Innovative Practice 2020 on Inclusive Education and ICT

Early-learning technology for children who are blind or visually impaired

Sonokids is an Australian social enterprise that produces Ballyland, a range of gamified educational software programmes and apps for children who are blind or visually impaired. The apps support children to acquire foundational (assistive) technology skills and to practice their orientation, spatial awareness, memory, and listening. Since its launch in 2013, an estimated 50,000 children have used the Ballyland suite of educational apps.

“As a teacher, I can not thank Sonokids enough for what they have done so far to allow children with and without a visual impairment to play and learn together.”

Prof. Boguslaw Marek, PhDOBE, Center for Inclusion of Students with Special Needs
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Ballyland educational apps
Organisation:Sonokids
Country
of Implementation
Australia
Start Year2014

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Currently there are nine English-language apps for iOS.
  • The Ballyland range of products has been used by estimated 50,000 children at home and in school.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

Young students who are blind or visually impaired are often disadvantaged in education. In addition, using (assistive) technology often requires special skills, and there are few accessible learning resources to acquire and practice these skills.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

The Ballyland range of software programmes and iPad apps allows children who are blind or visually impaired to acquire foundational (assistive) technology skills that enable them to use computers and mobile devices from the age of four. The use of images, voice-overs, audio effects, stories, and songs creates a barrier-free and inclusive learning environment. Blind or visually impaired teachers and students are involved throughout the app development process as design consultants and for beta testing, feedback, and voice-overs.

In 2013, Sonokids launched its first Ballyland early keyboarding software, followed by a series of apps to introduce children to touch screen interaction in the years thereafter (in particular Voice-over, the built-in screen reader on iOS devices). In 2018 and 2019, Sonokids released three more apps to teach computational thinking and coding and to introduce tactile learning tools.

All Ballyland apps are available in English (two having been translated into Spanish and Dutch) and have reached thousands of students at home and through schools across Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and the United States.

A nine-year-old boy with low vision wears earplugs, while benting over his pad and watching the screen.

A range of software programmes and iPad apps supports children from the age of 4 onwards.

FUNDING, OUTLOOK AND TRANSFERABILITY

Sonokids Australia is a social enterprise financed by sales, but more importantly by grants and other types of funding by philanthropists and other funding bodies that support Sonokids’ mission. The sales price of apps is kept intentionally low to enable as many parents and teachers as possible to offer the apps to children in need.

Going forward, the company will continue to expand the range of apps and will design them for use on platforms other than iOS. Sonokids also plans to produce apps in additional languages, introduce the functionality of connecting the apps to mainstream educational programmes, and create an animated Ballyland TV series.

The vision of Sonokids is to keep expanding the Ballyland range of educational apps as an accessible learning platform.

 

FACTSHEET

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LINKS AND FURTHER READING