What is Reading Assistance Software?
Reading assistants can be helpful not only for individuals with reading difficulties but also for those learning a new language, children developing their reading skills, and educators. Here’s what you need to know about reading assistants!
What is Assistive Technology for Reading?
Assistive technology (AT) is a powerful way to help children with reading disabilities, including people with dyslexia or visual impairments. It is also used by teenagers and adults with reading issues or who are audial learners.
What are the Types of Assistive Technology Tools for Reading?
TTS lets people see text and hear it read aloud simultaneously. To use this tool, you click on or highlight words, which are read by a computer-generated voice. TTS is used with books, emails, web pages, and digital text. It is also used to convert text files into audio files.
Audiobooks and digital TTS books:
They allow people to hear books read aloud. Some people like to read along with the book so they
see the words at the same time. Audiobooks are read by human voices. Digital TTS books are created with TTS and use computer-generated voices.
Optical character recognition:
OCR reads aloud text from images and pictures. People with reading issues use OCR by taking photos of worksheets and other documents, and even objects like street signs. They also scan documents. OCR reads words from pictures on web pages (such as image files, like JPG). Like TTS, OCR uses computer-generated voices.
They are visual representations, like diagrams and mind maps, of ideas and concepts. People use graphic organizers to take notes while reading, which helps with comprehension. Graphic organizers are digital or pen and paper.
They let people take notes and write comments while reading. This makes it easier to retain information. Annotation tools are found on certain software or apps, or they are traditional pens, markers, and sticky notes.
It allows people to control how text is displayed. When reading on a screen, they change the font, font size, color, and spacing of the text. People also mask or cover parts of the screen to lessen distractions while reading. When reading on paper, they use a simple adaptive tool, like a plastic reading guide. Some books use large print or special fonts or they may replace certain words with images.
Dictionaries and thesauri:
They allow people to look up words they do not understand when reading. A picture dictionary is a popular tool that uses images to define terms. And a talking dictionary reads definitions aloud.
Where to Access Assistive Technology for Reading?
Most AT tools for reading are used on one of three computer platforms for assistive technology:
- Desktop and laptop computers: Computers typically have built-in AT options, like TTS. Download software programs for reading issues to add more AT functions to computers.
- Mobile devices (tablets/iPads and smartphones): Mobile devices also have built-in AT. It is possible to add more reading tools to mobile devices with apps.
- Chromebooks (Chrome browsers on any device): Chromebooks also have built-in AT. It is possible to add Google Chrome apps and extensions to help kids with reading issues even more.
What are the Most Common Reading Assistance Technologies?
There is a wide range of assistive technology (AT) tools available to help individuals who struggle with reading. While each type of tool works a little differently, all of these tools help by presenting the text as speech. These tools help facilitate decoding, reading fluency, and comprehension.
Audio Books & Publications
Recorded books allow users to listen to text and are available in a variety of formats, such as audiocassettes, CDs, and MP3 downloads. Special playback units allow users to search and bookmark pages and chapters. Subscription services offer extensive electronic library collections. This type of tool may help people who struggle with reading.
Products and services to consider:
Optical Character Recognition
This technology allows a user to scan printed material into a computer or handheld unit. The scanned text is then read aloud via a speech synthesis/screen reading system. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is available as stand-alone units, as computer software, and as portable, pocket-sized devices. OCR may benefit people who struggle with reading.
Products to consider:
Paper-based Computer Pen
This technology records and links audio to a person’s writing using a pen and special paper. It enables the user to take notes while simultaneously recording someone( e.g., a teacher) speaking. The user later listens to any section of his notes by touching the pen to his corresponding handwriting or diagrams. This type of tool may benefit people who struggle with writing, listening, memory, and reading.
Products to consider:
Speech Synthesizers/Screen Readers
These systems display and read aloud text on a computer screen, including text that has been typed by the user, scanned in from printed pages (e.g., books, letters), or text appearing on the Internet. This type of tool may benefit people who struggle with reading and writing.
Products to consider:
Variable-speed Tape Recorders
Tape recorders/players allow a user to listen to pre-recorded text or to capture spoken information (e.g., a classroom lecture) and play it back later. Variable speed control (VSC) tape recorders speed up or slow down the playback rate without distorting the “speaker’s” voice. This tool may help people who struggle with reading and listening.
Products to consider:
Reading Assistance Software Adapts to Skill Level
Using assistive technology for reading in the classroom is helpful for teachers because it is adaptive. Each student has different reading comprehension levels. Using assistive technology, which adapts to students’ abilities, allows teachers to meet the varying needs of all of their students quite quickly considering the different reading levels of the students.
It is a Readily Available Resource
Many of the assistive technologies for reading are free or inexpensive to purchase—all you really need is access to a computer or tablet. With the new technological developments, students benefit from reading support.
It is Beneficial for Struggling Readers
People who have reading difficulties or dyslexic people improve their comprehension levels by using reading assistant technologies. Instead of reading the content, you make text-to-speech software read text aloud to you.
It Fastens the Learning Process
With the help of reading assistance software, it is now possible to listen and take notes simultaneously. This makes the learning process much shorter while it also contributes to improving the multitasking skills of students.
What are the Further Features of Assistive Technology Software?
- Visual tracking highlights words as they are spoken to help kids follow along.
- Text-to-audio conversion creates an audio file of TTS reading aloud for listening on digital music players.
- The pronunciation dictionary corrects how TTS pronounces certain words (like names).
- Display control sets the text font, size, color, and spacing of what is read.
- Screen masking hides parts of the screen, which helps reduce distractions.
- Different types of dictionaries and thesauri help kids look up words using sounds or pictures.
- The translator displays selected words in a kid’s first language to aid comprehension.
- Colored highlighters and annotation tools let kids take notes on what they are reading.
- Digital graphic organizers help kids visually outline and understand what they are reading.
- Reading templates help kids keep track of important details and facts about what they are reading.
- Direct access to services like Bookshare provides digital TTS books.
Which Reading Software and Tools are Used Most?
It is free and included with Microsoft Word, OneNote, Outlook, and Edge browser on Mac or Windows, and with other Microsoft products such as Word for iPad and the free online versions of Microsoft Office. It is also available through the Office Chrome extension.
It is free and works with Chrome or Safari browsers with no installation needed. Anyone is able to use Bookshare Web Reader with Bookshare public domain books. Qualified students with Bookshare memberships are able to use it with copyrighted Bookshare books.
It costs $99.50 for the personal version on Mac or Windows. There is a free basic version without text-to-audio and a free Chrome extension with TTS and visual tracking for listening to web pages.
It costs $19.99 and it is usable on iOS and iPad.
It costs between $85–$225 and is available on Mac, Windows, and Chrome. Its price varies by version and features. A free extension for Chrome includes only TTS plus some writing support.
The price is $145 per year and the license provides access for one user from Windows PCs, Macs, Chrome, iPad, and Android tablets. The free version includes TTS and a single-word translator. Read&Write is free for teachers who sign up with their school email addresses.
The price is $60 per year and it is available on Chrome and Edge browser extensions besides iPad.
It costs $1,395 or $500 for a year subscription on Mac or Windows. It is available at a big discount if your school is a Kurzweil customer. Students also access their Kurzweil materials and most tools through various web browsers or the Kurzweil iPad app.
It serves as a database of both published research and commercial products, reviewed for universal design and accessibility features that benefit students with learning challenges. It also has features such as text-to-speech capabilities, word prediction, and embedded resources.
NCAM website focuses on the technological aspects of e-books and digital talking books (DTB) software and hardware. Digital books are computer files stored on CDs, in a directory, or on a memory card.
Speaktor is also an excellent tool with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence. Feel free to give it a try!