Assistive Tech: Text-to-Speech
Text-to-speech is our most popular assistive technology. It is software that reads the text on screen out loud to the user. It can read any electronic text file on your computer and is primarily used by students with learning disabilities such as ADHD and dyslexia. Students with learning disabilities may have difficulties with reading, decoding, and focusing on the text. By presenting the text auditorily students can focus and follow the reading more easily. Text-to-speech can also be used by anyone who needs help focusing when they read, or to get through readings faster.
Read&Write is the text-to-speech software that we provide our students. It features a guided reading tool that allows users to better follow along with the text. Students with learning disabilities often struggle with keeping track of what line they are on and often lose their place on the page. Read&Write highlights the sentence it’s reading in yellow and each word it reads, as it’s reading it, in blue. That way students always know what is being read to them and exactly where they are on the page. Unlike simply using an audiobook, Read&Write’s guided reading adds a visual aspect to the reading. Most students with learning disabilities prefer to learn visually, so with Read&Write, you’re not just listening or reading, you’re actually watching something read to you. The combination of following along auditorily as well as visually allows for better focus, better reading compression, and better memory retention.
Students can use Read&Write to create their own MP3 files to listen to readings on the go. The can also increase the speed gradually over time to get through readings at a faster pace.
Read&Write is available as a desktop application and a Google Chrome extension. The Google Chrome extension has a free version with the text-to-speech function available.
You can check out Read&Write by visiting their website for more information.
If you have any questions or wish to learn more about assistive technology, please reach out to the Associate Director for Assistive Technology, Amrou Ibrahim
Assistive Tech: Resources Available at the Weingarten Center
To help the Penn community better understand assistive technology and the resources we have at Weingarten, we’re launching this Assistive Tech series. This first article provides an overview of what assistive technology is and how it is used by students with disabilities.
What is Assistive Technology?
In a broad sense, Assistive Technology is any device, software, or hardware that helps people with disabilities work around challenges so they can learn, communicate, and simply function better. Here at the Weingarten Center, we use assistive technology to help students with disabilities work around their weaknesses while also playing to their strengths. Most importantly, assistive technology ensures our students have equal access.
Assistive Technology Software
The most utilized assistive technology software at our center are screen readers, screen magnifiers, text-to-speech, and speech recognition.
Screen readers allow people with visual impairments to navigate computers by reading the contents of their screen out loud to them. These include: JAWS, NVDA, and Apple VoiceOver.
Screen magnifiers allow people with low vision to navigate computers by enlarging the contents of their screen. Examples include: ZoomText and Mac Zoom
Text-to-speech assists people with learning disabilities and other print disabilities by reading text out loud to them and usually has a visual guided reading feature. Examples include: Read&Write, Mac Speech, and NaturalReader. Read&Write is available through SDS and is our most popular assistive technology
Speech recognition software allows people to interface their computers though voice and speak to type. Dragon and Mac Voice Control are the two most popular speech recognition software.
Assistive Technology Hardware
The most common hardware found at the Weingarten Center are electronic magnifiers, smartpens, refreshable braille displays, and assisitive listening systems.
Electronic magnifiers magnify paper, books, and even far away objects.
Smartpens are note-taking devices that record audio as your write. They are our most popular assistive technology hardware.
Refreshable braille displays can display text from a computer or tablet by raising dots through holes in a flat surface that create braille characters.
Assistive Listening Systems are audio amplifiers that can connect to a cochlear implant bring sound directly into the ear.
If you have any questions or wish to learn more about assistive technology, please reach out to the Associate Director for Assistive Technology, Amrou Ibrahim.
Rocketbooks and Frixion Pens!
Looking for an easy way to upload your class notes to your computer or cloud drives? Sick of wasting paper? Want a neat and easy way to stay organized?
Then check out the Everlast Rocket Notebook and Frixion Pens! These tools were recently introduced to me by a student, and I wanted to make sure Penn students knew about them.
Photo from getrocketbook.com
This notebook is reusable, syncs easily to your cloud drive, and works with any of the Frixion pens! It’s perfect for someone who prefers to take and save notes electronically, but that is in a class that requires them to take detailed notes on equations, pictures, or diagrams that don’t always format well in a traditional electronic note-taking devices or applications. It’s also great for those classes where your professors do not allow electronics!
Photo from getrocketbook.com
How does it work?
- Using one of the Frixion pens, simply write in the notebook like you would with any others.
- At the bottom of the pages are icons where you can mark which cloud drive you want to send the notes to.
- Using your phone, open the Rocketbook App and take a picture of your notes.
- The phone and app will recognize the code at the bottom of your notebook page and will then send your notes to the proper electronic storage device.
- After you have saved your notes, use a damp cloth to wipe the pages clean.
- Give the pages a few minutes to dry, and then repeat the cycle!
Photo from getrocketbook.com
Any drawbacks to using these tools?
- The cost of the notebook on Amazon is $34, which is a bit hefty for one notebook. However, if this notebook is used properly, you won’t need to buy another notebook for a long time.
- The notebook only works with Frixion pens. One is included with the first purchase of a notebook, but after that you will need to purchase more. Conveniently, these pens are erasable and not only work with Rocektbooks, but also with traditional paper.
Do you use the Rocketbooks? Let us know what you think!
Do you have any tools you would want to recommend to other Penn students?
Let us know and we can feature your ideas on our blog!
Disclaimer: Our Tech Tuesdays features are not an ad, we just like to highlight tools we think will be useful for Penn students!
By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Specialist and Research Fellow