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Assistive Technology

There are many many options when it comes to assistive technology. Here are a few of our favorites.

Text-to-Speech

Mac Text-to-Speech—every Mac comes standard with assistive technologies that help people with disabilities enjoy the power and simplicity of OS X. Features such as an advanced screen reader, Text to Speech, Dictation, VoiceOver, and literacy tools help those with a wide range of abilities get more from their Mac.

Kurzweil 3000™ is the comprehensive reading, writing, and learning software solution for individuals with learning differences, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and English as a Second Language. The Office for Accessibility can introduce you to features such as making audio files and study guides.

Read&Write Gold is a discreet, customizable toolbar that integrates reading, writing, studying, and research support tools with common computer applications. Read&Write literacy software solutions for the Desktop, Cloud, and iPad help students with learning disabilities, preferences for multisensory learning, and English Language Learners access the tools they need at school, work, or home. Read&Write ensures students have the tools necessary to reach their potential, build confidence and independence, and succeed. OS X/ Windows/iOS. Free trial available.

Natural Reader is text-to-speech software with natural sounding voices. Easy to use, this software can convert any written text such as MS Word, Webpage, PDF files, and emails into spoken words. NaturalReader can also convert any written text into audio files such as MP3.

Voices

Voice Dream Reader has a wide selection of high-quality text-to-speech voices of any accessible reader: nearly 100 premium voices from Ivona, Acapela, and NeoSpeech plus 36 free built-in iOS voices. Text in any of 27 languages can be read out loud at any speed. Read PDF, ePub, DAISY, Word, and Text files in Dropbox, Google Drive, or on your device. Listen to audiobooks in DAISY or ZIP format. IOS, $10+$3/voice

Infovox iVox is a program that allows you to purchase credits for enhanced voices to install on your computer. Installation instructions for Mac (PDF) 

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Convert Documents to Other Formats

SensusAccess is a self-service solution that automates the conversion of documents into a range of alternative formats including Braille, mp3, Daisy and e-books. The service can also be used to convert otherwise inaccessible documents such as image-only pdf files or scanned images into more accessible formats. Available on all platforms. Free.

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Digitally-Recorded Textbooks

Learning Ally is a national non-profit volunteer organization. With titles available in every subject area and grade level from kindergarten through graduate studies, Learning Ally digitally-recorded textbooks are effective learning tools. They offer free individual memberships and digitally-recorded books are free through their lending library.

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Voice Recognition/Dictation

Instructions for Setting up Dictation Speech Recognition for Mac and Windows.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking—by taking away the mechanical aspects of typing, Dragon NaturallySpeaking provides a more efficient way to control a computer that is less physically and cognitively taxing for those with impairments that may make typing painful or impossible. Dragon turns talk into text, transcribing up to 160 words a minute. Just speak and the words appear on the computer screen, instantly. Dictate, edit, and format documents using Microsoft and other popular applications—all by voice—and exactly the way you need it done with custom word lists and commands. Use your voice to search the web or specific websites for facts, figures, directions, images for inclusion in assignments, documents, and more. Windows/OS X, $49+

MathTalk is a leader in speech recognition mathematics. Do math without a keyboard or mouse. Math homework: user can voice own work and print work. Voice arithmetic /pre-algebra /algebra /trig /calculus /statistics/graphing & more. MathTalk includes Scientific Notebook; user can choose to translate math to Braille in Duxbury Braille Translator.

Mac Dictate is included with Mac OS 10.4.11 and up. Dictation lets you talk where you would type — and it now works in over 40 languages. So you can reply to an email, search the web, or write a report using just your voice. Navigate to any text field, activate Dictation, then say what you want to write.

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Organizational and Note-Taking

Evernote helps organize your life. Workspace for daily projects. Keep everything together. Sync across all devices. From short lists to lengthy research, no matter what form your writing takes, Evernote keeps you focused on moving those ideas from inspiration to completion. Evernote also offers:

OneNote organizes your notes—in one place to have with you, anywhere. OneNote is a digital notebook for your to-do lists, lecture and meeting notes, vacation plans, or anything you want to organize or remember. OneNote has free apps for PC, Mac, Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. And you can browse to onenote.com to get to your notes. Get the Office 365 suite, for free—just use your vassar.edu email.

Sonocent—use audio, text, color, and images all together. Whether you’re recording classes, meetings, lectures, directions, or even VOIP/Skype phone calls and webinars, Audio Notetaker makes it easy to get the most value out of your audio. Take screengrabs, import presentations slides or PDF documents, and annotate your recording with text and color to create the most comprehensive notes ever.

Ginger Software—use Ginger in any mobile writing app, or while you’re browsing the web and writing docs at your home and office. No matter where you’re writing, Ginger is there to ensure that your text is quickly written and is of the highest caliber. Tools such as Grammar Checker, Sentence Rephrase, Text Reader, and Personal Trainer. Available on all platforms. Different levels, free/$6.40/$11.20

Mind-Mapping

Xmind

XMind is mind mapping/ web mapping software used to clarify thinking, manage complex information, run brainstorming, and get work organized. XMind is an open-source project, which means it's free to download and free to use forever.

Inspiration

For visual mapping, outlining, writing and making presentations, use Inspiration® 9, the ultimate thinking and learning tool. Brainstorm ideas, structure your thoughts, and visually communicate concepts to strengthen understanding with the Diagram and Map Views. To take notes, organize information, and structure writing for plans, papers and reports, use the integrated Outline View to focus on main and supporting ideas and to clarify thinking in written form. With Inspiration's Presentation Manager, transform your diagrams, mind maps, and outlines into polished presentations that communicate ideas clearly and demonstrate understanding and knowledge.

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Braille, large print or text-to-speech audio files

Bookshare gives individuals with print-related disorders in the United States legal access to over 318,550 books that are converted to Braille, large print, or text-to-speech audio files. Students who qualify for alternative print accommodation will be set up with a Bookshare membership to access available books in digital format. Learn how to read your Bookshare books in their online web reader (video.)

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), through a national network of cooperating libraries, administers a free library program of Braille and audio materials for individuals who are Blind, visually impaired, or have physical disabilities. Materials are circulated to eligible borrowers in the United States by postage-free mail.

JAWS Screen Reader (Job Access With Speech), is the world’s most popular screen reader, developed for computer users whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse. JAWS provides speech and Braille output for the most popular computer applications on your PC.

ZoomText is magnification and screen reading software for the visually impaired. There are two versions available:

  • ZoomText Magnifier, which will enlarge and enhance everything on your computer screen with perfect clarity, making all of your applications easy to see and use.
  • ZoomText Magnifier/Reader, which includes all the great features of ZoomText Magnifier, and will additionally read aloud anything on your computer screen. Sit back as email, documents, and webpages are read aloud to you right through your computer’s speakers, letting you relax your eyes even more.

Read:OutLoud helps you comprehend your eBooks and websites because it reads them to you aloud. Simply choose where you want to start reading and press speak. Read:OutLoud will read the text in some of the highest quality voices available. Study tools, like highlighters and notes, will help you comprehend your reading and prepare for a test.

Prizmo is a user-friendly and reliable solution all Mac users can afford. It integrates state-of-the-art OCR technologies and supports multipage documents. There are 10 built-in languages in Prizmo: English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. 30 other available languages. OS X, $50

Sonocent—use audio, text, color, and images all together. Whether you’re recording classes, meetings, lectures, directions, or even VOIP/Skype phone calls and webinars, Audio Notetaker makes it easy to get the most value out of your audio. Take screengrabs, import presentations slides or PDF documents, and annotate your recording with text and color to create the most comprehensive notes ever.

Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear. It's like a spellchecker, but for style. It makes sure that your reader will focus on your message, not your prose. Too often, our words are like our thoughts—innumerable and disorganized. Almost any bit of writing could use some cutting. Less is more, etc. So, the Hemingway Editor will highlight (in yellow and red) where your writing is too dense. Try removing needless words or splitting the sentence into two. Your readers will thank you.

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Universal Design Learning

The National Center on Accessible Instruction Materials(AEM) website provides resources for educators, parents, students, publishers, conversion houses, accessible media producers, and others interested in learning more about AEM and implementing AEM and NIMAS.

MathType is a powerful interactive equation editor for Windows and Macintosh that lets you create mathematical notation for word processing, web pages, desktop publishing, presentations, e-learning, and for TeX, LaTeX, and MathML documents.

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Other Recommendations

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