Training Speech and Language Therapists

Speech and language therapy (SLT) students took part in an experiential learning session today, with activities that were tailored for their professional training. The activities were designed to enable the students to gain insight into how a range of impairments and conditions may affect people in everyday activities, and also to have experience of how other people’s impairments may impact their role as SLTs.

With their dexterity impaired, students were asked to fill a plastic cup full of water and stir a sachet of thickener into it – as SLTs, they may often interact with people with swallowing difficulties who require thickened drinks. They were asked to administer a speech and language assessment to somebody whose vision was impaired, and then to undertake the assessment with their own vision impaired. Students were asked to have a conversation, with one person sitting in a wheelchair and the other pushing the wheelchair whilst having their hearing impaired. Students also carried out activities whilst wearing bariatric training suits or ageing simulation suits.

Student feedback highlighted that they enjoyed the interactivity and the opportunity to try a range of equipment. They also liked that the activities were SLT-focused.

Thanks to all the students for their enthusiastic participation! Much credit is due to Melissa Loucas (Clinical Tutor) for designing the SLT activities and leading the workshop, and to Allie Biddle and Mirjana Sokolovic-Perovic for their support today and for their instrumental roles in making this workshop happen.

Two hands wearing gloves which simulate dexterity impairment holding a plastic cup full of water.

Carrying a plastic cup full of water while wearing gloves which simulate dexterity impairment.

A student wearing gloves that simulate dexterity impairment trying to open a small sachet of thickering.

Trying to open a sachet of thickener with impaired dexterity.

A student wearing simulation goggles and gloves stirring thickener into a plastic cup of water.

Trying to dissolve thickener into a cup of water with impaired dexterity and impaired vision.

One student administers a speech and language assessment to another who is wearing vision impairment simulation glasses.

One student administers a speech and language assessment to another who is wearing vision impairment simulation glasses.

One student is wearing ear defenders, pushing another student in a wheelchair. They have stopped to speak with a third student.

Experiencing how different body positions and different impairments can affect conversation.

Student wearing a bariatric training suit.

Trying on a bariatric training suit.

A student helps another student who is wearing an ageing simulation suit to go down the stairs.

Being helped down the stairs whilst wearing an ageing simulation suit.

Designing movement-based games

It was great to have people from BdB at the Biomedical Engineering seminar today on “Designing Playful Systems to Support Well-being” by Dr. Kathrin Gerling who is Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Lincoln. Kathrin presented three projects on movement-based play for older adults in long-term care, participatory game design with young people with mobility impairment, and playful interactive wheelchair skills training, and reflected on the challenges and opportunities that emerge when working with and developing for vulnerable end-users.

photo of a slide titled interactive wheelchair skills training with a photo of a person in a wheelchair with a trainer

University Teaching and Learning Conference

BdB were invited to join the marketplace activities at the University’s teaching and learning conference today, which had a particular focus on diversity and inclusion. We were pleased to share the project with people from across the University, including Psychology, Law, Education, Henley Business School, Clinical Language Sciences, Careers, the Students’ Union, and the Academic Practice Programme. A number of people expressed interest in running a workshop – thank you for your interest and enthusiasm. We will be in touch! Particular thanks to Jessie Webb, undergraduate student in Typography, for joining us to share her BdB experiences.

person wearing goggles simulating diabetic retinopathy and gloves to impair dexterity

A better appreciation of challenges

Robotics and Cybernetics MEng students took part in an experiential learning session last Friday. In their feedback, the students indicated that the session gave them a better appreciation of some of the challenges faced by older adults and/or people with disabilities, and that it encouraged them to think about the inclusivity of products and services.

Student wearing an ageing suit using a kiosk

This student noted that he was able to read the screen of the top-up kiosk without difficulty, but that the labels stuck on to the machine were more difficult to see.

Student in a wheelchair stuck on a curb

This curb was lowered, but there was still enough of a difference in the levels to get stuck.

A student in an ageing simulation suit and a student in a wheelchair stopped at a crosswalk

Contemplating the distance to the students’ union via two different routes.

Sri Lankan academic visit

visiting academics from Sri Lanka

BdB were delighted to share the project’s activities with a delegation of visiting academics from Sri Lanka, hosted by Professor Lynn McAlpine from the University of Oxford.  The purpose of the visit was to learn more about teaching and learning in the UK, to inform the development of new programmes in Bachelor of ICT and Bachelor of Engineering Technology in Sri Lanka.

Welcoming the Minister for Disabled People to Reading


Yesterday BdB were proud to welcome Penny Mordaunt,  Minister for Disabled People, Work and Health to the University. As part of her visit, the Minister experimented with a number of projects contributing to a more inclusive world and simulation tools exploring the everyday challenges people face in relation to a range of disabilities and conditions.

“Inclusivity and accessibility should be at the forefront of good design, and I’m delighted to see the University of Reading leading the way with their Breaking down Barriers scheme,” said Mordaunt.




UoR nominates BdB for new HEA CATE Award

Our BdB team is thrilled today to hear that the University has chosen Breaking down Barriers as its nominated contender for the Higher Education Academy’s (HEA) new Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE). Feedback from the shortlisting process noted that, among the other criteria, BdB has particular strengths in relation to demonstrating direct involvement of students in the project and evidencing creative solutions to a challenge, situation or problem.

Congratulations to all our staff and students who have contributed to this exciting achievement.

Educating for 21st-century lives

This morning, our BdB team led our first staff development workshop for staff across the University. The workshop, ‘Educating for 21st-century lives: a practical and inclusive approach’, explored the importance of embedding inclusive design in our curricula, the value of this for employability, and the role of simulation tools in developing awareness and understanding.

In the first part of the workshop, participants considered ways in which they can embed inclusive design in their curricula and activities. Thereafter, they had fun exploring the impact of different kinds of impairments on everyday activities, using the simulation equipment we have invested in. These include: bariatric and geriatric suits, simulation gloves, and glasses simulating a range of visual impairments. Participants considered different applications of inclusive design from the built environment to design for digital and printed communications and packaging. At the end of the workshop, we discussed ways in which we can collaborate on new initiatives to promote best practice in inclusive design across the University.