Software is any machine-readable instruction that directs a computer's processor to perform specific operations. Types of software include system software, which is designed to directly operate the computer hardware; application software, which is used by the computer system to perform special functions beyond the basic operation of the computer itself; and malicious software, developed to harm and disrupt computers. Assistive technology software typically falls into the application software category. Here are six types of assistive technology apps:
General accessibility features are assistive technology components built into the Apple and Microsoft operating systems. The assistive technology features include: magnification, keyboard shortcuts, speech recognition and a variety of other assistive technology.
Apple includes assistive technology in its products as standard features. iPhone, iPad, iPod and OS X include screen magnification and VoiceOver, a screen-access technology, for the individuals who are blind and visually impaired. To assist those with cognitive and learning disabilities, every Mac includes an alternative, simplified user interface that rewards exploration and learning. For those who find it difficult to use a mouse, every Mac computer includes Mouse Keys, Slow Keys, and Sticky Keys, which adapt the computer to the user's needs and capabilities. Other accessibility features include:
Cursor Magnification - magnification makes the cursor easier to see and follow.
Picture-in-Picture Zoom - puts the zoomed areas in a separate window while keep the rest of the screen at its native size.
High Contract and Reverse Video - increase and decrease contrast, remove color, reverse white and black to black and white.
Talking Calculator and Talking Clock - set the features to speak totals or all input, set the clock to to speak on the hour, half hour, or every fifteen minutes.
Custom Keyboard Shortcuts - lets you customize existing shortcuts, create your own, or remove shortcuts you don't use.
Mult-Touch Trackpad Gestures - lets you use gestures on the trackpad to control the computer - pinch, swipe, or rotate gestures, and zoom.
Many other features are available depending upon the product and platform.
Microsoft accessibility features make it easier to see, hear, and use your computer and includes ways to personalize your PC. Windows 7 and 8 features include significant accessibility improvements over previous versions of Windows. Magnifier now include a lens mode and full-screen mode. On-Screen Keyboard can be resized to make it easier to see and includes text prediction. The Ease of Access Center includes:
On-Screen Keyboard - displays a keyboard on the screen accessible with the mouse.
Narrator - reads aloud on-screen text and describes some events - such as error messages.
Speech Recognition - command your computer with your voice and dictate documents and e-mails.
Changes to Text Size - make text and icons larger.
Magnifier - enlarges portions of the screen - full screen mode, lens mode, and docked mode.
Visual Notifications - replaces system sounds with visual cues.
Captions - display text captions of spoken dialog when available in videos and animations.
Sticky Keys - allows for pressing of multiple keys one at a time - CTRL, ALT, and Delete.
Mouse Keys - use the arrow keys or numeric keypad to move the pointer.
Text to Speech
Text to speech software coverts text to audio. The types of text formats that may be converted and the type of audio output depends on the software used. The most common types of text that may be converted included txt, rft, pdf, doc, and docx. The most common types of audio output includes mp3, wav, wma, aiff, and au.
Almost everyone has used Adobe Reader to share, read, search, verify, or print a document. But Adobe Reader has the ability to convert text to speech through its Read Out Loud feature. Read Out Loud can speak the contents of many pdf files and is accessed under the View tab. The voice that is used is the one available through the computer operating system. The default voice will be used, but may be changed if the computer operating system has additional voices.
Text to speech freeware which reads text aloud with different voices available. Will convert written text to audio files and allows for adjustable speed, pitch, and volume. Additional features include: pronunciation dictionary plugins; highlights text as it is being read; ability to schedule software to shut down when finished converting text; and supports hotkeys.
Kurzweil is award-winning educational software designed to provide literacy support for those who struggle with literacy in the classroom, at home, or in the workplace. Built-in features for reading, writing, and study skills helps students to become independent learners, active participants within inclusion classrooms or sheltered instruction programs; but most importantly, to keep up with peers and achieve their full academic potential. Kurzweil provides literacy technology for the entire learning process enabling learners to read, comprehend, synthesize, apply, and demonstrate knowledge. Kurzweil How To Videos
Natural Reader is software with natural sounding voices. This easy-to-use software can read to you any texts - doc files, webpages, pdf files, and e-mails. Natural Reader can also convert any written text into audio files such as mpe and wav. Natural Reader has many other features, such as audio editor and ocr. With audio editor, you can be your own sound editor by recording, merging and editing audio files. The ocr - optical character recognition - functions with your scanner to convert printed characters into digital text and is up to 99% accurate. This allows you to listen to your printed file or edit it in a word-processing program. Natural Reader: helps people with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia; helps people with proofreading; helps people with vision problems; helps people learning foreign languages.
PowerTalk is a plugin which automatically speaks any Microsoft Powerpoint presentation or slide show, allowing you to add instant narration to presentations without the need for recorded speech. The advantage of PowerTalk is it's ability to speak text as it appears and to speak hidden text attached to images. The voice used and speed of narration may be changed with the speech setting in the PowerTalk control panel. PowerTalk uses the synthesized voices available in Windows, however additional SAPI voices may be downloaded and installed.
Read&Write is a discreet, customizable toolbar that integrates reading, writing, studying, and research support tools with common applications. The easy-to-use literacy software builds confidence and independence in individuals of all ages and abilities.
TextAloud is Text to Speech software for the Windows PC that converts your text from doc files, emails, web pages, and pdf files into natural-sounding speech. You can listen to your PC and create audio files for use on portable audio devices. TextAloud can automatically sync with iTunes. TextAlound can: help you save time and get more done by listening while you exercise, work out, or during your commute; help those with dyslexia or other reading disabilities improve reading and comprehension by listening to text while viewing it; provide business people, students at all levels, writers, lawyers, second language learners, and more with an essential tool for daily use. TextAloud How to Videos
TextSpeech Pro reads any document format aloud and integrates with Microsoft Outlook to read emails. Its integrated Internet browser allows the software to read any web page and supports bookmarks - to resume reading where you left off. Output may be saved as audio files.
Verbose is an easy and convenient text to speech converter that can read aloud or save spoken text to mp3 files. Verbose can read any text on your computer out loud or convert text to mp3 and save to listen to later. Verbose installs easily and is ready to read text in just minutes. Verbose also allows you to set up system-wide hotkeys.
Much like PowerTalk, WordTalk is a plugin that speaks the text of a document, highlighting the words as it "reads". For individuals with reading and writing difficulties, having text reinforced by hearing it read aloud is very useful. WordTalk also contains a talking dictionary to help decide which word is most appropriate. Highlight colors may be adjusted, voice and speed of speech may be adjusted, and the converted text may be saved as a wav or mp3 file. Other tools include the option to speak by paragraph, sentence, or word; speak a selected section of text; stop speaking; or speak from the cursor.
Zabaware uses a speech synthesizer to read documents, emails, webpages, and more out loud in one of several voices. Additional voices may be added. Reading speeds are adjustable and text may be saved as an audio file.
Speech to Text
Speech to text software, also known as voice recognition software, coverts speech to text. Speech to text software makes it easier for anyone to use a computer, but is especially useful for individuals with fine motor impairments, individuals with paraplegia, and for individuals without keyboarding skills. You talk and control the computer - edit documents and emails, launch applications, open files, control the cursor, etc.
Dictation Pro allows an individual to speak into a microphone and prepare letters, reports, and e-mails. Dictation Pro includes command for formatting, deleting, and copying words and passages. Like all voice recognition software, Dictation Pro requires a good quality headset and an initial software training session to allow Dictation Pro to learn and interpret your voice and speech characteristics.
Dragon, the world's best-selling speech recognition software, lets you dictate documents, search the web, email and more on your computer - quickly and accurately - just by using your voice. Dragon is available in home, premium, professional, legal, and medical versions. Dragon is available for iOS and Windows.
Tazti is state of the art speech recognition & voice recognition software. You can easily mash up Tazti to files, folders, programs, videos and songs on your PC, to open them by voice control. Play PC Games, control applications, programs, and robots by voice command! Over 300,000 people have now tried Tazti and it's many features. Tazti is super fun, especially if you are tired of pounding your keyboard or want an easy to use assistive technology.
Some speech recognition software assumes the user can type and click if needed. Voice Finger allows a user to do everything by voice, allowing complete control of the mouse and the keyboard with the user's voice. It may also be used by gamers, acting as a third hand.
Voice Finger used to play Words With Friends
Screen reader software is different from text to speech software. While text to speech software converts text to audio, screen reader software converts everything that is being displayed on the screen - icons, hyperlinks, and image descriptions - to audio. Screen readers are useful for individuals who are blind or have a visual impairment and are often used in conjunction with assistive technology such as screen magnifiers and braille output devices. The American Foundation for the Blind maintains a list of screen readers. The screen readers listed below provide a comprehensive sample.
COBRA is screen reading software that provides access to information on a computer for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. COBRA Zoom provides large print magnification and speech output. COBRA Braille provides speech output and support for more than 70 braille displays. COBRA Pro includes all of the COBRA features.
JAWS, Job Access With Speech, is the world's most popular screen reader, developed for computer users whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse. JAWS provides speech and Braille output for the most popular computer applications on your PC. JAWS users around the world sent us videos about the impact JAWS has made on their lives. We compiled these testimonials and more in a video to celebrate the 20th anniversary of JAWS for Windows.
MathPlayer enables Microsoft Internet Explorer to display mathematical notation in web pages, allower for the mathematical expressions to be enlarges and spoken for people with reading disabilities or visual impairments. My MathPlayer works in conjuction with MathML and MathType to create math web pages.
NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free, open source screen reader for Microsoft Windows operating systems. NVDA provides feedback via synthetic speech and Braille enabling blind or individuals with visual impairments to access computers at no more cost than a sighted person.
Speech and Braille access allows complete control of your computer. Discover what is on the screen using keyboard with the Dolphin cursor and item finder. Refreshable Braille accurately displays spelling, punctuation, and layout.
Screen Magnifiers and Reading Tools
Screen magnifiers enlarge portions of the screen, much like using a magnifying glass with print materials. Reading tools include software that make it easier for individuals to read off a computer screen. This list is a comprehensive sample of magnifiers and reading tools.
Fatbits is a fast, compact, and easy to use screen magnifier for Windows that is useful for individuals with visual impairments and graphic artists. It magnifies an area of the screen centered around the mouse point and paints the giant pixels into a small windows. It can perform text smoothing and can modify the colors it displays - very helpful for individuals with color vision impairments.
MAGic is a screen magnification and screen reading solution for low vision computer users. MAGic can help you work more efficiently with business applications, documents, email, navigating the Internet, and engaging in social networking. MAGic delivers smooth, crisp letters, even at the highest magnification levels.
Some learners experience difficulties with black and white backgrounds and use a colored transparency, which is placed over printed material such as a handout, to help them read more easily. ssOverlay (the ss stands for Scotopic Sensitivity)is a screen masking program which places a colored transparency across the computer screen. ssOverlay is part of the MyStudyBar suite of open source and freeware applications.
Fully combines a magnifier and a screen reader enabling users to create their own blend to suit their unique sight requirements. Enlarges text and images up to 64 times, reads aloud characters and words as you type, supports a wide range of Braille displays, and scan/read paper documents. AND provides access via touch screens.
ZoomText is the world's leading magnification and screen reading software for the visually impaired and helps countless individuals across the globe stay employed and in touch with the world. There are two versions available - ZoomText Magnifier, which will enlarge and enhance everything on your computer screen with perfect clarity, making all of your applications easy to see and use; and ZoomText Magnifier/Reader, which includes all the great features of ZoomText Magnifier, and will additionally read aloud .anything on your computer screen. Sit back as .email, documents, and webpages are read aloud to you right through your computer's speakers, letting you .relax your eyes even more.
Ginger is an award-winning software that checks grammar, punctuation, and spelling. It automatically detects and corrects misused words and grammar mistakes. Any time you are writing for business, sending and important email, or completing school assignments, you can use Ginger's writing tools to improve your vocabulary and prevent errors.
Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google's suite of products include a variety of tools that may be used by students to assist with organization including Calendar, Docs, Google Wallet, Google +, and Google Sites.
iStdiez Pro is the unique application for students which combines tracking schedule, homework, and grades with a delightful user experience. Syncs data with iOS and Mac OS versions of the app. Also support Windows 7 - 8.1.
An award-winning digital handwriting app that combines the natural experience of pen and paper with the power of Evernote's sync and search features. Penultimate is simple and intuitive, make handwritten notes searchable, and is constantly updated.
SoundNote tracks what you type and draw while recording audio. While playing back your recording, just tap a word; SoundNote will jump right to that point in the audio. When you're done, share your text, drawings, and audio notes via e-mail, or transfer them directly to your Mac or PC.