Assistive Technology Information Center

Tech learning

Assistive Technology for the learning disabilities in the 21st Century-2015 ©

  Download LDRF presentation at Everyones Reading Conference 03/15 [PDF]

The Resource Center has assembled several sources of information to educate people on the pros and cons of different assistive technology tools. These tools are invaluable, because they assist people with learning disabilities master such important tasks in college as studying for exams, completing reading assignments, taking notes in classes and writing research papers. People with various disabilities are using assistive technology tools at work, college, and at home.LD Resources Foundation periodically updates the website for regular updates on the latest products and apps that are available to help students with learning disabilities.Since it is important to know which tools best suit your individual needs, this resource center is open for discussion. We are always looking for feedback and additional information. Feel free to share your ideas and experiences about using assistive technology with us, and if you know of any tools we can recommend, please contact us at

LD Resources Foundation is frequently asked the following questions:

  1. There are so many assistive technology tools to choose from. What are the best tools for my learning disabilities?
  2. Where can I purchase assistive technology?
  3. My budget is limited – How can I stretch my limited dollars?
  4. What is the benefit of buying assistive technology programs versus downloading the free apps?
  5. Where can I go to find out about low cost assistive technology and to download free apps?
  6. What devices can read text back to me?
  7. How can I speak and get my words converted to text?
  8. I used a specific assistive technology device in my high-school; my college library uses a different technology that doesn’t work well for my learning disability. How can I overcome this obstacle?
  9. What libraries offer free downloads of digital textbooks, books, magazines, and professionals publications?


Content list

Section 1 Text-to-Speech (TTS) tools
Section 2 Speech-to-Text (STT) tools
Section 3 Sources for digital books and publications
Section 4 Audio books (no text available)
Section 5 Note taking devices and apps
Section 6 Time management tools


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Section 1: Text-to-Speech (TTS)
The Text-to-Speech Tool reads digital text to users
Text-to-speech (TTS) converts normal language text into speech, sort of like an on-the-go audio book. These programs allow people with reading disabilities to listen to written words (such as books, newspapers articles, textbooks) on a variety of devices. Many new computers also offer their own versions of “text-to-speech” as part of their accessibility options in their operating system. You can find this in your computer’s System Preferences and there are several Internet browsers like Safari that can read website text back to you by using the option key, and the iPad and iPhone have Accessibility apps that work pretty well. Here are three examples of Text-to-Speech software are listed below. There are many to choose from and some of them are free.

Read &WriteGold

Description: Image_9

  1. Toolbar floats over the desktop and reads or interacts with text in a variety of programs or formats.
  2. Reads “real” PDFs, .doc files, .txt files, daisy files, .webpages, Can be used in conjunction with Safari.
  3. Scanned files can be converted with Optical character Recognition (OCR) to MSWord or any word processor.
  4. Has a “screen outline” feature that lets you read anything on the screen of a computer
  5. Has note-taking abilities as well as a commenting feature, and can read highlighting on webpages
  6. Has homophone spellcheck, talking spellcheck, and word prediction
  7. USB device available


  1. For Mac or Windows.
  2. $645 or $250 for students at schools that have a site license


Description: urzweil educational systems

Kurzweil Educational Systems


  1. Easy to use
  2. Creates an environment into which the user imports the text they wish to interact with
  3. Reads “real” PDFs, .doc files, .txt files, daisy files (Win only)
  4. Scanned files need to be .tiff or .pdf format
  5. Has a web page reader, must install
  6. Mac version doesn’t have daisy reading function
  7. Has note-taking and commenting features
  8. Has talking spellcheck and word prediction for writing.
  9. The built in voices and pronunciation that are very high quality
Students at U.S. colleges and universities can purchase a single license for Kurzweil 3000 for their personal use for $795


Don Johnston’sRead:OutLoud6

  1. This program creates an environment into which the user imports the text they wish to interact with.

Reads digital text (including daisy, “real” and pdf)

  1. Can take notes and comment
  2. no OCR

Some web reading capability – built in accessible browser

  1. Files can be directly imported into its interface
  1. $773
  2. More limited versions available – Read:Outloud is $299.



Claro Software

  1. ClaroRead Pro is the latest edition to the ClaroRead for PC range. ClaroRead Pro includes powerful new technology that will scan and convert any publication into an editable PDF that can be read out loud with color highlighting. ClaroRead Pro ensures that any scanned or inaccessible document will be perfectly reproduced with all pictures, diagrams, columns, and text intact.
  2. Available as a USB device.


  1. ClaroRead SE for Mac is $99
  2. ClaroRead Standard V6 is $195



  1. Capti Narrator is an award-winning app that offers a new approach to consuming digital content: use Capti to listen to everything you want to read on the go and at your leisure. It is very simple: add webpage or a document to Capti and press “play”. Everything you added will be read to you, hands- and eyes-free, even offline.
  1. Free


Section 2: Speech-to-Text (STT)
With Speech-to-Text Software the user speaks to the device, and it types it into written words.
The industry standard developer of Speech-to-Text software is Dragon by Nuance, with versions available for Mac, PC and iPad/iPhone). The newest iOS for iPad/iPhone5 has a version already built into the device. Many new computers also offer their own versions of “speech-to-text” recognition as part of their accessibility options in their operating system. You can find this in your computer’s System Preferences. However, the technology is not perfect and sometimes it makes mistakes. This is the latest developed software and apps that have the most Advanced Speech-to-Text software currently available.

Name Description/Features



The industry standard for Speech recognition and Speech-to-text for the Windows. This software requires the user to set up voice recognition on their device For PC



Speech recognition and Speech-to-text for the Mac. This software requires the user to set up voice recognition on their device For Mac
$199 ($99 when on sale)



Speech recognition and Speech-to-text for the iPad or iPhone iPad or iPhone



Available for iPad 3 and 4
Shows up as an option whenever the keyboard is activated.
Built into iOS for iPad 3



For iPhone 4s and iPhone 5
An intelligent tool that is more than just dictation, you can use it to make calls and set reminders.
Siri lets you use your voice to ask your phone questions. It helps you do things that you do everyday, and keeps your eyes free
Siri will answer most frequently asked questions.
Built into iOS for iPhone 5
Section 3: Sources for digital books and publications
Digital books are available to be read electronically on many devices, including PC’s, iPads, iphones, Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Any book where the translation or text is 100 years or older, it is free and part of the public domain.Several resources that serve people with learning disabilities and offer text-to-speech for their books and other publications are listed below
Name Description/Features




Free for students (college and public school) with a documented reading disability.
Over 175,000 books available.
Must be registered.
Students are free.
Individuals pay a small fee. All members must provide proof of disability.



Free for individuals with a documented reading disability Must be registered.
Individuals must provide proof of disability



Digital version of books that aren’t copyrighted.
Over 30,000 titles available


Barnes & Noble


Digital books can download to your computer, iPad, Kindle or Nook. Many books are available only in digital format but are not equipped with text-to-speech capability. For the iPad/iPhone there are several free apps you can use to make your device text-to-speech capable, otherwise you will have purchase a software package. Cost of digital books can be cheaper than buying the printed version and classic books are often free and belong to the public domain.

College/University Library

College libraries have a subscription service to check out ebooks, and professional publications. They can be downloaded and read by software (see above for list). Colleges are required to provide access to these tools. For more information, check with your college’s disability office. Free

Section 4: Audio books (no text available)
Audio books offer speech only, there is no text to accompany the sounds. These books are often read to you by a human narrator

Name Description/Features


Your Neighborhood Public Library

At your local public library, you can order and download online with your library card. Free, but need to register with your public library.



Offers recorded human voices. Does not include a text version of the book. But you can request an accompanying textbook for a college course in advance.75,000 audio recorded books Need to register as a person with a reading disability; membership is $119 per year


A volunteer organization that creates recordings of public domain literature. Free


Commercial site – you get a free audio book when you join, very high quality recordings. Free registration, with a free book. Pay per book.



Branch of Project Gutenberg (see above) that created audiobooks. Free


Surprisingly, there are several hundred audio books available to watch, sometimes with accompanying text, online

Section 5: Note taking devices and apps
There is a range of assistive technology equipment that can help you record audio and take notes for you to read later.

Name Description



The SmartPen can record audio while writing. Audio is linked to the notes in real-time, so user can go back and click on their notes to hear what was being said when note was first taken. Can download visual and audio data onto a computer for storage, reading, and listening later. Mac or PC: $99 for the pen; Need to buy special paper at about $5 per notebook.
Watch for promotions.



This is an app that lets you take notes or draw (for iPad or touch screen computers). Audio note records sound that is attached to the notes in real-time so the user can go back and click on notes to hear the specific point of what was being said at the time. Mac & iPad: $4.99
PC: $19.99



The Notability app records audio while you are taking notes on the iPad. Besides posting sticky notes, the Notability app draws right on the screen. The stylus tracks your script and can convert it to typing or highlighted text. You can also insert pictures, maps etc. directly to the document you are working on. However this tool does not link audio to specific content. iPad: $0.99

Section 6: Time managements tools

Calendars and reminders can be used to help set up class schedules, remind the user when assignments are due, and alert the user about appointments.

Name Description/Features




Open a Google account and you get Google Drive (online creation of MS Office type of docs) and storage of those docs.With Gmail you also get use of Google Calendar, a fully functional on-line and share-able calendar. Google email provides reader and spell check.Helps develop Time Management skills and keeps tracks of multiple responsibilities. Free


Google Drive – iPad app

Allows you to access your Google Drive and Calendar on the iPad. Free


Google Calendar Reminders App

An app on iPhone & iPad iOS that syncs all of your appointments. This is essentially a to-do list that can send reminders to your device. And reminders! Free for many smart phone devices. such as: IPhone, Android, etc.