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Supporting people with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia since 1969

Archive for the ‘Free assistive technologies’ Category

For information about how to best use these technologies with students and adults with specific learning difficulties please contact SPELD SA on 8431 1655

By SPELD SA Software Advisors and Lecturers Sandy Russo, Jan Polkinghorne & Frances Scobie

Ginger proofreading software

Posted by speldsa on November 26, 2012

Ginger is free software that will help you pick up spelling errors and grammatical mistakes in many applications including MS Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and more and it has text-to-speech features. You need to be connected to the internet for it to work. Definitely worth giving the product a try. Download from their website http://www.gingersoftware.com/grammar-and-spell-checker-2/?affId=1382&net=ho

An example of free Ginger in action.


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Free Natural Reader Version 11

Posted by speldsa on August 28, 2012

For those who love Free Natural Reader, you will love this newer version. The floating tool bar now grabs the text that is highlighted in an email, on a web page, from any document and it highlights each word as it is spoken. Don’t forget to slow it down, all text to speech needs to be slowed so that it can be understood easily. Don’t forget all students in you class can benefit from text to speech technology so teach everyone. This program works well on both PC and Mac, there is a different version for each platform. http://www.naturalreaders.com/download.php

Enjoy, Sandy

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Free 7 Sticky Notes

Posted by speldsa on June 3, 2012

For those that find sticky notes are a great way to help students plan, stay on task, remember things and more, then the “7 Sticky Notes” may come in useful. The program can be installed on a computer desktop or a USB stick so that it can be mobile. With an alarm,  a choice of background colours, font colours, fonts,  highlighting and a Notes Manager http://www.7stickynotes.com/screenshots.php the program offers much more than the sticky notes that come with your computer. You can download the program for free from http://www.7stickynotes.com/download.php

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Wordweb English thesaurus and dictionary

Posted by speldsa on April 20, 2011

When students with learning difficulties start using text to speech programs they are often confronted with a lot of words they normally would have skipped over in their normal reading activities.

I usually encourage students to use their text to speech program to read and explore the meaning of any unknown words with a digital dictionary. Wordweb is a very good program that is available in a free version.

Wordweb a free Dictionary and Thesaurus

Features of the free version include:

  Definitions and synonyms
Related words
5000 audio pronunciations
65 000 text pronunciations
150 000 root words
120 000 synonym sets
Look up words in almost any program


Students who tend to use safe words in their writing can also highlight any repeated words and use the thesaurus feature to make their writing more interesting.

The program starts in your computer’s start up process which makes it available at any time, and can be used in almost any program.

Wordweb is available for download from the following link  http://wordweb.info/free/

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Fx Toolbar

Posted by speldsa on November 2, 2010

The Fx Toolbar was created by the same software developer (FX Software) that has tools such as the Vu Bar (some of my clients are finding extremely useful), which are included in the Mystudybar ( previous post below).  There is a new website for this product http://www.fx-software.co.uk/assistive.htm Its worth looking at some of the other free assistive technology apps that are there e.g. you can download a standalone version of the Vu-Bar screen ruler that is included in the MyStudyBar Toolbar.

This tool was created to work in an add on tab in MS Word 2007 and is definelty worth a trial with your students. The Fx toolbar gives you options to highlight and collect parts of the text from one MS Word document into a new document, it will speak highlighted text, identify confusables(honomyns), change the case of the selected text and identify if your sentences are overly long. A must for anyone studying if they are using Word 2007. Give it a go and let us know if you like it. Please explicitly teach all students, not just those with learning difficulties how to use the toolbar.

Below is an example of the Fx Toolbar idenftifying confusables (in red) and long sentences (in blue) from a section of my daughter’s year 12 essay for art.

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Visual Search Engines

Posted by speldsa on October 5, 2010

Visual search engines can enable students, both learning disabled or not, to quickly  judge if a web site will have information that is useful for their project. A visual search engine allows one to get past misleading meta data, or meta tags that are used to describe the keywords and content of webpages for search engines.

A visual search engine also makes it easy for teachers who are trying to teach their students which websites are more likely to have the information they need.

The visual search engine content will be governed by the parent controls and filters you use in your home or school. For instance if your school blocks YouTube the students will not be able to see content from YouTube.

Below is a link to a visual search engine I regularly recommend in consultations.



SpaceTime3D a visual search engine

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Posted by speldsa on August 4, 2010

Both the Orato and Vu-Bar tools are available from http://www.fx-software.co.uk/assistive.htm

Orato: A straight forward text to speech application.  All text input is carried out through the clipboard.  Settings allow Orato to read either on demand or automatically when new text is added to the clipboard.  Other options will display the text if required, with highlighting of the word or sentence being spoken.  Orato can either be installed to the hard disk or copied onto a pen drive for portable use.

Vu-Bar Screen Ruler: A unique piece of software, provides an on-screen, slotted ruler. Useful with dyslexia, when the user skips lines or drops from one line to the next.  This version allows the user to select the bar width, 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% of screen width and set the slot height to the required font size. This version adds the option to lock the bar onto the mouse pointer for movement, as well as improved keyboard movement options.

X-Mind Map: A free mindmapping program that can be used to plan and organise your work, as a presentation tool, the limits are your imagination http://www.xmind.net/download/win/

Excerpt taken straight from the RSCs website where you can download this fantastic toolbar for free.


Please be aware there are different versions for XP uses and Vista/Windows 7 users

For specific advice as to which assistive technologies will suit your specific learning difficulties

please contact Sandy Russo at SPELD SA 8431 1655

“MyStudyBar is a tool which helps overcome problems that students commonly experience with studying, reading and writing. The tool consists of a set of portable open source and freeware applications, assembled into one convenient package. Easy to install, simple to use, handy and effective, MyStudyBar provides comprehensive learning support at the desktop, where it is needed. And if this is not already attractive enough, a further eye-catching feature of MyStudyBar is that it is completely FREE to download and free to use.

MyStudyBar has been produced by the same team at RSC Scotland North & East which created the award-winning AccessApps software suite. Although MyStudyBar is designed to support learners with literacy-related difficulties such as dyslexia, the toolbar can offer potential benefits to all learners.

Features of MyStudyBar

 MyStudyBar puts a whole range of individual and essential tools at your fingertips. Together, these have been designed to support the complete study cycle from research, planning and structuring to getting across a written or spoken message. MyStudyBar has 6 sections; each has a drop down menu offering personal choice, flexibility and independent learning, particularly for those learners who require additional strategies to support their learning. With over 15 apps to choose from, MyStudyBar is the perfect study aid.

The webpage provides step-by-step tutorials to get you started with the applications on MyStudyBar

Examples include: Xmind for planning and organization; T-Bar for customising font and colour backgrounds; Lingoes for when you need a talking dictionary; LetMeType for help with text input, and Balabolka for converting text to audio. And if all that’s not enough, there’s even a speech-to-text app which allows you to talk to your computer.

You can use MyStudyBar straight from a USB stick (if, for example, you are using a machine that is not your own) or you can install it directly to the desktop. (Technical staff in colleges or universities also have the choice of installing it on the network for everyone to use). “

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Posted by speldsa on August 4, 2010

Audacity is a sound recording/ mixing program that allows people to create sound files.  The created files are easily edited and can be used in many different applications on your computer, MP3 Player and online with Web 2 applications.  Audacity can be used for educational purposes and save you time in your classroom.

Many computers already have Audacity loaded their computer,  if not you can download it free for both Macintosh and PC computers by using the following link http://audacity.sourceforge.net/.

For training manuals on how to use Audacity can be sourced at the following link http://audacity.sourceforge.net/manual-1.2/

Watch the SPELD SA SPRING 2010 Newsletter for an article on how the program can be used for educational purposes and save you time in your classroom.

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Update MS Word Talk

Posted by speldsa on June 10, 2009

FREE assistive software update!

MS Word talk 2009

MS Word talk 2009

A new version of MS Word talk was released early 2009.

This version has many new features and some that have been redeveloped.

You only need to install the one file that can be downloaded from http://www.wordtalk.org.uk/Home/

If you have an earlier version of MS Word Talk, please uninstall it through control panel/add remove programs, along with the configuration file that will be in the same list, before loading the new program.

New features include:
• a talking spellchecker on right click of word
• speech feedback by clicking on a word
• turning text into a spoken wav or mp3 file
• echo words (the word is spoken once you press the spacebar)
• echo sentences (the sentence is spoken with highlighting when the fullstop is added)
• clicking on a correctly spelt word to get a list of synonyms
• replacing synonyms with a click

SPELD SA Software Advisory team recommends that all schools update to this new version.

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