Supercharging Your Content with Assistive Technologies


If your school, workplace, or home is set up with assistive technologies (ATs), you’re in luck. ATs can help you access materials online more easily and allow individuals with disabilities to communicate more efficiently. From screen readers for the blind to braille devices for the tactile impaired, these tools are invaluable links to educational materials. With so many options out there, it can be tough knowing where to start. Here’s a list of a few free ATs from that you might find useful.

person holding white ipad mini

JAWS for Windows

JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is the most popular screen reader available. It has been around since 1984 and is used by individuals who are blind or have low vision, as well as individuals with learning disabilities, Dyslexia, and brain injuries. JAWS also offers different voices, allowing learners to better associate words with their meanings. The program highlights visual components of websites including text fields and buttons while ignoring non-visual components like Flash videos, advertisements, and images. JAWS is available for word processing as well as browsing.

Signing Outline

If you would prefer speaking rather than using a screen reader, try out Signing Outline. This software allows users to type in the discussion questions and answer them as they see fit. In addition, users can record their answers and listen to them later. If the speaker forgets their answers or wants a review, Signing Outline can be used to play back those recorded videos. The software is particularly useful for individuals with dyslexia, who might struggle with reading words aloud even though they see their word correctly.

OrCam MyMe

OrCam is a wearable device that connects with your smartphone to assist in daily activities. MyMe is the part of the device that allows users to command their smartphone with simple head movements. For example, you can take photos of text for translation or magnify images to make them easier to read. You can even access music with this tool. The video below shows examples of what OrCam can do in real life situations:


Computers with Screen Readers

Computers equipped with screen readers are also accessible ASL keyboards. An ASL keyboard is a computer keyboard that has all letters in American Sign Language mapped out on it. Computers with ASL keyboards make it easier for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to type out things like classwork or conversations. The picture below shows what one ASL keyboard looks like.

So far, we’ve covered ATs you can use to browse the web and ATs that are built into computers. Now let’s talk about ATs that can help you out with word processing.

Dolphin Sonar

Dolphin Sonar is an AT that works on iPads and iPhones. Users can use the app to type out documents, then read them back to themselves thanks to the app’s text-to-speech functions. The app also allows users to highlight text and record audio for playback at a later time. For example, you could highlight a paragraph of class notes and later play it back to review or help with homework. The App is available in the Apple Store for free (iTunes).

Dragon Dictation and Text Aloud

Dragon Dictation and Text Aloud allow users with iPhones and iPads to dictate their thoughts directly into their devices. A Dragon Dictation output looks like this:

Text Aloud is a tool that allows users to record their thoughts and play them back as text. A Text Aloud output looks like this:

So now that we’ve covered ATs for web browsing and word processing, let’s talk about some ATs for learning.

Signing Time DVDs and Apps

Signing Time is a video series designed for children aged 3-5 that teaches ASL using signs and songs. The series covers different concepts such as colors, shapes, numbers, family members, transportation methods, and more. The videos appear at the beginning of each school year so they can be used as a reference throughout the school year.

Dictation Software

If you have an Internet connection, your word processor also has dictation software built in. This software allows you to talk into your computer instead of using the traditional keyboard. When you dictate, your computer reads back what you said to make sure it is correct. If it is not, the program will stop the dictation and ask for finagling.

JAWS for Mac

For those who are writing on computers, Screen Reader comes with a built-in screen reading package that has been around since 1996. The program highlights words as they are spoken rather than assuming that certain text was read to the user in the past. This means that users can enjoy their word processing experience without feeling defeated by their inability to see what they are writing.

ZoomText for Windows

ZoomText is a screen enlarger and screen magnification program for computers and mobile devices. With ZoomText, users can zoom into websites, spreadsheets, or other documents to make them easier to read. Another feature of the program allows you to increase the size of your cursor so that it is larger and more visible on screen. The software also offers a “zoom in” tool that allows users to enlarge specific portions of onscreen text without magnifying the entire screen. This can be particularly useful for those with low vision or those using ZoomText as a learning tool.


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