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What is Assistive Technology?

Dear-Dyslexic

Assistive technology is any device, piece of equipment or system that helps bypass,  work around or compensate for difficulties that you might have. Based on that definition, you can probably think of examples of all sorts of assistive technology that helps people with all sorts of disabilities – wheelchairs are a really obvious example.

Assistive technology helps to ensure that the world is a little bit more equitable for those us who have disabilities.

For people who have dyslexia, there is a range of assistive technology available. All of it is designed to provide different ways for you as a student or working adult to support your particular areas of weakness, and capitalise on your strengths.

I know that my particular weak areas are putting my thoughts down on paper clearly, spotting errors in my writing, and getting sentences in the right sequence. The assistive technology that works best for me in these areas is text to speech software. Like the name suggests, this turns written text to spoken text and, because I can hear errors that I miss when I read, then I can fix my mistakes. Microsoft has even cottoned on to how useful this can be so now there’s one that’s free to use! Sound good to you? Check this out for instructions on how to install it.

There’s lots of other sorts of assistive technology. Some of these might be better for you:

  • Text to speech programs, to convert your writing into speech so you can hear where the errors are.
  • Dictation services, which do the writing and typing for you – and check your spelling, grammar and sequencing too.
  • Apps on smartphones and tablet computers
  • Mind-mapping software, which helps you to plan an essay or report more easily by breaking large slabs of text down into accessible, snack-size chunks.
  • Spelling and grammar checks, these are a standard feature of word processing software and can help to highlight errors.
  • Reading pens are just how they sound – pens that read! You use a reading pen to scan a word or sentence and the pen reads it aloud.

Assistive technology can help, but speech and language therapy REALLY helps. If you can, you should be using assistive technology at the same time as you are getting speech and language therapy. Specialist therapists can help you to develop your skills, equip you with some great strategies, and direct you to any other support and assistance you might need. Read more on where to get help.

Other useful resources:

In the past, I used Dragon Text to Speech. That was good, but it does cost money. Now, Microsoft has a text to speech option that you can install in Word. This is free (once you’ve bought your software) and I have found it to be just as good. Learn more on Microsoft Office Text to Speech features.

You can find more about Assistive Technology For Dyslexic Students from the International Dyslexic Association.

The British Dyslexic Association also has a resource on Apps and Dyslexia.

Click here for some strategies that might help you while at TAFE or University. For more information you can go to the British Dyslexic Association, Dyslexic Action and ALDA.