Following on from last week’s post on Queen’s University Disability Services, we want to share more information to assist staff and students with disability needs. This week we asked Tony Furnell to write this post about some of the Assistive Technologies available within Queen’s.

Assistive Technologies

There are many assistive software packages available. Some of which are provided for free at Queen’s. There is a range of assistive technology and equipment preinstalled on PCs in central computer labs and libraries. In addition, the McClay Library provides a list of equipment which is available on request.

Queen’s Assistive Technologies

Students and staff can install the following Texthelp software on their own computers for free:

Screen masking can include tinting the whole screen with a colour, underlining the typing line, tinting across the typing line, changing the colour of the page being read or worked on, or underlining the mouse cursor.
Examples of screen masking options
  • Read&Write – wide-ranging assistive software for Windows, Mac, Android, iPad and on Chrome and Edge browsers
    • Screen masking:
      • Mask your entire screen to reduce contrast or use a colour that improves focus
      • Tint across the line you are typing
      • Underline your cursor to aid reading
    • Text to speech for words, passages or whole documents (including from screenshots and images) with easy-to-follow dual colour highlighting
      • Selected text can also be automatically converted to an audio file
    • Talk&Type provides automatic speech to text from dictation
    • Coloured highlighting for ease when researching; vocabulary lists can automatically be compiled from highlighted words
    • Text and picture dictionaries to provide definitions and display images to help with word comprehension
    • Writing tools such as word prediction, grammar, capitalisation, punctuation and spelling check, as well as a similar words (homophones) checker
    • Bilingual support and automatic translation for different languages
  • EquatIO – software to help writing mathematical equations and formulae for Windows, Mac, Chrome browser and as a web app
read&write and EquatIO Logos
read&write and EquatIO Logos

To use these, go to the Texthelp website and download each piece of software using the Try Read&Write and Try EquatIO selections. If asked to activate, you can choose to activate via the Microsoft portal and enter your QUB details.

Microsoft Assistive Technologies

Microsoft Office software increasingly provides built-in assistive solutions. Word, OneNote, Teams and Outlook now include the Immersive Reader, which has a wide array of accessibility features. These include tinting and screen masking, text to speech, character and line spacing, syllable separation and translation to other languages. In Microsoft Word it can even assist as you type.

Screenshot of the Immersive Reader in Microsoft Word, on Windows.
Immersive Reader in Microsoft Word

Some features are only available in certain apps. For more information, Microsoft has a one-stop information page about the Immersive Reader.

Dictate button as shown on the toolbar of Microsoft Word on Windows. It can also be enabled using Alt and "grave accent" key.
Dictate in Microsoft Word

Additionally, Microsoft Word, OneNote, PowerPoint and Outlook include a Dictate (speech to text) function. This is available for a variety of languages.

QUB students and staff can install the latest version of Office for free on up to five computers from the Office 365 platform (accessed via Queen’s Online).

Other Assistive Technologies

Other software solutions available include the industry standard Kurzweil 3000. This is a comprehensive reading, writing and learning software package for students with reading and/or learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, or for English language learners. Kurzweil and many others require a subscription.

Should you have questions regarding any assistive technology which incurs a cost, queries should be directed towards Disability Services as there may be funding available towards these.

Further resources, such as training and free trials of assistive technology software, can be obtained from organisations such as Diversity and Ability (D&A).

Next time

In our next blog post, we will be looking at audience members with specific disabilities and their needs to use technology and access digital content. We will view these needs as both designers of content and users of content.

There are many disabilities to consider and to start off, we consider people living with blindness: no vision or poor/low vision.

Remember, the DigiKnow blog posts are released at noon on a Monday.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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