AGOSCI 2013 Day One (for real this time!)

Right. Day One. Where the heck to start! My head is ready to explode with the amount of new knowledge shared today. So lets start at the start. With the official opening by conference convenor Harmony Turnbull who introduced the attendees to the ‘Twitter Army’; apparently we are a friendly bunch! Just before I carry on, its seems I have been labelled the ‘AGOSCI2013 Blogger’, which I pointed out makes me sound like the ‘Boston Strangler’…. I shouldn’t be too mean about Harmony though, after all she is at the gym at 6am in the morning before the conference and then working hard, with the rest of the committee, during the day to deliver the conference* And I apologise now for the understatements I am about to make!

Right, back to the conference. Started with a song & dance from resident Elder Alison Golding. As a Kiwi I can relate to the cultural welcome, very much like the Maori waiata. Kai Ora Alison.

This was then followed by a wonderful speech from Professor Emeritus Ron McCallum who reminded everyone of the UN Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities and in particular Article 2″

For the purposes of the present Convention:

  • “Communication” includes languages, display of text, Braille, tactile communication, large print, accessible multimedia as well as written, audio, plain-language, human-reader and augmentative and alternative modes, means and formats of communication, including accessible information and communication technology;
  • “Language” includes spoken and signed languages and other forms of non spoken languages;
  • “Discrimination on the basis of disability” means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation;
  • “Reasonable accommodation” means necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • “Universal design” means the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. “Universal design” shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed.

A couple of quotes from Twitter really distill and summarise his words”

Onto Dr Sarah Blackstone. Now Dr Blackstone is arguably the pre-eminent AAC expert in the world. In her keynote she suggested that it is time for AAC to undergo a paradigm shift and look outside the box. Change from AAC to CAA or Communication Access for All. For me it was all about basic human rights (okay so I thought that about a number of sessions today, maybe I am biased!) Her call to action was to think about what we, as individuals, can bring to the greater communication table. It is something that we ALL need to get involved with for the greater good. We all need to talk, share and work together; more on this later….

Two HUGE sessions and it wasnt even morning tea!

Into the concurrent sessions. I opted to sit in on Tracey Hanigan’s session entitled ‘Connecting students with ASD to a Speech Generating Device’. Was a really good session, reinforced the need to revise constantly the users requirements. Also how users negative behaviours decline once the frustration of not being able to communicate effectively is reduced. We need to find a way to promote and share these great stories so more people will get actively involved.

Next two sessions were hosted by users of AAC – Emma Green and Georgia Cranko. Was humbling to watch & listen to them share their experiences and how AAC can lead to lifelong learning. But AAC has its place, there is still a need for family & friends to support, particularily in time-pressured situations such as doctors appointments. Was so cool to be in two sessions where the hosts and the audience were communicating with SGD’s! Ashamed to say it isnt an everyday occurance.. but arguably should be.

So to lunch, and a lot of face time with old & new friends. The afternoon sessions I will blog about soon, there is just SO much brilliant content I am having to split it across two postings!

*The ‘real’ reason Harmony is at the gym at 6am is to use the GHD hair things… girl thing, dont understand it. Will now expect retribution from said convenor!


AGOSCI 2013 Day One (minus one)

Today was the Pre-Conference day with three full-day workshops run. Jane Farrall, Janelle Sampson and Kelly Moore had the pleasure of my company in their iPad lab entitled ‘Apps for AAC: Adding iPads to your AAC Toolkit’. The presentations can be downloaded here.

It was a really enjoyable day! The first session seemed to go by in a flash with Janelle expertly setting the scene with a bit of a review of the evidence base in AAC, the key frameworks to consider and the challenges involved with AAC. A couple of key takeaway messages for me in the early part:

Be person-centred! Look at what the individual needs and then find the most appropriate solution to help them.

Model. Role play. Practise. Repeat.

AAC is multi modal. Find out what the user can do and what they want to do

Need to address participation needs and pragmatic functions

After the break we got to play with and evaluate a number of apps on the Apple-sponsored iPad minis. A couple of them I was aware of but there were a few fun ones such as Fat Cat Outback Chat that fit a niche market.

Something I found quite interesting was Mayer-Johnson will not allow anyone to use their PCS images. This creates an issue as users that are familiar with Boardmaker and the PCS imagery may not transition easily to any other app with different images. Turns out there are 3 different symbol systems – from this laymans perspective it seems to be counter-productive and sounds a lot like the old Beta v VHS battle (or Blu-ray v HD-DVD).

Day rounded out nicely with a look at some hardware options; switches, bags that sort of thing. Even managed a model to showcase a case!BJJ-kEnCUAApWfI.jpg large

Was a great day, full of information and a number of new learnings to take back to the office. Looking through Twitter it sounds like the other 2 workshops were equally as informative and enjoyable. Just as enjoyable was catching up with various people from last years Spectronics ILT conference and the new people I have connected with since on Twitter and Facebook – arguably this networking was more important that the actual workshop, am prepared to continue both over the next few days to see!

Tomorrow the conference starts in earnest, still haven’t decided what concurrent sessions to attend but I am pretty confident it will be HUGE!




Not long to wait now

AGOSCI 2013 banner

Almost time for me to fly off to Sydney for the biennial AGOSCI conference being held at the Hilton this week.

A week of networking, learning, and a healthy dose of fun with a group of hard working and dedicated people. The conference theme this year is Connect2Commmunicate and it promises to be HUGE! And in the spirit of the conference theme I will be blogging at the end of each day and sharing my thoughts and viewpoints on the sessions I attend.

For those on twitter, you can join in the conversation by following the conference hashtag #AGOSCI2013

Journey of (IT) discovery as a small charity Part 4

So now that you have a website up & running, what’s next? Search Engine Optimisation  or SEO might be top of mind, but as you built your site on WordPress chances are it is doing a pretty good job of that already – WordPress is well regarded as being optimised for search out-of-the-box. My recommendation, and what we have done at Glow Kids, is getting onto the key Social Media channels and promoting your website on them (and vice-versa) if you haven’t already.

Facebook should be one of, if not the first, port of call. Make sure you create a business page, not a personal one. If you do happen to create or already have a personal page you can convert to a business page easily enough, Facebook have a really useful page here that explains the process. The key advantage of a business page for me is that you have fans not friends, which means people can like your page without you havent to accept them. There are also a bunch of statistics available so you can gain some insights into who is liking your content, the penetration of your postings so you can tailor for your audience and your potential audience. There are a number of ways you can cross-promote your website and Facebook page –  Wordpress has a number of plug-ins available for social media, and the theme you choose may also have some integrated.

Two important things to add to your website – a ‘Follow Me on Facebook’ button and the ability for your content to be liked and/or commented on. The follow me button lets people easily find you on Facebook, and it doesn’t HAVE to specifically say ‘Follow Us on Facebook’. If you look at the Glow Kids website, we have a simple button at the top of the page which was part of the Admired theme we used. By making it easy for visitors to like and comment on your website content you make it easy for them to promote it on your behalf and again there are plug-ins you can use to achieve this. On the left you will see a sidebar plug-in that easily allows visitors to see your last Facebook post and Like your page.

On your Facebook page, remember to promote your website content. If you add new content to your website, put a link to it on Facebook with a hint of what it is about to get people to click through to read it in detail. Add your website URL to the ‘About’ section on Facebook so people can find your website easily. You do not have to post new content every day that links to your website of course. Depending on your charity you can promote affiliated organizations such as national bodys, or charities in a similar or aligned sector. Liking their Facebook page is a good start here as you can then easily share their contemt, and they may well like & share yours in return. And remember to keep it human on Facebook. For Fathers Day for example I wished all fathers a happy day and asked what everyone was up to for it. Not at all related to Glow Kids cause, but helps remind people that there are humans behind the page and that is what social media should be about – connecting people with people.

Coming up next, the ‘other’ social media channels and how you can maximise them for your charity.

Journey of (IT) discovery as a small charity Part 3

One of the must-haves we identified as being needed on our website at Glow Kids was the ability for people to donate online. There were four companies in New Zealand that I considered before choosing PayPal, all with their own pros and cons. To save you some of the headaches I had, I have summarised them below, information taken from the respective vendors 16th August 2012 so may differ from their current rates.  Whilst PayPal best suited my needs, one of the other providers may be more aligned with what you want to achieve.

Company Setup Cost Annual Cost Transaction Fees Pros Cons
e-Way $0 $150 $0.30 No setup fees. Can setup recurring billing (donations) Needs SSL to be established on the website.
Need to set up an IMF (Internet Merchant Facility) with bank – separate from normal bank a/c and has additional fees.
Need a developer to implement
Payment Express $150 $600 $0.50 Flat transaction fees, no %age cost + Complicated to setup, needs a developer by the looks of it to implement.
Needs SSL to be established on the website
Need to set up an IMF (Internet Merchant Facility) with bank – separate from normal bank a/c and has additional fees
Flo2Cash $200 $120 0 – $5000  3.40% + 25c/trans
$5001 – $15000  2.90% + 25c/trans
$15001+  2.40% + 25c/trans
Hosting company recommends them, no IMF needed
Basic Plugins available for WordPress
Appear to offer preferential fees for NFPs
Needs SSL to be established on the website
Probably need a developer to maximise functionality
PayPal $0 $0 $0-$5000 3.4% + 45c/trans
$5001 – $15000  2.9% + 45c/trans
A number of WordPress plugins available, incl recurring donation options
No SSL needed
No IMF needed
Need to open a Paypal account, cannot have funds deposited direct into bank account

Paymark have a good list of providers in New Zealand, although not all offer online payment processing.

PayPal offer charities discounted fees, but one of the conditions is proving you are a charity. This is where it can get a little messy. I was unprepared for the amount of paperwork needed to get the account validated, and to make matters worse, there is a time limit of 7 days to get this done before the account is locked. So what information is needed? Helpfully the website doesnt tell you! But I will, read on!

Before you even THINK about opening an account with PayPal, get the following documents together on either pdf or jpeg format, as they WILL ask for them to confirm you are a registered charity and therefore entitled to the discounted rates:

  • A summary of the nature of the organization (the organization’s mission statement), and type and purpose of payments that you intend to process through PayPal.
  • Proof that you are a registered charity, a copy of the registration certificate is ideal
  • You need to add a bank account under your organization’s name and provide the bank statement or the voided cheque for it.
  • A letter of authorization on official letterhead of your organization, signed by an officeholder/bearer (e.g. Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer), to indicate the authorized persons (the PayPal account holder must be authorized) to manage all PayPal account related activities. The letter should meet the following requirements:

(1) The letter needs to be printed on the organization’s letterhead. The organization stamp (if available) should be added in the signature section.
(2) Please include the specific email address of this PayPal account in the contents of your authorization letter.
(3) One of the named authorized persons should be the PayPal account holder and responsible for all PayPal account related activities.
(4) The person signing the letter should be a different person from the authorized PayPal account holder and could be an officeholder/bearer (e.g. Chairman, Secretary, or Treasurer). Please state that the authorized person is acting for and on behalf of the organization in handling all matters related to the management of the PayPal business account.
(5) If the account holder is the sole owner of the business (i.e. there are no other directors), he/she may sign the letter. The company stamp is required in the signature section.

  • A proof of identity of both the authorized PayPal account holder and the person signing the letter of authorization. Examples of acceptable proof of identity (with photo) include: Passport or Driver’s License.

If you can get all of that ready you will be in business. Saying that, they do of course reserve the right to ask for more information or less information. The upside is you can start using the account as soon as it is active, you do not need to wait for it to be confirmed. I found the PayPal team to be really quick in responding to the information as I uploaded it and to email queries I had.

Journey of (IT) discovery as a small charity Part 2

In the last post we set up free web hosting with 24/7 Hosting and installed WordPress. In this post I want to look at a few of the options and plugins available by using WordPress. The first thing to decide upon is the theme of your site. WordPress has a large number available for free download or for a small cost. It is possible to get a custom-made theme, however I found that the cost for a basic site was around NZ$900 + gst. Once you have decided on a theme, you can get to work customising it. Depending on the theme you may be able to change the color settings, logo and fonts. They all have different customisations available so I won’t go into details here. You can also change your theme at any time, so don’t feel as though you have to get it perfect from day 1.

Helpful tip: Create a new homepage, then go into Settings –> Reading and change the front page settings to look at your new page, and set your posts to appear on a different page. This way your websites home page will stay as your ‘fixed’ content front, and your postings will appear elsewhere. I personally like to use posts for News:

Now you can get into the really good stuff and hunt out some plugins. Depending on your needs there will be between a few to many plugins available to extend the capabilities of your site. A couple that I really like and use are Donate Plus, Events Manager, and Facebook. Bit of an overview on these below.

Facebook. Pretty self-explanatory, this gives your site integration into Facebook. You do need to log into Facebook and create an App ID, but this only takes a few minutes and is free. Pop the information into the plugin and then you can set-up things like ‘Like’ buttons for your pages. This also adds in widgets (not to be confused with plugins, widgets are dragged & dropped into the sidebar of your site) that give you additional functionality to promote your website on Facebook and vice-versa.

Donate Plus. There are a number of options to gather online donations for your website. I chose a free plugin for WordPress that uses PayPal to handle the payments. I will blog more about PayPal and other online payment options soon, it is a little tricky & time-consuming and there are a number of gotchas for new players. The attraction for me of Donate Plus is the ability for donors to set-up recurring payments as well as one-off. There is also a donation wall so you can promote your generous donors, if they tick the box of course.

Events Manager. This is a really big plugin. Lots of options come with it including pages for event locations and the ability for people to manage their bookings. Because we have a number of events through the year this plugin really appeals as it lets you sell tickets to your events, and manage ticket quota’s so you know at a glance in real-time how many you have sold and how many are left to sell. There is a pro version available for around $80 that lets you use PayPal to accept payment online for tickets but even without it there is plenty of value just from having it manage ticket sales.

There really are a huge number of plugins available that can help deliver on your website needs, and it is worth spending a little time investigating all the options.

Next time, online donation options and PayPal.

Journey of (IT) discovery as a small charity Part 1


I haven’t been online much in the past month or so as I recently joined the Board of a small charity in Auckland called Glow Kids. Glow Kids provides Conductive Education to children with (primarily) a motor neuron disorder such as Cerebral Palsy or Dyspraxia. One of the key tasks assigned to me with my IT background was to get a digital presence up and running for them, including a website and Social Media.

In this series of posts I want to share some of the awesome tools available to charities to get online and then manage the results, all whilst doing it for FREE! Yes, free.

For those that do not know, I currently work as IT Manager for a large not-for-profit in Auckland so working with limited money & resources isn’t a new concept to me. What differs between my day job and Glow Kids is the economies of scale. The day job does have budget to get certain things done, such as web hosting & design, external marketing ‘experts’ and collateral and the like. Glow Kids, as a small start-up charity has extremely limited funds and resources. The challenge was to move from looking at tools that cost or are for larger organisations to alternatives that are, shall we say, more cost-appealing or fringe.

First up, a website. Two parts to this; hosting and Content Management System or CMS. There are a lot of hosting providers around, but I settled on 24/7 Hosting for a couple of reasons. First, they offer FREE hosting to charities! Secondly, they use Softaculous App Installer. This is a nifty tool that lets you install all manner of web applications with a single click, such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Moodle. They are also a Kiwi company with local support. There are a bunch of other services they offer but for me free + easy set-up nailed it!

I decided concurrently to use WordPress as the CMS. This blog you are reading now is WordPress and it is really simple to use. One of the other attractions for me is the number or plugins available to extend the product. I will go into the ones I deployed in a later post. With the hosting company and the CMS platform decided, I filled out a really simple online form and before I could finish my coffee I had an account set-up. We already had a couple of domain names to during the sign-up I moved them over and pointed them to the new service. Took a day to get the account verified as belonging to a charity, then it was a simple matter of logging into the portal, clicking WordPress and within 5 minutes it was done, and we could browse to the root page. How easy is that!

Next post I will go through WordPress in a bit more detail, and share some of the useful tools we have deployed so far.


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