Assistive technology allows people with dyslexia to overcome many of the issues associated with dyslexia and allows them to use their time for academic endeavors in which they are gifted. There are many brilliant people with dyslexia. According to James Wendorf, executive director of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, two million students in public schools in the U.S. have dyslexia. Dyslexia is a genetic, life-long learning disability characterized by difficulty in reading and comprehension due to the brain’s inability to process graphic symbols. People with dyslexia have difficulty reading, writing, spelling and sometimes experience difficulties with the ability to talk. Assistive technology opens doors for people with dyslexia that were unimaginable in past years.
Assistive technology is technology that allows individuals with disabilities to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult. Assistive technology, first published under the Disabilities Act of 1988, allows nearly all people with disabilities to access information technology (IT).
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) offers a free program for students with all disabilities including dyslexia called Bookshare. Bookshare has over 90,000 digital books, textbooks, periodicals, and assistive technology tools. The program offers two free computer applications. Membership is free with proof of disability.
Natural Reader 10 is a text to speech software program which is easy to use. It converts any written text such as MS Word, PDF files, Webpage, and emails into spoken words with natural sounding voices. It can also convert written text into audio files for a CD player or iPod. There is a free downloadable version and expanded versions can be purchased starting at $49.95.
Audible.com offers audio books, magazines, radio shows, podcasts, and speeches. It claims to have the best narrators interpreting books by best-selling authors. There is a free two week trial. Monthly membership plans begin at $7.49.
Dragon Dictation is a voice application program that allows people with dyslexia to speak and instantly see text or email. It works with Apple iPad and iPhone. It is also available as Dragon Email for Blackberry and FlexT9 for Android. Dragon Search allows searching online content through voice recognition.
ZenTap is a word prediction system that completes words by typing the first few letters. It features auto completion, spell check, and a wider typing screen. This is a free program with an advanced professional version available for $2.99.
The Livescribe smartpen facilitates note-taking in the classroom. It records everything written by the student and spoken classroom discussions allowing the dyslexic student to spend more time listening. The pen takes pictures of what the student writes. By tapping on written notes, the notes can be transferred to a computer with the use of the software that accompanies the smartpen. Notes can be added at anytime which will appear in a different colored ink.
The Neo2 word processor is considered a powerful tool for writing for those who have extreme difficulty with spelling and reading. It predicts words after typing a few letters with a text-to-speech device that reads the list of predicted words. It then reads the student’s writing back to them.
With the rapid advances in technology, there will be more assistive technology for people with dyslexia who were once doomed in education and careers. Assistance technology has unlocked the doors for people with dyslexia.