Descriptions of Assistive Technologies at York

Knowing What is Right for You
So how do you choose? Do you need to? The first thing to consider is what academic tasks give you the most difficulty. Carefully review your academic strengths and weaknesses. You might also want to further research the software programs below to learn more about their capabilities, or speak with someone who is familiar not only with the programs but also with the your type of disability.  Often aspects of a disability - for example memory issues - can greatly affect how certain hardware or software work for you. Finally, prior to committing, see if you can practice on the hardware or software to see if it really will be helpful for you and your specific needs.

Technology Recommendations
Here are some recommended specifications that you will need to run the Assistive Technology software effectively.

  • 2GB RAM
  • 200 GB hard drive
  • 2.0 + GHz Processor
  • 15 inch screen (12-14 inch when required for portability)
  • Wireless Internet Capabilities
  • CD/DVD-RW Drive
  • 128 MB - 256MB video card (DirectX 9 capable)

Available Technologies

Inspiration - Brainstorming/Mind-Mapping/Organizational Software
This is a graphically based program that allows the user to easily create a pictorial representation of a mind map or brainstorming session. Colours and shapes can be used to organize ideas. If desired, these diagrams can be collapsed into a linear outline that uses headings and sub headings. This outline can be copied into MS Word. As a result, this program can facilitate the essay writing process.

This is a wonderful tool for visual learners. It is great for brainstorming prior to writing as well as for outlining an essay that has already been written to check for flow/connections. This program can also be used to create study notes for tests and for creating overheads for oral presentations. Templates can be created not only for different types of essays but for any task which follows a structure which is used repeatedly such as lab reports or for breaking down a task into smaller steps.

This program allows the user to scan reading materials, have them appear on the screen exactly in their original format, and have those materials read back to them. As Kurzweil reads, it will track the sentence and word it is reading. Not only the print but the actual document can be made larger or smaller for students that have visual difficulties or those who get distracted by seeing too much of the page. The user is also able to read/hear definitions or synonyms of selected words. In addition, this program is able to extract highlighted text or notes from the document. This text can be pasted into a word processing program for further manipulation and note construction. This is an amazing program that supports people with reading speed and comprehension issues. It can also be used to develop study skills related to reading and note making.

TextHelp Read & Write
This a floating program which works in conjunction with other programs such as MS Word. It reads text-based documents aloud for the user. Some of the other capabilities of this program include spell checking, word predication, and a thesaurus, which are specifically designed for people with learning disabilities. A user will be able to write a document and then hear it aloud to check for flow and mistakes. In addition, when spell checking the document, the user can hear the suggested corrections aloud. This is useful for students who cannot differentiate between the words in the list. This is a great program for increasing independence in editing.

Dragon Naturally Speaking
This is a program that transcribes the speech of the user with the help of a headset microphone. After an initial training that allows the program to learn the user's voice, it is able to perform all the functions of a normal word processing program through the use of auditory commands. For example, one can compose, edit and save documents all through voice commands without needing to touch the keyboard. It also allows the user to listen to what has been dictated to ensure accuracy.