AT for Reading Everything at Work

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Sometimes the tech we need is already in our pocket.

Grid of four images of Zoom participants including an older adult woman, a smiling ND Assistive staff person (woman), a man smiling wearing earbuds, and a man holding up his mobile device to the webcam.

Certainly there are amazing gadgets out there breaking barriers for individuals with learning disabilities.  Oklahoma AbleTECH is currently highlighting a few on their homepage in recognition of Dyslexia Awareness Month. But here’s a story from ND Assistive that reminds us that sometimes the advice of an Assistive Technology (AT) Act Program is as valuable as the technology itself. Thank you to both programs for informing this post.

Last year, Jeannie Krull of ND Assistive had the opportunity to work with a man with a reading disability to find technology to  support him in his workplace. His vocational rehabilitation counselor had referred him for training on the KNFB Reader app ($99.99).

KNFB Reader is pretty amazing. Take a picture of a document and it converts any text to speech or braille instantly and accurately. This client, however, does not use braille, and during their Zoom session (thank you COVID-19), it became clear the app does not read text on objects, an essential need within his place of work.

So, the following week, ND Assistive staff guided the man and his mother through how to turn on his existing Android phone’s free, built-in TalkBack features. Now he could read messages aloud from his workplace as well as other text.

Next, staff demonstrated the Claro ScanPen app for Android. This free app takes pictures of text, reads it aloud, and works well on objects. It can even read some handwriting.

By the end of the Zoom session, the man was walking around his apartment scanning text on objects and hearing it read aloud accurately.

Afterward, ND Assistive heard from his mother: “Now he can read text messages and everything on his phone, his TV screen, store flyers, coupons, you name it. The advice we had had in the past was ‘Go buy an iPhone.’ We owe so much thanks to you. It was a phenomenal lesson.”

More technology for reading (highlighted by Oklahoma AbleTECH):

  • The Voice Dream Reader app (iOS only, $9.99) is a versatile reading tool that lets you listen to any document and ebook using text-to-speech. Featuring a dyslexia-friendly font, text and audio synchronization, customizable font size and color combinations, as well as full VoiceOver support – this app is useful for all, including individuals with different disabilities. Voice Dream Reader supports many file formats including DAISY 3.0 text-only, DAISY 2.02 audio, DRM-free EPUB, PDF, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, HTML, and zipped MP3 files. Voice Dream Reader is integrated with Bookshare and Gutenberg and it can load files from Dropbox, Google Drive or iTunes via USB or Wi-Fi.
A hand holds a pen-like device above an open book.
  • OrCam Read ($1,990.00) is the first-ever lightweight, handheld device with a smart camera that seamlessly reads text aloud from any printed surface or digital screen. The OrCam Read enables individuals with vision impairments to enjoy the morning paper, read any book, and even read all that appears on the computer or smartphone screen. This device also has “Full Page Capture”: Unlike all other devices where you must scan line-by-line, OrCam Read captures full pages and screens at once. It has Bluetooth-enabled connectivity for use with headphones or speakers. It is easy to use with just a point and click and does not require internet.

More AT Resources for Reading

Reading Assistive Technology – the What, When, Who and Why (from the AT3 Center)

Assistive Technology for Reading (from Understood.org)

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