Archive for 27 August 2004

Award nomination for wireless autistic aid

A University of Glamorgan graduate working on a mobile e-learning project has been nominated for an award.

Glamorgan graduate nominated for award

A University of Glamorgan graduate has been nominated for an award for using mobile phones to teach people with autism and social phobia. Jonathan Bishop, of Heol-y-Parc, Efail Isaf, has been nominated for the New Statesman Bright Sparks award in the special educational needs category. The award will go to the product or project that best removes the barriers to achievement faced by people with special educational needs.

Mr Bishop’s entry uses mobile phones to teach the meaning of emotions and common phrases individuals with autism and social phobia while they are participating in social situations.

Dr Mike Reddy, of the University of Glamorgan, who supervised the project said that the system, named PARLE, could be effective at helping people with autism take part in social situations. He said: “What is deeply significant about this work is that it would serve to be inclusive, rather than attaching social stigma to participation in a social situation because of the innovative use of mobile phones.”

Research on the system carried out at the University of Glamorgan has already been published in an international journal, but as Mr Bishop explains, more is necessary to determine the system’s usefulness. “We were only able to test a small part of the system two years ago, but new research methodologies mean we can now get a complete picture of how people benefit from the system.” Mr Bishop is looking for volunteers to take part in the new study. If you have a form of autism such as Asperger Syndrome, any type of social phobia or are someone interested in learning more about emotions you can get in touch via Mr Bishop’s web site at http://www.jonathanbishop.org.uk/parle.

Let’s look at the long term in Pontypridd

Chad Rickard suggests that a basic understanding of economics will lead one to conclude that it is necessary to have additional parking in Pontypridd (‘Store will attract more shoppers’, Observer, August 12).

Having studied economics at Masters level I can assure Mr Rickard that, whilst economists rarely agree on anything, many would agree that parking is not a factor that will lead to a successful local economy.

I have seen alternatives, such as park-and-ride schemes, work well in other European market towns, like Bruges where there are free busses from car parks outside the town centre.

Park-and-ride schemes have become popular in Cardiff, where there is also limited free parking in the city centre. I see no reason why we can’t have similar schemes in Pontypridd.

I don’t believe as Mr Rickard suggests, that a large superstore will attract more shoppers to Pontypridd. The town is beginning to face competition from Talbot Green, which sadly, is turning into an out-of-town shopping centre and will eventually have shoppers descending en masse to the once small village.

In order to compete with there big shopping developments, I believe Ponty needs to become more appealing to small businesses, which will be able to provide a wider range of products and services.

We are starting to see improvements with more restaurants and caf

Protect British workers from passive smoking

I was pleased to read that 76 per cent of people in Wales support restricting
smoking in the workplace (‘Majority support smoking ban’, August 5). Whilst a
workplace ban might mean that comedy programmes like The Smoking Room on
BBC 3 will no longer be possible, it should be welcomed.
Every year in the UK around 900 office workers, 165 bar staff and 145
manufacturing employees die from passive smoking in the workplace so the
government must do something.
The Irish legislation, which bans smoking in most enclosed workplaces seems to be
more effective than the Wales‐only bill, which would ban smoking in public places.
Both these pieces of legislation make it the responsibility of employers to enforce
the ban, with the possibility of them facing legal action if they fail to do so.
This should cause concern, as it transfers the responsibility of protecting the lives
of the public from the state to ordinary, hard working people. It is likely that some
small businesses might not have the resources to ensure their staff or customers
do not smoke in the company of others.
Perhaps the solution would be to make smokers responsible for their own actions,
by allowing law enforcement officers, such as the police to issue fixed penalties to
people who ignore the ban.

Should a local sales tax be introduced?

Dr Eammon Butler suggested on the Adam Smith weblog that UK council tax should be replaced by a local sales tax, which should be decided locally. I do not at present think it would be suitable as a replacement to council tax as it would mean that only areas with high levels of consumer spending would get good services, but I think a local sales tax would have some advantages to areas where there is low spending if it is managed by regional and not local government.

I have argued in favour of regional government, including the National Assembly for Wales being given tax-varying powers, not just over income tax, but other taxes that could allow it to influence the macroeconomy.

A sales tax that regional government could vary for each local authority would allow it to have lower taxes in areas where there is economic deprivation and higher taxes in areas where consumer spending is too great.

As Tim Worstall points out, consumers would cross borders and shop in the areas where there is a lower sales tax, which would boost the economy in those areas that need it.

One of the possible downsides to a local sales tax would be that it would put local retailers at a disadvantage to mail order and Internet-based companies. Whilst a local retailer would have to charge tax on its products, e-commerce sites such as Amazon.co.uk and Tesco.com would not. Perhaps this would encourage small retailers to start selling their goods online, which can only be a good thing.

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