Friday, November 20, 2020

BBC Arts Launch Creative Commissions for Disabled Artists

As the coronavirus pandemic continues with restrictions in place across the UK. BBC Arts are doing what they can to support the arts and artists. Their recently launched Culture in Quarantine Initiative aims to keep art thriving in the homes and hearts of the public despite the pandemic.

Back in April, BBC arts invited artists to respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 lockdown with their creative work. The commissioning strand was widely successful, with the production of 25 commissions that reached millions of audiences on BBC and other social media platforms. One of the pieces that garnered the most attention was the Swan Lake bath performance, preformed by the cast of swan lake (included at the bottom of this blog post).

It is on the heels of this success that BBC is creating the new commission strand, targeted solely at disabled artists to amplify their voices, messages and talent.

Marking the 25th year since the Disability Discrimination Act got passed into law, BBC Arts is partnering with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of England, Creative Scotland, and Arts Council of Wales. The strand will see artists across Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England produce works of art that BBC will host on its platforms.

Invitations will go out to disabled, neurodivergent, and D/deaf professional artists to apply for funds to produce new audio/visual works. In total, the fund will commission ten new pieces of work.

Artists featured on this new strand can produce work telling of the experience of living through the coronavirus pandemic as a disabled creative. However, it is not compulsory to create work in that area.

Applications for the new strand opened on Monday, November 9th, 2020, and closes midday on Tuesday, January 12th, 2021.

A panel consisting of representatives from BBC Arts, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of England, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and the U.K Disability Arts Alliance will select the commissions to be produced.

The production of all selected works will likely take place between March and June 2021 and air on all BBC platforms later in the same year.

To apply or learn more visit

If you are finding the second lockdown difficult we have a range of content on our blog that may be able to help.

This video of Swan Lake performed in bath tubs was a result of the previous BBC Arts commission…

The post BBC Arts Launch Creative Commissions for Disabled Artists appeared first on A2B Assessments DSA Needs Assessment Centre.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Video Blog #12 – How To Minimise Anxiety During Lockdown

In this video blog we have 7 tips on how to minimise anxiety during lockdown.

The information in this video is taken from a previous blog post we did on how to minimise anxiety during the Coronavirus pandemic. You can read that article here


A2B Assessments

The post Video Blog #12 – How To Minimise Anxiety During Lockdown appeared first on A2B Assessments DSA Needs Assessment Centre.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Understanding The Mental Health Of Young Adults

Researchers at the University of Exeter have started a new study to learn about the mood, emotions and mental health of young adults.

People aged between 16 and 22 years are to taking part by logging their feelings in a smartphone app. The app is designed to identify the behaviours of users, improve their wellbeing, prevent anxiety, and depression.

‘MyMoodCoachApp’ will provide cognitive behavioural therapy and self-help techniques to help users understand and handle their emotions. Aiding participants in developing resilience, building emotional and mental strength and improving their wellness.

The group of researchers will then use the data to gain a better understanding the mental health of young adults.

Why is this Study Important?

A growing body of work and research shows that depression and anxiety are a common problem among young people and the rates are fast increasing.

A recent survey that compared mental health from 2018 to 2019 found an increase in the clinical documentation of mental distress. From the results, the percentage of young adults suffering from clinical distresses has increased from 25% to 37%.

Data also shows that 1.25 million people between the ages of 17 and 19 (25% of the population) have significant anxiety and depression levels. Sadly, less than 1/3 of these people get any professional help.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, a study by NHS Digital and the University of Exeter found that 13% of young men and 27% of young women between 17 and 22 years had a mental health disorder. This report shows an increase in the rate of mental health problems, especially among young women.

Depression is the most common of all mental health problems, with impacts that cut across every sector of a person’s life.

The only way to tackle this global challenge is to stage early interventions to promote positive mental health and well-being among young people. Engaging people with this app is a great step because it will reach them via a favourite medium of theirs.


How does the App Work?

The MyMoodCoach app will require users to fill in details about their emotions and moods every day, creating an overview of their emotional patterns. In some cases, the app will offer 2/3 of users the strategies to help them handle their emotional well-being.

For instance, if a person’s data report shows that they worry a lot, the app can provide such a person some strategies and self-help tips to manage their emotions and reduce worry.

The researchers will observe these processes to discover what elements in the app works best to help young people.


Research shows that helping young people to manage their emotions better will lead to a reduction in cases of anxiety and depression.

If we can help young people worry less, express their emotions, or develop more helpful mind-sets, we can reduce the rates of depression and anxiety amongst high-risk groups as much as 50% over the next year.

If this sounds like something you would find useful you can learn more and get the free app here…

See more of our articles around mental health or learn more about the disabled students allowance.

The post Understanding The Mental Health Of Young Adults appeared first on A2B Assessments DSA Needs Assessment Centre.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

6 Google Chrome Extensions That Improve Accessibility

Google Chrome accounts for 69% of all web browser market share, making it the most popular web browser globally. One of the main reasons Chrome is so successful is it’s ability to add third party extensions that customise how you interact with the internet.

In this blog post, we will look at 6 Google Chrome extensions that improve accessibility.


AT Bar

This is a free, open-source, cross-browser toolbar that gives people the power to change how they see and interact with websites. The idea is to have a single toolbar that gives you all the functionality that is typically achievable with various products and settings.  With it, it changes how websites look and feels, reads text out loud and spell checks.

Get the Chrome extension.


BeeLine Reader

 BeeLine has a colour gradient guides eyes from at the end of a line to the start of another. Reading will be easier and faster because you can quickly move between the lines. Users have noted a 30 percent increase in reading time with this extension. Grade school students to graduate-level students have used BeeLine to help them with their reading speed.

We did a full write up on BeeLine Reader which you can read here.

Get this extension.


Google Dictionary

At some point it is likely you will come across a word that you don’t know the meaning of. With the Google Dictionary you can can do the following:

  • Double-click a word to see its definition, which will appear in a small bubble.
  • See the entire definition of any word or phrase with the toolbar dictionary.
  • Keep a list of words you looked up to review at a later time.

Get this extension.



Grammarly can be a writer’s best friend, eliminating writing mistakes – spelling, grammar and tone – and provide you with the words that best describe what you’re trying to convey. This extension offers real-time feedback in Google Docs, Gmail, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Anywhere you do your writing, Grammarly offers its assistance.

Despite the name, Grammarly focuses on more than just grammar. It makes writing improvement recommendations, so the message is clear to the reader.  When you register your account, Grammarly will send you a weekly writing report about your progress and note areas that need improvement.

Check out our full write-up here

Get this extension.


Read&Write For Google Chrome

Read&Write for Google Chrome offers customised support to access web pages, documents and other Google Drive file types a little easier.  This app helps people to engage with digital content based on their learning styles and abilities. The primary functions of Read&Write are speech to text and text to speech.

Get this extension.


Zoom For Google Chrome

Make reading a little more comfortable with the Zoom for Google Chrome extension. Use the zoom button and mouse scroll wheel to zoom in or out on any web content.

Zoom is easy to use and is ideal for people with various eye conditions or who just have a hard time reading content on a screen. As the best magnifying browser extension, Zoom for Google Chrome offers a zoom slider so people can customise and find a percentage scale that makes it easier to read a site.

Get this extension.

Thank you for reading and hopefully you enjoyed this blog post on 6 Google Chrome Extensions That Improve Accessibility.

Learn more about A2B and the DSA assessment process

The post 6 Google Chrome Extensions That Improve Accessibility appeared first on A2B Assessments DSA Needs Assessment Centre.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

6 Google Chrome Extensions That Can Boost Your Productivity

Google Chrome is the world’s most popular web browser, accounting for 69% of the total web browser market share. To put this into perspective their nearest competitor is Firefox with a market share of 7.6%.

This wide percentage margin isn’t that big of a surprise considering all the benefits Chrome has – device syncing, intuitive interface and outstanding performance. However, it’s the apps and extensions that make Google Chrome so much better than other available web browsers.

How so?

They give users the power to customise how they access the Internet and use it.

In this blog post, we will look at 6 Google Chrome extensions that can boost your productivity.

df tube distraction free youtube

DF Tube (Distraction Free YouTube)

Many people use YouTube to educate themselves, for motivation and for background listening when they are trying to get work done. Sometimes it might be used to relax and listen to music or to kill time.

Bear in mind that the goal of YouTube is to get as many clicks and views as they can, as the more videos you watch the more money they make from ads.

After nearly every video is played, another video is already queued up. When viewing a video, you will see on the page dozens of recommended videos that the YouTube a.i. has decided have the highest chance of getting you to click and are most likely to steal more of time and attention. This is great for people killing time but bad for those trying to work and be productive.

The DF Tube extension provides the solution for this. You can hide the recommended videos, hide the custom feed and stop the automatic playing of videos when yours has finished.

Making YouTube a better companion for productivity.

Get the Chrome extension.

dualess chrome extension


The premise of this extension is to give you a dual-monitor experience. A recent study by Jon Peddie Research found a 42% increase in productivity when using multiple displays.

In just two clicks, this Chrome extension will split the browser window into two. The ratio is adjustable based on your needs. One browser window may only appear 30 percent on the screen with the other screen taking up 70 percent.

Get this extension.

forest chrome extension

Forest: Stay Focused, Be Present

Forest gamifies staying focused and avoiding the internet. When using the extension, you plant a seed. Over the next 30 minutes, it grows into a tree. If you leave the Forest window and visit another website your tree will wither and die. When you can visually see your tree’s growth, it can give you a sense of achievement for staying focused on your task.

This app is great if you need to spend 30 minutes working on an article, essay or anything else that doesn’t involve using the internet.

Get this extension.

There is also a mobile app to stop you wasting time on your smartphone when you should be being productive. Read our full write up here.

freedom chrome extension

Freedom (Website Blocker)

If you constantly find yourself visiting distracting websites when you should be using the internet productively then Freedom could be the solution to your woes. With Freedom you create blacklists which are websites you do not want to visit, then you set a schedule for those blacklists. If you visit any of the websites in your blacklist whilst the schedule is running, Freedom blocks you from accessing them.

Freedom also allows you to sync your sessions across all devices – desktop, Android app and iOS. This blocks access to any chosen website you may browse.

Check out our full write-up here

stay focusd extension


Similar to Freedom, but where Freedom blocks websites for a scheduled time frame e.g. 9am-5pm, StayFocusd allows you to determine how much time you want to spend on a website per day. For example, you could set it to only spend 30 minutes per day on Facebook and twitter. Then once the time has expired, you can’t visit them for the remainder of the day.

Get this extension.

facebook news feed eradicator

News Feed Eradicator for Facebook

Are you spending a lot of time checking out your Facebook newsfeed? Do you find time slipping away from you on the social media site? If you can’t imagine getting rid of your Facebook profile but need to spend time on more important things, check out the extension News Feed Eradicator for Facebook.

It is a simple plugin that just removes your news feed from your Facebook home screen.

Get this extension.

Thank you for reading and hopefully you enjoyed this blog post on 6 Google Chrome Extensions That Can Boost Your Productivity.

Learn more about us and the DSA process

The post 6 Google Chrome Extensions That Can Boost Your Productivity appeared first on A2B Assessments DSA Needs Assessment Centre.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Pros And Cons Of Online Learning

The global pandemic is having an impact in many areas of society, especially education. Lectures have been moved to online learning environments such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. And although learning things digitally is something many of us are used to, the set-up of online class rooms is still a big change for everyone involved.

Teachers and students who have become accustomed to spending time in conventional in-person environments, will need to adapt to the online learning model. As well as adopt new (and unfamiliar) teaching and learning strategies.

In this blog post we will explore some of the pros and cons of online learning.


The Pros Of Online Learning

Improved accessibility to education

E-learning can improve accessibility. Those who would struggle to attend a class in-person, due to a disability for example, have no issues with virtually attending one from the comfort of their home. Universities are also able to serve larger groups of students as they are not limited by physical space.

Improved accessibility of course materials

In a physical classroom setting, students normally need to take excessive notes and only have one chance to listen and process the information. Online lessons are generally recorded and the students can look back and study the material multiple times.

Improving the accessibility of course material can help students who struggle in certain areas. Providing a mix of video content, audio files, transcriptions, and notes can aid students with different learning styles.

Digital learning is affordable

In contrast to in-person learning, e-learning is normally more affordable. E-learning eliminates a couple of costs associated with standard education. Firstly, the travel costs for the student and secondly the real estate costs for the University or College.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 many students have been forced into online learning without receiving any reduction in fees. This could change in the future though.

Improved attendance

Students miss fewer classes since they can easily access their lessons from anywhere.

Encourages participation from students who may be shy in person.

Many students that tend to be withdrawn in class environments can feel more confident opening up in a digital setting. They can be much more forthcoming, as far as participation and questions are concerned. This can be attributed to being comfortable in familiar surroundings.


The Cons Of Online Learning

Different learning styles

People have different learning styles. Some are better learning kinaesthetically, while others are auditory learners. Another group might be visual learners. E-learning can be quite one dimensional and as such may not accommodate everyone’s preferred learning style.

Universities should try to minimise this impact by providing video content, audio files, transcriptions, and notes (as mentioned above in benefits.)

Easy to Get Distracted

Many students are unable to retain their concentration for long periods of time during a virtual lecture. It is easy for boredom to set in since no in-person interaction exists. It adds extra pressure for the lecturers to try and keep online sessions interactive and engaging enough for students to stay interested.

No Social Interaction

People tend to learn things by being around others. Sadly, online learning eliminates in-person interactions for both teachers and students. Discussing ideas and talking to one another is important for students, and is also an integral aspect of learning. You can sometimes learn more from discussing a topic with your class mates than listening to a lecture.

Some platforms like Zoom have features to try and combat this. On Zoom, the host can create virtual break rooms within the call. This puts participants into smaller groups where they can discuss things amongst themselves.

Screen Time Overload

There are unhealthy consequences of looking at a computer or mobile device screen for hours on end, such as ergonomic issues and eye strain.


All approaches to learning come with their share of advantages and obstacles. Many institutions are still finding their feet with e-Learning but expect it to improve rapidly over the coming months. Since everybody is at the mercy of Covid-19, some type of virtual learning is necessary to keep education going for students.

If you are struggling to stay focused during online classes check out our studying at home tips.

The post The Pros And Cons Of Online Learning appeared first on A2B Assessments DSA Needs Assessment Centre.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Otter.Ai – Free Transcription App is a transcription app powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). gives you the ability to transcribe audio, whether in person or digitally online.

We’ve been quite impressed with the app and although it isn’t currently DSA funded, it is available completely free for up to 600 minutes per month.

If you require more minutes you can upgrade to 6000 minutes for $8.33 per month, but students can benefit from 50% off this price.  So you are looking at roughly £4.00 per month (depending on exchange rate) for 6000 minutes of transcription. That could equate to 100 hour long lectures each month…A great deal in our opinion.

Possible ways to use Otter…

Taking Notes

This is one of the most dreaded, yet indispensable parts of the University experience and Otter can help take some of the stress away. If you struggle to concentrate on the discussion and make notes at the same time, then Otter can be trusted to faithfully transcribe full conversations. Using Otter you can also add pictures and images that could help make recall and study easier.

Transcribing Research Interviews

Otter gives you the freedom to worry about the truly important stuff. This means that it handles the grunt work of interview transcriptions and gives you the time to focus on analysis and result interpretations in your field of study.

Students with Hearing Impairments

Otter can also aid students who have a hearing impairment. This service faithfully captures and transcribes all verbal information, giving students with impaired hearing the ability to easily make notes. The app could also be used in non-academic settings to aid in communication.

Benefiting from Podcasts

Times have changed, and these days it is equally likely to come across academic nuggets in podcasts as it is to hear them spoken in the lecture hall. Otter can be used to transcribe information from digital media such as podcasts, audiobooks or YouTube video.


Otter is a great, cost effective tool that has the potential to really aid you in your studies and make your life easier.

Visit to learn more.

For some other awesome free tools that can aid you in your studies, check out our blog posts on Forest, Freedom and Grammarly.

The post Otter.Ai – Free Transcription App appeared first on A2B Assessments DSA Needs Assessment Centre.