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 userâs abilities.
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.
Virginia Tech’s Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Statement is available online.
Type of Assistive Technology
Magnification software provides options for enlarging the contents of a computer screen, plus other enhancements for improving viewing and reducing eyestrain.
- 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, 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 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 â 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/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 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. â 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:
|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, 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
|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)|
|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
|28||iZoom Computer Magnifier/Reader* (also on USB)||Windows||$299 ($399)|
|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
|1||ABBYY FineReader*||Windows||$200 – $600|
|2||Eye-Pal*||Win | Mac||$2,195 – $2,995|
|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|
|51||Read & Write*||Win | Mac||$145|
|27||Readiris Pro 12*||Win | Mac||$999|
|42||Scan and Read Pro||Windows||$100|
|2||Zoom-Ex||Win | Mac||$2,395|
Text-to-Speech & eBook Readers
|5||Adobe Reader||Win | Mac||Free|
|39||Dragon Dictate||Mac OS X||$300|
|39||Dragon Naturally Speaking Home, Premium, Professional||Windows||$75, $175, $300|
|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|
|39||Dragon Dictate||OS X||$300|
|39||Dragon Naturally Speaking Home, Premium, Professional||Windows||$75, $175, $300|
|43||SpeakQ (with WordQ)||Windows||$279|
|35||Windows Speech Recognition||Windows||Included in OS|
Alternative Communications and Alternative Input Devices
|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|
|34||Tracker Pro||Win | Mac||$995|
Assisted Reading, Writing and Learning
|30||Kurzweil 3000||Win | Mac||$1,395|
|51||Read & Write*||Win | Mac||$145|
|43||Word Q||Win | Mac||$199|
Note Taking Aids
|22||BrailleNote APEX BT 32||—||$2,995|
|16||Evernote||Win | Mac | iOS||Free, 33/yr, $70/yr|
|24||Inspiration||Win | Mac | iOS||$40|
|48||Sonocent Audio Notetaker||Win | Mac||$250 or $8/mo|
Operating System Access
|35||Ease of Access||Windows||Included in OS|
|7||Accessibility Options||Mac OS X||Included in OS|
|10||Blackberry Playbook – 16 to 64 GB||QNX||$499 – $699|
|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.
880 North McCarthy Boulevard, Suite 220
Milpitas, CA 95035
20 Main Street, Suite G2
Acton, Massachusetts 01720
AbleLink Technologies, Inc.
618 North Nevada Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO. 80903
2808 Fairview Avenue North
Roseville, MN 55113
Adobe Systems Inc.
345 Park Avenue
San Jose, CA
P.O. Box 669
Manchester Center, VT 05255
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Attention Control Systems
650 Castro Street, Suite 120, PMB 197
Mountain View, CA, 94041
6700 Koll Center Parkway, #200
Pleasanton, CA 94566
6776B Preston Avenue
Livermore, CA 94551
P.O. Box 4627
Rolling Bay, WA 98061
Dolphin Computer Access, Inc.
231 Clarksville Road, Suite 3
Princeton Junction, NJ 08550
Don Johnston, Inc.
26799 West Commerce Drive
Volo, IL 60073
Enhanced Vision Systems
5882 Machine Drive
Huntington Beach, CA 92649
333 West Evelyn Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94041
11800 31st Court North
Saint Petersburg, FL 33716-1805
700 Farabee Court
Lafayette, IN 47905
Greystone Digital Inc.
P.O. Box 1888
Huntersville, NC 28078
308 Occidental Avenue South, Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98104
HTC America, Inc.
13920 Southeast Eastgate Way, Suite 400
Bellevue, WA 98005
1 UPS Way, P.O. Box 800
Champlain, NY 12919
1794 East Main Street
Ventura, CA 93001
Inspiration Software, Inc.
6443 Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway
Beaverton, OR 97221
Intel Corporation – Care Innovations (Intel/GE)
2200 Mission College Boulevard
Santa Clara, CA 95054-1549
4948 Saint Elmo Avenue, Suite 303
955 Northwest 17th Avenue, Unit A
Delray Beach, FL 33445
18 Grist Mill Drive
Georgetown, ON, L7G 6C2, Canada
500 Fashion Island Boulevard
San Mateo, CA 94404
Kurzweil Educational/Envision Technology
4948 St. Elmo Avenue, Suite 303
1 Twin Dolphin Drive
Redwood City, CA 94065
7700 Gateway Boulevard
Newark, CA 94560
7700 Gateway Blvd.
Newark, CA 94560
7490 Southwest Bridgeport Road
Portland, OR 97224
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399
151 State Highway 300, Suite A
Belfair, WA 98528
P.O. Box 2317
Corvallis, OR 97339
#7, 6300 Birch Street
Richmond, BC, V6Y 4K3 Canada
|Fax only: 1-604-270-9720|
1 Wayside Road
Burlington, MA 01803
8 Davison Road
Camp Mountain, Qld 4520, Australia
+61 7 5667 8372
Planon System Solutions
15-5155 Spectrum Way
Mississauga, ON, L4W 5A1 Canada
1309 North William St.
Joliet, IL 60435
Quillsoft, Ltd./ST4 Learning
P.O. Box 646
Morrison, CO 80465
SolidTek USA Inc.
5 Joanna Court, Suite #D
East Brunswick, NJ 08816
Smart Technologies Corp.
1655 North Fort Myer Drive, Suite 1120
Arlington, VA 22209
4500 140th Ave North, Suite 101
Clearwater, FL 33762
31 Castle Mews,
Caerphilly, Mid Glamorgan, CF83 1PY, United Kingdom
+44 (0) 1782 644141
520 Almanor Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94085-3533
TextHelp Systems, Inc.
600 Unicorn Park Drive
Woburn, MA 01801