Posted in ICT

Making Your Interactive Whiteboard More Accessible

The vast majority of classrooms in the City of Edinburgh now feature interactive whiteboards.  These powerful teaching and learning tools allow us to instantly context-embed almost any topic, and to engage learners in a way not possible before.  For children and young people that find technology and/or screens motivational (for example those with autism), they offer an advantage over tablets or laptops in that the content is usually accessed as part of a group, thereby also building key social skills.  Interactive whiteboards can also play a huge role in making teaching more accessible for visually or hearing impaired learners.

But what about learners who have a physical impairment that means that they cannot directly access the interactive whiteboard in the same way as their peers.  Do they have to just watch?  No, of course not!  Today I’m going to go through a variety of ways you can make your interactive whiteboard more accessible.

Direct touch

Promethean boards and SMART boards come with “pens”, but if holding them is difficult for your pupils they can directly touch the board.  However, this approach may also be challenging due to poor fine motor control/ability to isolate a finger and/or the height of the screen.  Not all screens have been installed so that the height can be changed.  Why not try the following things?

soft balls

Allow the learner to grip a squashy tennis ball and access the screen using that.


pointerUse a pointer so that the screen can be accessed from further away or from below.


Using a slate

SMART slateActivSlate





Both SMART and Promethean sell “slates” that let you wirelessly control the interactive whiteboard from afar.  To use this option the learner must have the ability to grip and use a stylus, as pictured above.

Using a switch

For learners that can access a switch, you can set this up for use with an interactive whiteboard, too.  You could use a traditional, wired switch, bearing in mind that it will only stretch as far as the wire attached to it, or a wireless switch, for example the Jelly Beamer:

Jelly Beamer

Note that wireless switches come in two parts – the switch itself, and a receiver.  Switches require a switch interface box to work – see a range here.  Pictured below is one option, the Don Johnson interface box.

Don Johnson switch interface

If you set up the switch to operate as a “left click”, you can then use the interactive whiteboard and switch with many different websites, or perhaps with a lesson you have created in ActivInspire, PowerPoint or Prezi.  You could also use some switch accessible software – I have some titles that can be borrowed, contact me for details.  Inclusive also sell a good range.

Some websites to try

These websites have resources and games that support switch access on your interactive whiteboard – do let me know if you have a favourite that isn’t listed!

  • HelpKidzLearn have loads of great accessible activities.  You get 10 for free, and can subscribe for a low annual fee if you want more.
  • Crickweb have links to loads of resources for your interactive whiteboard.
  • Promethean Planet and SMART Exchange have loads of resources for whatever make of board you have.
  • Doorway Online has many switch-accessible activities to support literacy and numeracy
  • Shiny Learning also have a lot of free games

Credit for some of the content in this post must go to SMART for this video, and Glenda Hampton Anderson for this useful blog post.  I’m sure that there will be many of you out there with more ideas on this subject – I’d love to hear them!


Teacher at the Keycomm Resource Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland. Love my wee family, my cats, my friends. Passionate about inclusive education, nice red wine and travelling.

3 thoughts on “Making Your Interactive Whiteboard More Accessible

  1. I actually dislike whiteboards because my dyslexia/Irlen syndrome hates anything on a white background. Is there potential for teachers with children with similar disabilities to my own to change the colour shown on the whiteboard to make it easier too?

    1. Good point! I always recommend that teachers use a coloured background when creating lessons on their interactive whiteboards to cut down on glare, and it’s definitely worth mentioning again here.

      Thanks for your input!

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