY
I have always tried to keep the needs of people in mind at all times. I work very hard to make our services as accessible to as many people as possible and I am also committed to trying to provide accessible online services.
I have now made our website even more accessible through a service called ‘Browsealoud’, which provides easy speech and translation tools and can be accessed from all devices. To use the accessibility options, you just need to click on the orange speaker button at the top right hand side of the page (if using a computer) or at the bottom right hand corner (if using a mobile device).
Browsealoud has a range of features to make our website more accessible by doing the following:
There is also an mp3 facility (which converts text to audiofiles for offline listening) and you can use custom settings that are built in to suit individual needs and preferences.
These accessibility features allow access to:
Now, that’s what I call real accessibility!
FORTHCOMING SEN EVENTS
In terms of forthcoming SEN events (I am afraid that there is nothing to report today on events that I have been to), the only things that have caught my eye are as follows:
As always, please say ‘hello’ if you see me at one of these events.
IF I FALL, WILL YOU CATCH ME?
As a wheelchair-user, I could recount for you countless times that I have fallen out (or rather been thrown out) of my wheelchair!
This usually happens when I hit a ridge in the pavement, or attempt to go up a ‘dropped-kerb’ unsuccessfully; it may surprise you to learn that, although we’ve improved as a society regarding accessibility over the years, I still find myself sometimes using a dropped-kerb to get down from the pavement on one side of the road but then finding that there is no dropped-kerb for me to get up on the pavement again on the other side of the road, requiring me to travel on the road dodging moving vehicles before I can eventually find another dropped-kerb to get back onto the pavement (sometimes at some considerable distance!).
But to end this update, I want to share with you just one story that happened to me a few months ago...
That day, I had decided to try and get by myself to the local high street (I know that for most of you this is a normal every day event, but for me it is something which has to be planned out meticulously with military precision, such as the route and pavements I have to take) in order to just get some cash out from the ATM (unfortunately, ATMs are also usually placed a bit high for me to operate when sitting in my wheelchair).
Anyway, on this occasion, I managed to successfully get to the ATM and take some money out. I was riding back to my office when I had to cross a road. Having checked to make sure that no cars were coming, I managed to get down from the pavement onto the road using a dropped-kerb, but when I reached the other side of the road, the dropped-kerb there had a ridge, so that when I went to mount the pavement again, my wheelchair hit the bottom of the kerb and stayed there, flinging me forwards and out of the wheelchair.
The way that I flew through the air with my face forwards must have looked quite spectacular. I remember feeling that it was all happening in slow motion and realising, as I moved through the air, that any second I would hit the ground face first and would probably smash my glasses and injure myself.
However, just as I was about to hit the pavement, I suddenly felt two hands appear under me that caught me just before I hit the ground. It was like a miracle; I was just stopped a few inches from the ground and, although it probably only lasted a few seconds, it felt like I was stuck there for a long time. I could hear the man whose hands had caught me struggling to lift me back into my wheelchair. However, again almost miraculously, another pair of male hands then appeared under me from the other side and together the two men pulled me back upright and into my wheelchair.
I then saw that it was two builder-type men who had saved me, but when I had sorted myself out and thanked them both profusely for what they had done, they both just replied, almost nonchalantly, that it was ‘nothing’.
I know that this may sound funny to you, but I really feel that my being physically disabled, sometimes meaning that other people have to come to my rescue, allows me to experience goodness from people that I may not otherwise see.
So, if I fall, will you catch me?
With best wishes
by Douglas Silas, specialist SEN Solicitor