Assistive technology is any device, piece of equipment or system that helps bypass, work around or compensate for difficulties that you might have.
For students who have dyslexia and other learning difficulties, assistive technology can be a critical part of making further education achievable and allowing you to support your particular areas of weakness, and capitalise on your strengths.
Speech to text and voice dictation technology
For someone who struggles to read and write fluently because of their dyslexia, speech to text and voice dictation technologies can be a huge asset.
A commonly used option is one called Dragon, which allows a student to speak their thoughts and ideas when writing an essay, journal, email or other writing task, Dragon then converts that to written form, and reads it back to allow for editing and correction.
You can speak quite quickly when using speech-to-text software, but you will need to specifically add in the punctuation (ie, say ‘full stop’ at the end of a sentence) as you go. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but is a pretty easy adjustment.
Microsoft Word, Windows, Google docs and Apple all have voice recognition tools either built in or available as a free download. Most brands of phones and tablets offer voice dictation tools too.
Text to speech technology
In text-to-speech technology, the program reads out what you need to read so you can listen to the textbook or article you need. It works well for any piece of reading you need to do where the text is available electronically.
Some of the most popular commercial software options are Texthelp Read&Write and ClaroRead. Both of them have text-to-speech, document conversion and advanced spell-checking and proofreading functionality.
There are free options available too that have less functionality, but work well when you’re trying a tool out. Natural Reader is available for Mac and PC, and Macs have an in-built text-to-speech tool too.
As the name suggests, these are pens that read. You simply scan the hardcopy piece of text and it reads it out to you via headphones. Reading pens are a useful piece of assistive technology in a situation where you have to read a hardcopy piece of text, like an exam or an official form.
There is a wide range of options available for assistive technology and the range is expanding all the time. It is now common for assistive technology features to be built in to software and hardware.
Check out the settings on your laptop, tablet or phone, as well as options in your most commonly used software and you might be surprised how many handy tools you have already.
You can download this information Assistive Technology Factsheet
Listen to our latest Podcast on Assistive Technology with Jamie Crabb.