Supporting Reading with Assistive Technology
How to Access Digital Content/Online Libraries
Assistive reading technology solutions are available to support students to engage in the reading experience. These solutions allow students to access eBooks and audio books with more independence. This resource has been compiled to assist teachers and families in determining appropriate assistive technology solutions.
How do Assistive Reading Technologies help?
Specialised applications and built-in accessibility features on computers and mobile devices have text to speech engines that read out the text on the screen to the student. Many of these highlight the individual words as they are read. This allows students to visually track the words being read out aloud. By using assistive technologies to support reading, students are able to tackle more varied and challenging texts independently. Research (NEIRTEC 200; Hecker, L. Urquhart Engstrom, E. 2004) shows that employing Assistive Reading Technologies supports students to attend better to their reading with reduced distractibility, read with less stress and fatigue, read for longer periods of time, complete reading in less time and better comprehend text.
What Assistive Reading Technologies are readily available to read digital content?
Device Accessibility Settings
Computers (Windows, MacOS, ChromeOS) and mobile devices (iOS, Android or eBook Reader) have built-in accessibility features to support the e-reading experience. This includes text to speech functionality for reading support. These settings can be personalised to read text displayed on the screen.
Online Library Reading Apps
There are numerous reading apps available to read eBooks but it is recommended that you first access the online libraries listed below to identify reading apps that align with their borrowing services.
Public libraries across South Australia offer a large collection of downloadable eBooks and Audiobooks. These can be downloaded to a compatible smart phone, tablet or computer. The eBooks are read with the reading apps Libby or Overdrive. As well as by age, digital book collections are categorised by school year levels for the Premier’s Reading Challenge.
Vision Australia Information Library Service (VAILS) provides reading material in braille and audio for people with a print disability anywhere in Australia.
Bookshare is the world’s largest online library for individuals with print disabilities. Bookshare Australia is in partnership with Vision Australia for Australian subscribers.
Epic Digital Library
Epic is a digital library with access to 40,000 eBooks, learning videos, audio books, and quizzes covering broad range of genres for primary aged students. The topic-linked content is interactive and engaging and subscription is open to educators and families.
Vooks is an online collection of animated storybooks for early years children and primary school students. Book titles can be downloaded on your favourite device or streamed over the internet. Subscription is open to educators and families.
Project Gutenberg Library
Simple text format books can be read with several eReading apps including Voice Dream Reader. Content can be imported from various sources including a direct link for Bookshare subscribers.
Reading support with the hard copy books
Mobile devices can be used to provide reading support when interacting with a hard copy book. This is achieved by utilizing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. OCR technology analyzes a photograph of text and converts it into digital text that can then be read out aloud. This means that a student could be holding and reading a book, use a mobile device to take a photo of a block of text, and instantly hear that text being read back to them. There are many OCR apps available but listed below are some options for consideration.
- Voice Dream Scanner takes photos of text and converts them into eBooks which can be imported into Voice Dream Reader.
- OneStep Reader (formerly knfb Reader) is a highly advanced OCR app able to accurately handle a wide variety of document styles and formats. Available for iOS, Android and Windows computers.
- Microsoft Seeing AI instantly speaks text that appears on the screen via the mobile device’s camera.
- Microsoft Lens converts images of text into pdf and Word documents. It includes a text to speech function to read back the text within Microsoft Office. Available for iOS and Android mobile devices.
The suggested apps can be evaluated with trial iPads that are available to borrow at the Special Education Resource Unit (SERU). For more information contact the Inclusive Technology Service at SERU on 8235 2871.