Edinburgh Research Explorer

Mr. Paul Nisbet

Senior Research Fellows

Education/Academic qualification

Master of Science, University of Edinburgh
Knowledge Based Systems
Bachelor of Science, Heriot-Watt University
Electrical & Electronic Engineering



Paul Nisbet is a Senior Research Fellow and Joint Coordinator of CALL Scotland, The University of Edinburgh. CALL (Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning) Scotland is the Scottish centre of excellence in the application of ICT to support pupils with additional support needs.

CALL is a Knowledge Exchange and Transfer Centre, funded partly by the Scottish Government and partly through consultancies and contracts with government agencies, local authorities and research funders.

Paul has an engineering background and is involved in CALL's assessment and support service for pupils, with a particular responsibility for access technology for pupils with physical disabilities; and for technology to enable students with dyslexia or literacy difficulties access the curriculum.

Paul has also initiated a number of innovative national developments to help pupils engage with curriculum for excellence, such as:

  • Development, evaluation and introduction of SQA Digital Question Papers for candidates with disabilities and additional support needs who have difficulty using traditional exam papers. First introduced in 2008, digital papers are now used in almost 40% of Scottish secondary school.
  • Licencing 'Heather' and 'Stuart', high quality Scottish computer voices for Scottish education so that young people with visual, reading or learning difficulties, or English as a second language, can read digital resources with support from text-to-speech;
  • distribution of WordTalk, Rod Macaulay's free text-to-speech program for reading Microsoft Word documents;
  • the Books for All programme and Database, which are helping schools and pupils make and access learning resources in accessible, alternative formats.

Paul is one of the invetors of the award-winning Smart Wheelchair, which is a powered wheelchair control system for people with severe disabilities who cannot drive conventional chairs. It can be driven with a wide range of switches and controls and has a track following capability; collision sensors; and speech feedback. The Smart wheelchair and Smart PLatform are now manufactured by Smile Rehab Ltd. in England.

In 2011 Paul was awarded the University of Edinburgh Principal's Medal in recognition of his work to benefit the wider community.

Principal interests

  • Assistive Technology (AT) for people with disabilities
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
  • Text-to-speech software to support readers with print disabilities
  • Computer access tools for people with disabilities
  • ICT to support access to the curriculum for dyslexic students.
  • Accessible digital examinations for students with disabilities
  • Books for All: learning materials in acceible formats.
  • 'Smart' wheelchairs (powered wheelchairs with novel control and sensor-based systems)
  • Co-inventor of the CALL Smart Wheelchair.

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