Welcome to our overview of Assistive Technology, organized by category. This is not an exhaustive analysis, but a quick survey of the products that we consider to be valuable tools.  Almost all of these apps and services have free trials so you can see if they work for you. We are not including prices because they change all the time, but we note if something is free, or involves a subscription.

Categories:

  • Accessibility options in different operating systems
  • Text to speech
  • Sources for Digital Books and Publications
  • Audio Books
  • Speech to text
  • Literacy Suites
  • Organization and Study tools.

TEXT-TO-SPEECH

Free built-in Text-to-Speech (in Operating Systems and Browsers)

This type of text-to-speech is useful to just get something short read to you. Another important use for text to speech is to read back pieces of writing so you can hear their grammatical or spelling mistakes.

System/BrowserHow to ActivateLink if available
In Settings under AccessibilityFor iPad/iPhone
For Mac
In Control Panel under Ease of AccessWindows and Office
In Settings under Language and InputAndroid Devices
In Settings under AccessibilityChromebooks
Just highlight and right-click
chromeSeveral free text to speech extensions and add-ons get these in upper left corner of browser window.
Add Extensions…Text to SpeechFirefox Extention
Doesn’t have built in Text to Speech but can access Windows extension

TEXT TO SPEECH APP:

We are highlighting this app which, although expensive, is very high quality and provides access to a lot of types of digital text very seamlessly


A highly recommended Android and iPad App that allows you to import from the web, Google drive, Dropbox and Gutenberg and Bookshare (see sources for eBooks).Reads and highlights the text. You can change font, color etc… You can take notes and highlightVoice Dream

SOURCES FOR DIGITAL BOOKS AND PUBLICATIONS

Digital books are available to be read electronically on many devices, including desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, Amazon’s Kindle, and Android devices. Any book for which the translation or original text is 100 years or older is copyright-free and part of the public domain and usually available from several online sources. In addition, there are several resources that serve people with learning disabilities. Once you have a digital text, you can have them read to you using an appropriate text to speech tool listed above, or a literacy suite listed below.

NameDescription/FeaturesLink/Requirements
Free for children or adults with a documented reading disability.

Hundreds of thousands of books available.

Book can also be downloaded as an audio book

Free text to speech apps available for registered users.
Bookshare

Must be registered.

All members must provide proof of disability.


Free for individuals with a documented reading disability.

Content out of copyright available to anyone.
Library of Congress
(National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a division of the Library of Congress).

Must be registered.

Individuals must provide proof of disability.
Digital versions of books that aren’t copyrighted.

Over 30,000 titles available
ProjectGutenberg
Free to anyone.
It offers permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.
The Internet Archive includes: texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages.
Internet Archive

Free to anyone.
Amazon, Google Play iTunes, and Barnes and Noble are all commercial sources of digital books can download to your computer, iPad, Kindle or Nook. Many books are available but are not equipped with text-to-speech capability. If you buy a Kindle book that has an Audible recording of it, you can buy both at a discount and they will stay synced as you listen and/or read. Don Johnston product, Snap & Read (see below) allows you to TTS Kindle on a computer.Cost of digital books can be cheaper than buying the printed version and classic books are often free and belong to the public domain
College/University LibraryCollege libraries have a subscription service to check out ebooks, and professional publications. They can be downloaded and read by software (see above for list). Colleges are required to provide access to these tools. For more information, check with your college’s disability office.Free

AUDIO BOOKS

Audio books offer speech only option, there is no text to accompany the sounds. These books are often read aloud by a human narrator. Pure audiobooks are nice for fiction but do not have any of the benefits of note taking, annotating or searching that are available for e-texts. Using an audiobook with human voice while taking notes or annotating on an e-text might be a good option if you want the book read with a lot of passion, or it contains dialect or something of that sort (i.e. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain).

NameDescriptions / FeaturesLink / Requirements
Your Neighborhood Public LibraryAt your local public library, you can order and download online with your library card.Free, but need to register with your public library.
Offers recorded human voices. Does not include a text version of the book. You can request a recording of a textbook for a college course in advance.Learning Ally

Need to register as a person with a reading disability; Not free.

A volunteer organization that creates recordings of public domain literature.Librivox.org

Free
www.audible.com">Commercial site – very high quality recordings. Owned by Amazon - you can get a discount if you buy digital text with the audio book.Audible

Free registration, with a free book. Pay per book.
Branch of Project Gutenberg (see above) that created Audiobooks.Project Gutenberg Audio Books

Free
Surprisingly, there are several hundred audio books available to watch, sometimes with accompanying text, onlineYouTube

Free

SPEECH TO TEXT (STT)

With Speech-to-Text Software, the user speaks to the device and it types it into written words. Most systems have a built in version of this, so try that first. Windows, Chrome, Mac, Android and iOS operating systems all offer their own versions of “speech-to-text” recognition as part of their accessibility options.

The industry standard developer of Speech-to-Text software is Dragon by Nuance, with versions available for Mac, PC and iPad/iPhone. For all of these versions, however, the technology is not perfect and sometimes it makes mistakes.

NameDescription / FeaturesLink / Requirements
The industry standard for Speech recognition and Speech-to-text for Windows. This software requires the user to set up voice recognition on their deviceDragon Naturally Speaking

For PC
Speech recognition and Speech-to-text for the Mac. This software requires the user to set up voice recognition on their deviceDragon Dictate

For Mac
Free Speech-to-text app for the iPad or iPhone. You need wifi access for this to work.Dragon Dictation

iPad or iPhone Free
Available for Android and iOS devices. Syncs between devices.Dragon Anywhere

Monthly or yearly subscription
An intelligent tool that is more than just dictation, you can use it to make calls and set reminders. Siri lets you use your voice to ask your phone questions. Siri will answer most frequently asked questions.Siri

Built into iOS for iPhone 5 and above

LITERACY SUITES

By the time you get to college, or sometimes high school, you may want to use one of the more complex literacy suites. These programs combine several functionalities such as TTS, STT, word prediction, specialized dictionaries and different kinds of e-text annotation. Many have OCR capabilities so “inaccessible text,” such as text in pictures or locked PDFs, can be read. Most are compatible with a variety of e-text formats so a student can import an e-book, a web article, a Google doc or a text from Bookshare. Many support several languages.

Most of these packages have a web-based component, as well as downloadable software. Almost all have free trials so you can try them before you buy them.

NameDescription / FeaturesLink / Requirements
Toolbar floats over the desktop and reads or interacts with text in a variety of programs or formats.

Reads “real” PDFs, .doc files, .txt files, daisy files, or web pages. Includes TTS, highlighting and note taking (including voice notes), dictionaries, homophone checker, speaking spellcheck, word prediction, idea mapping, and echo typing. Available for most platforms, including iOS and Chrome.
Read & Write

Windows PCs, Macs, Google, iPad and Android tablets. A version is available as a Chrome add on.

Annual fee structure

Kurzweil allows you to import or create text, at which point you can access TTS, highlighting,
dictionary, word prediction, idea mapping, cross-out tool, and can create audio file from text. If a school owns the license, they can also use a web-based service called Firefly to push out text to users.

Firefly is web-based and allows you to upload your textbooks books from bookshare.org and from your Google drive. Accessibility from anywhere using wifi.
Kurzweil Educational Systems

Traditional software lives on one computer. Available for Windows or Mac Computers.
Free trial available.
Available as Chrome extensions or Software. Snap and Read provides TTS, highlighting and note taking, leveled reading, automated bibliographer, dictionary, and a teacher portal to view reading data. Works with Kindle Cloud Reader (on a laptop). Co:Writer provides word prediction, and STT. Contains over 4 million topic dictionaries. Available for most platforms, including a limited iOS which is a version of Co:Writer.Don Johnston’s Snap and Read Universal and Co:Writer


Monthly or annual fee.

Available for most platforms, including a limited iOS which is a version of Co:Writer.
The variety of features depends on which version you get. Includes TTS, dictionaries, homophone checker, speaking spell checker, word prediction, idea mapping, and echo typing. Other Claro products offer additional capabilities.Claro Software


ClaroRead is available for Mac, PC and Chromebooks. Limited versions are available for free for iOS and Chrome browser. Some versions available as a USB device.

ORGANIZATION

Cloud-based Google, Yahoo and live.com are complete organization systems, including slide presentation, document and spreadsheet creation, calendars, and email. Apple has it’s own integrated system that includes email, calendar, storage and free apps for creating documents, slideshows and spreadsheets.

Calendars and reminders can be used to help set up class schedules, remind the user when assignments are due, and alert the user about appointments.

NameDescription / FeaturesLink / Requirements
Open a Gmail account and you get Google Drive (can store items and can create text, spreadsheet and slideshow documents) and storage of those docs. You also get use of Google Calendar, a fully functional online and shareable calendar that can help develop Time Management skills and keep tracks of multiple responsibilities.G Suite

Free
Open an Outlook account and you get OneDrive, similar to Google Drive and free online versions of the Microsoft Office suiteOutlook

Free
If you use Apple devices, your Apple ID will get you iCloud storage space and you can automatically store all your documents made with Apple Apps (Keynote, Pages, Numbers, iMovie, etc…). This automatically syncs with any Apple device you use.Apple

Free with Apple device

NOTE TAKING OPTIONS

There is a range of assistive technology equipment that can help you record audio and take notes for you to listen to and read at a later time.

NameDescription / FeaturesLink / Requirements
The SmartPen can record audio while writing. Audio is linked to the notes in real-time, so user can go back and click on their notes to hear what was being said when note was first taken. Can download visual and audio data onto a computer, Android or iOS device for storage,LiveScribe Smartpen


Mac or PC or Android or iOS
Need to buy special paper
This is an app that lets you take notes or draw (for iPad or touch screen computers). Audionote records sound that is attached to the notes in real-time so the user can go back and click on notes to hear what was being said at a specific point in time.Audionote

Mac, iOS, Windows, Android
The Notability app records audio while you are taking notes on the iPad either with a stylus or by typing. The stylus tracks your script and can convert it to typing or highlighted text. You can also insert pictures, maps etc. directly to the document you are working on. However this tool does not link audio to specific content.NotablilityApp

iOS, Mac

STUDY AND PRODUCTIVITY AIDS

NameDescription / FeaturesLink / Requirements
Can create flashcards that are shareable. Can also search for flashcards others have made. Traditional flashcards and other games available.Quizlet
Web based, plus iOS and Android app.

Free
Can create flashcards that are shareable. Paid version include extra study guides and pre-made flashcard library.StudyBlue

Free or monthly payment.
Automatic bibliography or citation creation.EasyBig

Also available as a Chrome add on.
Free