There are many assistive technology (AT) tools available for free online. Assistive technology helps dyslexics save time and overcome challenges, such as slow note-taking and poor handwriting, allowing them to demonstrate their abilities in ways that were once unimaginable. Moreover, AT is defined as “any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities” (Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, 2018, para. 1). AT includes devices and applications that help people with dyslexia with various tasks such as reading, spelling, writing, organization of ideas and time management. Furthermore, AT can help by providing a more personalized learning environment.
In this article, educators will explore a range of technological tools for voice recognition programs that let users dictate ideas to recording devices that take the stress out of organizing ideas. Each of these easy-to-use tools can make a difference for individuals with dyslexia.
What is Dyslexia is not just for individuals or students with dyslexia. What is Dyslexia provides a quiz feature which may help to determine if an individual needs screening or is dyslexic. The app also provides information for teachers and parents to help them better understand dyslexia. This app is available at the App Store and is free.
Reading Tools (Text to Speech)
Natural Reader provides a user with the ability to read web pages, emails, and texts can be difficult for dyslexic students. Natural Reader has a nice, natural-sounding voice that can read a variety of documents. Individuals with dyslexia can choose to use an online tool, or to download free software to convert any written text such as MS Word, PDF files, and eBook into spoken words. This tool is available via the web and is free.
Speech to Text
TalkTyper is a simple online dictation tool and with a microphone headset, students can speak into their computer and dictated words and sentences within a web browser. The words and sentences are collected in a basic word processor. TalkTyper supports a number of languages, including French, Spanish, Turkish and Arabic, making it even more useful and practical for people from various linguistic backgrounds. Finally, this tool is free and works best using Google Chrome.
Google VoiceNotes II allows students to record their voices and turn their speech into text. This helps dyslexic students who struggle with writing. After students dictate their sentences, the student can then download the text as a text file or can copy and paste the text into a document. Two other online dictation options are Dictation and Speechnotes (the author’s favorite). All three require a Google Chrome browser and are free.
MindMeister is a great study tool and provides assistance for note taking. As many dyslexic students don’t find pages of text appealing, this tool provides them with the opportunity to format notes in a more user-friendly format which can make learning and revising more efficient. This tool is available on the for iPhone, iPad and Android and is free.
Ideament, formally known as Idea Sketch, lets student draw a diagram (mind map, concept map, or flowchart) and convert it to a text outline. Ideament can be used to brainstorm new ideas, illustrate concepts, make lists and outlines, plan presentations, create organizational charts, and more. This tool is available on the for iPhone and iPad and is free.
Rewordify simplifies text to make it easier to understand. Rewordify replaces the difficult words in the text with a more simple word or definition. Within the settings of the tool, students can choose a reading level. Additionally, students can choose how the simplified text is displayed. Finally, Figure 1 illustrates an example outline of the parts of speech from Rewordify. Finally, this tool is available on the web for free.
Figure 1. Example outline of the parts of speech from Rewordify
Ginger is a popular writing app that provides assistance in the writing process. Students improve their writing as they go by picking up on their mistakes and errors as they go, allowing them to make changes while they’re writing. Features include grammar and spell check, word prediction, built-in-dictionary, translation, and text-to-speech. Unfortunately, this one is not free, but worth the exploration.
Scrible allows students to take notes on Internet articles as they research online. Students can use highlighters, sticky notes and other tools to mark key information. All of their work is saved in an online account. Scrible automatically creates citations for articles and puts them into a bibliography. Scrible provides the following citation styles, MLA/APA/Chicago.
Gboard – the Google Keyboard is a app that adds search functionality and other features, including dictation and word prediction to the device keyboard. The search tools eliminate the need to copy or paste. The Gboard – the Google Keyboard is available on the for iPhone, iPad and Android and is free.
Grammarly (an author favorite) is an online proofreader. Grammarly is more advanced than typical proofreaders found in word processing programs such as MS Word. The tool finds possible mistakes in spelling, grammar and punctuation and suggests corrections. It also gives explanations so that one can learn from the mistake. This tool is available on the for the macOS and PC.
Finally, do not forget the free options already on computers and mobile devices. For Windows, students add “Speak” to the Customized Access Toolbar; for Mac, choose “Dictation and Speech” in System Preferences. For Google Docs, search for “Voice Typing,” available in a Chrome browser.
Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (2018). Federal Definitions of Assistive Technology. Retrieved from http://ectacenter.org/topics/atech/definitions.asp
Dr. Julia VanderMolen (@jvanderm): Dr. Julia VanderMolen is an Assistant Professor for the Public Health program at Grand Valley State University. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Career and Technical Education from Western Michigan University. The contribution of her research is to examine the benefits of assistive technology, UD and UDL. Additionally, Dr. VanderMolen’s recent work has included the benefits of 3D printing for the visually impaired and the concept of universal design and learning.