Main content for "AT Tools & Devices"

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Focusing on Abilities

Assistive technologies (AT) should focus on the physical, sensory, or learning abilities to be maintained, enhanced, or increased by an individual. AT is designed to empower a lifetime of learning by adapting to the learning styles, media formats, and languages that are needed for an individual to be successful and independent. These enhancements are accessed through various modalities depending on the user’s abilities.

Assistive Technologies
Learning Assistance Language and Media Formats Accessibility
Mode Enhancements
  • Search
  • Sort/Filter
  • Recognize
  • Comprehend
  • Analyze
  • Organize
  • Express
  • Speech
  • Written/Text
  • Pictorial
  • Symbolic/Math
  • Audio-Visual
  • Hyper-Media
  • Virtual Reality

Virginia Tech does not endorse products listed in this brochure, but provides this information as examples. Prices are only estimates of retail prices available during Feburary 2017 from vendor websites.

Equal Opportunity

Virginia Tech’s Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Statement is available online.

Type of Assistive Technology


Screen Magnification

Magnification software provides options for enlarging the contents of a computer screen, plus other enhancements for improving viewing and reducing eyestrain.

These include:

  • The ability to magnify the full screen, parts of the screen, or just an area around the cursor or an insertion point.
  • Color and contrast filtering, custom color schemes, and inverting colors.
  • Enlarging information on a screen in increments, while smoothing the text.
  • Text masking, scrolling, and a variety of tracking, and navigational options.
Video Magnifiers

Video magnifiers, whether desktop or portable devices, are used for enlarging printed materials, handwritten text, and many other items such as checks, currency, and labels on boxes and medications.

  • Video magnifiers may have auto focusing, computer interfaces, color and contrast filtering, and the ability to use grey scale or inverted colors.
  • Some have masking, line marking, or split screen viewing.
  • Portable battery-operated devices may be handheld, worn like eyeglasses, head-mounted, or use a small sized 4 to 12 inch LCD screen.
  • Some magnifiers can also enlarge objects at a distance, such as writing on a chalk or dry-erase board.


Screen Reading

Screen reading programs use synthetic speech to communicate information about the contents of a computer screen to people with low-vision or blindness.

  • Screen readers can communicate information, such as the status of windows, menus, images, hyper-links, and text, as they are displayed.
  • Used with a keyboard, screen reading programs replace the functionality of a computer mouse by synthetic speech and/or refreshable Braille to assist with navigating/controlling the computer and applications.
Scan and Read: Low-Vision Products

Scan and read – low-vision products use optical character recognition (OCR), scan-printed media or image-based text, converting them into electronic text for synthetic speech and/or Braille.

  • Although auto highlighting, masking of words, lines, and paragraphs may benefit some users with low-vision, usually these products automate the scanning and reading processes to eliminate the need for user intervention beyond placing printed text on an OCR scanner. Certain scan and read programs can speak instructions or status of processing to the user, magnify text, and/or convert text to Braille.
  • Low-vision products may also support custom settings, including: font, color, size, style, and character spacing; background, highlighting, and masking colors; and scanned image magnification.
  • Advanced OCR for mathematics and scientific notation may be able to make some content readable by synthetic speech or Braille.
Scan and Read: Text-To-Speech & eBook Readers

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software is often bundled with scanners or purchased separately to convert print materials into electronic text for assisted reading. Digital books (eBooks) can also be in variety of computer file formats, such as .txt, html, mp3, ePub, XML and DTB. Although eBooks are more widely available for K-12 textbooks, colleges still scan many textbooks. Features are:

  • Free or commercial OCR software that can scan and read print materials and electronic files using a variety of male and female voicing models.
  • An eBook reader that will auto-highlight text being read and/or play audio books from electronic media or web content downloaded from the Internet.
  • Advanced reading software or portable devices able to read a digital talking book (DTB). DTB’s retain the structural integrity of a textbook, often include a dramatic or synthetic voice reading the book, and may be able to read mathematics, scientific notation, and/or Braille. A DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) formatted book is a common example of a DTB.
  • Electronic eBook readers and newer computing devices are becoming popular. These include handheld DAISY readers, touch screen computing devices, and smart cellular phones using a variety of digital content.


Voice Recognition

Voice/Speech recognition technology may be used for dictating text or controlling the computer environment. Most dictation software is speaker dependent, requiring the user to train the application to recognize his or her voice. A few issues for using voice recognition as a writing tool are a consistent voice, memory skills for voice recognition commands, and the literacy skills to create a composition by dictation. Desirable features include:

  • Easy to use and easy to train recognition (speaker independent).
  • Computer command and control capabilities, as well as dictation.
  • Ability to learn writing style and improve recognition.
  • A microphone qualified to improve speech recognition.
  • Speaker independent voice recognition, if possible.
Alternative Communications

Alternative Communications include a variety of technologies to enable individual communication or expression (Tell) and to acknowledge receipt of information.

  • Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) is live “captioning” for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. CART can be used in non-broadcast settings, such as classrooms using computers (with C-Print) for note taking, or in other settings using a variety of Internet or phone communications.
  • American Sign Language (ASL) has reached classroom computers and the Internet through digitally recorded ASL using signing avatars (animations) in lieu of captioning for students who are deaf and prefer ASL. Currently, ASL recordings are mostly used when real-time classroom translations are not required.
  • A computer with a refreshable Braille interface may be used for note taking purposes in class and for reading materials. Tactile graphics and Nemeth Braille Code are also alternatives for mathematics and scientific notation.
  • Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCA) are synthetic or digital speech devices that may use abstract graphical symbols, text and symbols, or text-only to output speech. VOCA typically are used as alternative speech output devices or Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).


Alternative Input Devices

Alternative input devices may enable users with certain disabilities to use a computer, cellular phone, or other apparatus at a level of comfort not available using standard input interfaces. The variety of alternative input devices available includes:

  • Interactive whiteboards and smartboards, graphical tablets, touch screen interfaces, and other interfaces using gestures or predictive capabilities.
  • Ergonomic and adaptive keyboards, trackballs, trackpads, and head/motion sensing interfaces exist for users with physical or fine motor difficulties.


Assisted Reading, Writing, and Learning Products

Assisted reading, writing, and learning products are often based on scan and read products and include features, such as OCR scanning, magnification, and text-to-speech literacy tools. These products contain many features to aid in improving comprehension for learning and analyzing information needed for writing. The features include:

  • Auto highlighting and/or masking of spoken words, lines, or paragraphs to improve focus and comprehension when reading.
  • Built-in talking dictionary and thesaurus, talking spell-checker, and word prediction capabilities to assist with reading and writing.
  • Ability to electronically identify important information with colored highlighters, bookmarks, or voice notes and then to extract this information into lists for studying and organizational outlines for writing.
  • Ability to assist reading text in web based study materials on the Internet or in standalone html, Word, and PDF formatted documents.
  • A wide variety of learning products that include web-based instruction and tutorials, learning content management systems, and educational e-books, etc. – some supported by the college or university and others directly purchased by the student.
Note Taking Aids, Organizers, and Calendars

Note taking aids include: a variety of notebook and tablet applications, note taking aids that range from expensive smart boards in the classroom to lightweight pen-based audio recorders, and a range of other portable alternatives. In addition, organizers, outliners, and calendar software can aid in getting college assignments researched, written, and completed when due. Features include:

Note Taking Aids
  • Computer software that synchronizes built-in microphones or external digital recorders to hand-written or typed notes for recorded lectures.
  • Electronic smart boards used for presenting and capturing audio/video from lectures for streaming to the Internet so that students can replay important parts of a lecture for reinforcement while studying.
  • Wireless/Bluetooth capabilities that permit notes to be taken directly from electronic smart boards, classroom computers, or other teaching devices.
  • Handwriting recognition and text-to-speech modules for reading notes.
Organizers and Calendars
  • Tools that organize ideas, written outlines, and/or concepts visually.
  • Calendars that automatically provide cues with text, sound, or pictures to start and stop activities, monitor performance, and maintain a schedule.
Operating Systems Accessibility Features

Windows (XP, Vista, 7) and Macintosh (OS X, iOS) have many integrated accessibility features. End-users should explore these accessibility features before considering more expensive alternatives. The built-in accessibility features may be useful and sufficient for many end-users. Here is an abbreviated table of accessibility features built into Macintosh and Windows operating systems:

OS Accessibility Features
Where to find in Operating System
Access Technology Macintosh OS X Windows
Magnification Universal Access > Zoom Ease of Access > Magnifier
High Contrast Universal Access > Zoom Ease of Access > Magnifier
Text-to-Speech Speech > Text-to-Speech Ease of Access > Narrator
Screen Reading Universal Access > VoiceOver Ease of Access > Narrator
Voice Recognition Speech > Speech Recognition Ease of Access > Speech Recognition
On-Screen Keyboard … > Keyboard & Character Viewer Ease of Access > On-Screen Keyboard
Handwriting Recognition Inkwell (or Ink)* Touch*

* Only available on supported hardware, specific desktop tools, and/or applications.

Mobile Devices

Mobile devices, such as smart phones or similar small products, combine many assistive technology features. Through a variety of interfaces, users can access e-mail, music, documents, schedules, and a variety of technologies. Each platform uses a library or store of applications that can be downloaded. These include, but are not limited to, magnification, text-to-speech, voice recognition, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), navigation, literacy tools, and note taking software.

Product List by Type

For vendor information see the Vendor Contact Information following the product list. Reference numbers are given to the left of the product name. Prices are retail estimates from web sites as of September 2016 and reflect the base product price, not including accessories, options or volume/educational discounts. An asterisk beside an item means it is currently not supported by Virginia Tech, but possibly another vendor product to be considered. Virginia Tech does not endorse products listed in this brochure, but provides this information as examples. Contact the manufacturer/retailer for more information on any of these products

Screen Magnification

Screen Magnification
Vendor Product Platform Price
17 MAGic* Windows $400
35, 7 Magnifier | Zoom Win | Mac Included in OS
13 SuperNova (also on USB*) Windows $595 ($690)
13 SuperNova Magnifier* (also on USB*) Windows $395
6 ZoomText Magnifier (with speech) Windows $400 ($600)

Video Magnifiers

Video Magnifiers
Vendor Product Platform Price
22 Explore Handheld Magnifier $250-$1,1000
15 Merlin VGA Plus* (autofocus, computer compatible) VGA $1,695
17 TOPAZ, 17′-24′ (Auto-focus, computer compatible) VGA $2,095-$2,595
2 Zoom-Ex (Portable, scanner/reader, w/ magnification) Win | Mac $2,395

Screen Reading Products

Screen Reading Products
Vendor Product Platform Price
28 iZoom Computer Magnifier/Reader* (also on USB) Windows $299 ($399)
17 JAWS Windows $900 ($1,100)
40 NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) Windows Free
7 VoiceOver (OS X, iPod, iPhone, iPad) OS X | iOS Included in OS
20 Window-Eyes* (Free with Microsoft Office) Windows $895
11 WinZoom Screen Magnifier/Reader* (also on USB*) Windows $299 ($399)

Scan and Read

Scan and Read
Vendor Product Platform Price
1 ABBYY FineReader* Windows $200 – $600
2 Eye-Pal* Win | Mac $2,195 – $2,995
30 Kurzweil 1000 Windows $995
30 Kurzweil 3000 Win | Mac $1,395 | $1,395
38 Natural Reader 10.0 Win Free, Personal, Pro Ultimate Win | Mac Free, $70, $130, $200
39 OmniPage 18* Standard, Ultimate Windows $150, $500
17 OpenBook Windows $1000
51 Read & Write* Win | Mac $145
27 Readiris Pro 12* Win | Mac $999
42 Scan and Read Pro Windows $100
17 WYNN Wizard Windows $595
2 Zoom-Ex Win | Mac $2,395

Text-to-Speech & eBook Readers

Text-to-Speech & eBook Readers
Vendor Product Platform Price
5 Adobe Reader Win | Mac Free
39 Dragon Dictate Mac OS X $300
39 Dragon Naturally Speaking Home, Premium, Professional Windows $75, $175, $300
13 Easy Reader Windows $55
38 Natural Reader 10.0 Win Free, Personal, Pro Win | Mac Free, $70, $130, $200
18 ReadHear* Win | Mac $150 | $120
7 Speak It! (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad) iOS $2
43 WordQ Win | Mac $199
14 Write:Outloud Win | Mac $84
6 ZoomText Magnifier/Reader Windows $600

Speech Recognition

Speech Recognition
Vendor Product Platform Price
39 Dragon Dictate OS X $300
39 Dragon Dictation iOS Free
39 Dragon Naturally Speaking Home, Premium, Professional Windows $75, $175, $300
49 J-Say Professional* Windows $684
43 SpeakQ (with WordQ) Windows $279
35 Windows Speech Recognition Windows Included in OS

Alternative Communications and Alternative Input Devices

Alternative Communications and Alternative Input Devices
Vendor Product Platform Price
19 BigKeys keyboards $179
12 Datadesk ergonomic keyboards Win | Mac $100
33 e-Beam Edge Win | Mac $799 – $1,095
31 Echo Pen $100, $150, $200
23 Infogrip Ergonomic Mice/Trackballs Win | Mac $50-$150
36 MimioTeach Interactive System Win | Mac $1,088
9 Planning and Execution Assistant and Trainer (PEAT) $300
47 SmartBoard 6000 Series Win | Mac $1,000
37 SmartNav 4:AT Windows $499
34 Tracker Pro Win | Mac $995

Assisted Reading, Writing and Learning

Assisted Reading, Writing and Learning
Vendor Product Platform Price
14 Co:Writer* Windows $5/mo
30 Kurzweil 3000 Win | Mac $1,395
51 Read & Write* Win | Mac $145
43 Word Q Win | Mac $199
17 WYNN Wizard Windows $595

Note Taking Aids

Note Taking Aids
Vendor Product Platform Price
22 BrailleNote APEX BT 32 $2,995
16 Evernote Win | Mac | iOS Free, 33/yr, $70/yr
24 Inspiration Win | Mac | iOS $40
35 Microsoft OneNote Windows Free
7 Notability iOS $10
48 Sonocent Audio Notetaker Win | Mac $250 or $8/mo

Operating System Access

Operating System Access
Vendor Product Platform Price
35 Ease of Access Windows Included in OS
7 Accessibility Options Mac OS X Included in OS

Mobile Devices

Mobile Devices
Vendor Product Platform Price
10 Blackberry Playbook – 16 to 64 GB QNX $499 – $699
21 HTC Android $650
7 iPad – 32 GB to 128 GB iOS $399-629
7 iPad Pro – 32 GB to 256GB iOS $599 – $1,129
7 iPod Touch* – 16GB to 128 GB iOS $199 – $399
45 Samsung Galaxy Tab* – 7″/10.1″ Android $350 – $500

Vendor Contact Information

Below is a table listing AT manufacturer/retailer contact information. Not all vendors listed are referenced by a product in this brochure.

Ref. Vendor Info
880 North McCarthy Boulevard, Suite 220
Milpitas, CA 95035
2 ABiSee
20 Main Street, Suite G2
Acton, Massachusetts 01720
3 AbleLink Technologies, Inc.
618 North Nevada Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO. 80903
4 AbleNet
2808 Fairview Avenue North
Roseville, MN 55113
5 Adobe Systems Inc.
345 Park Avenue
San Jose, CA
6 Ai Squared
P.O. Box 669
Manchester Center, VT 05255
7 Apple, Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
9 Attention Control Systems
650 Castro Street, Suite 120, PMB 197
Mountain View, CA, 94041
10 BlackBerry Corporation
6700 Koll Center Parkway, #200
Pleasanton, CA 94566
11 Clarity
6776B Preston Avenue
Livermore, CA 94551
12 Datadesk Technologies
P.O. Box 4627
Rolling Bay, WA 98061
13 Dolphin Computer Access, Inc.
231 Clarksville Road, Suite 3
Princeton Junction, NJ 08550
14 Don Johnston, Inc.
26799 West Commerce Drive
Volo, IL 60073
15 Enhanced Vision Systems
5882 Machine Drive
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
16 Evernote Corporation
333 West Evelyn Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94041
17 Freedom Scientific
11800 31st Court North
Saint Petersburg, FL 33716-1805
18 gh, LLC
700 Farabee Court
Lafayette, IN 47905
19 Greystone Digital Inc.
P.O. Box 1888
Huntersville, NC 28078
20 GW Micro
308 Occidental Avenue South, Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98104
21 HTC America, Inc.
13920 Southeast Eastgate Way, Suite 400
Bellevue, WA 98005
22 HumanWare
1 UPS Way, P.O. Box 800
Champlain, NY 12919
23 Infogrip Inc.
1794 East Main Street
Ventura, CA 93001
24 Inspiration Software, Inc.
6443 Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway
Beaverton, OR 97221
25 Intel CorporationCare Innovations (Intel/GE)
2200 Mission College Boulevard
Santa Clara, CA 95054-1549
26 Intellitools/Envision Technology
4948 Saint Elmo Avenue, Suite 303
Bethesda, MD
27 I.R.I.S. Inc.
955 Northwest 17th Avenue, Unit A
Delray Beach, FL 33445
28 Issist
18 Grist Mill Drive
Georgetown, ON, L7G 6C2, Canada
29 Kensington
500 Fashion Island Boulevard
San Mateo, CA 94404
30 Kurzweil Educational/Envision Technology
4948 St. Elmo Avenue, Suite 303
Bethesda, MD
31 Livescribe, Inc
1 Twin Dolphin Drive
Redwood City, CA 94065
32 Logitech Corporation
7700 Gateway Boulevard
Newark, CA 94560
33 Luidia, Inc.
7700 Gateway Blvd.
Newark, CA 94560
34 Madentec/Boundless AT
7490 Southwest Bridgeport Road
Portland, OR 97224
35 Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399
36 Mimio/Boxlight
151 State Highway 300, Suite A
Belfair, WA 98528
37 NaturalPoint
P.O. Box 2317
Corvallis, OR 97339
38 NaturalSoft Ltd.
#7, 6300 Birch Street
Richmond, BC, V6Y 4K3 Canada
Fax only: 1-604-270-9720
39 Nuance
1 Wayside Road
Burlington, MA 01803
40 NVAccess
8 Davison Road
Camp Mountain, Qld 4520, Australia
+61 7 5667 8372
41 Planon System Solutions
15-5155 Spectrum Way
Mississauga, ON, L4W 5A1 Canada
1-905-507 3926
42 Premier Literacy
1309 North William St.
Joliet, IL 60435
43 Quillsoft, Ltd./ST4 Learning
P.O. Box 646
Morrison, CO 80465
44 ReadPlease
45 Samsung
46 SolidTek USA Inc.
5 Joanna Court, Suite #D
East Brunswick, NJ 08816
47 Smart Technologies Corp.
1655 North Fort Myer Drive, Suite 1120
Arlington, VA 22209
48 Sonocent LLC
4500 140th Ave North, Suite 101
Clearwater, FL 33762
49 Hartgen Consultancy
31 Castle Mews,
Caerphilly, Mid Glamorgan, CF83 1PY, United Kingdom
+44 (0) 1782 644141
50 Telesensory Services
520 Almanor Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94085-3533
51 TextHelp Systems, Inc.
600 Unicorn Park Drive
Woburn, MA 01801