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Technologies to Improve Literacy


The remainder of this article focuses on describing an array of assistive and instructional technologies. The descriptions are intended to enable readers to acquire a sense of the types of technology available to assist students with disabilities who are experiencing academic difficulties due to poor literacy skills. Some technologies serve primarily to enhance teaching and learning

  • (e.

    g., software programs for drilling and practicing academic concepts). Other technologies

  • (e.

    g., screen readers that “read aloud” text on a computer) are primarily used to compensate

for literacy problemsenabling individuals with disabilities to complete tasks more effectively, efficiently, and independently.

No pretense is made that the technologies described here provide a comprehensive or complete list. Such a list is beyond the scope of this article, and space requirements enable only a limited listing. Interested readers are encouraged to consult the additional resources listed at the conclusion of the article to find more information on assistive-technology products and services.

Technologies for Reading Problems

Many of the first assistive devices were developed for individuals with visual impairments, but these tools have been found to be very effective for people with reading problems as well and have since been adapted for these persons.

  • ReadPlease and outSPOKEN. These programs read any text shown on a computer screen to the user.

  • Kurzweil 3000 LearnStation and OmniPage® Pro 14. These programs scan and convert printed text from a paper or book into editable text so a screen reader (noted above) can read aloud the words on a computer.

  • Read&Write (v7) Gold and TextAloud. These programs convert printed text to an audio file for use in an MP3 player or similar portable device.

  • Other Auditory Technology. Tapes, CD-ROMs, DVDs, portable readers and players, and special Internet services all can provide auditory access to printed materials.

  • Format Features in Microsoft® Word and Write:OutLoud SOLO™. These programs format text to be easier for a user to see by increasing font size, pairing graphics with text, changing background and font color, changing text to a more readable font, or using highlighting to emphasize certain text.

  • Franklin Speaking Homework Wiz® and Quicktionary Reading Pen. Students can access pronunciations and definitions for words on the computer using portable spell checkers and auditory dictionaries and thesauruses; or on paper using reading pens.

  • Writing With Symbols 2000™. This program pairs text with graphics, such as Widgit Rebus symbols or picture-communication symbols, for users who can interpret pictures but not the printed word.

  • Visual Tracking Magnifier. This product can assist users in keeping their place on the page through transparent overlays that change the background color of a page or magnify a line of text for easier reading.

Learning Point Associates

page 8

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