Free Assistive Tech for Reading
Article by: Monster Phonics
With the use of iPads, teachers and parents soon discovered that many dyslexic learners found print more readable when it was enlarged on an iPad screen. This was likely to be linked to a reduction in tracking issues, with ability to focus on a few words at a time rather than a whole page. Print accessibility includes font styles, line spaces, colour, background colour as well as font size. Here is link showing how to improving print accessibility for dyslexia.
The following are all apps that I use and are free to download. I hope that you and your children enjoy them!
Newsela has up-to-date news articles presented in 5 different reading levels to allow children to access current affairs. Assessments are included with the articles to help readers engage with the content. As pupils read and take quizzes, the Newsela app adjusts the reading level to keep articles challenging. And pupils can keep track of their improvement over time automatically.
BeeLine Reader makes reading faster and easier by using a colour gradient that guides your eyes from the end of one line to the beginning of the next.
Beeline can be used online to read websites, books, email, and PDFs. It works on several different platforms. Students can sign up for the free BeeLine Student Pass
Spreeder is a app which helps people read faster by presenting words only one at time, thereby removing clutter and tracking issues. Cut and paste content to be able to read it one word at a time – it really works!
eBooks and Audiobooks
This is a library app which will give your children access to beautifully presented ebooks as well as a wide range of current audiobooks. Children can borrow and return as they wish, greatly increasing a child’s ability to discover their hook-books and get pulled into read. It is completely free. Users only need to be a member of a local library. However, not every library has subscribed to this services and so unfortunately it is not available yet for everyone. Follow this link to find out if you library has Overdrive
Similar to Overdrive, if BorrowBox is available through your local library you can simply login with your member details to access the library’s collection of eBooks and eAudiobooks. You can renew or return eBook and audiobook loans whenever you want and importantly for parents there is automatic deletion of expired loans and so no overdue fees!
Finding that enlarged print opened up accessibility for my pupils I wrote to the RNIB to ask if I could use their Enlarged Book services. Unfortunately at this point, unless a child had a visual impairment, the answer was sadly no. The RNIB has since opened up a free online ebook service for print-disabled learners including those with dyslexia or who are blind or partially sighted. RNIB BookShare opens up the world of reading for learners with print disabilities, giving dyslexic and visually impaired leaners the opportunity to read the same books, at the same time as their peers, giving them the same educational opportunities.
Here are some of their features:
Read directly from your Internet browser – change the font and background colour for accessibility
Download the pdf into iBooks to read offline.
Listen to books with high quality text-to-speech voices
Hear and see highlighted words on screen
Read with digital braille or enlarged fonts
Create physical braille or large print
The range of books is quite something, covering many of the textbooks that your child will be using in school – particularly in secondary school. Enlarging the book on your iPad screen will allow your child to focus on essential information and remove distracting visual clutter.
It is also possible to open downloaded eBooks (pdfs) into an annotate apps such as iAnnotate (9.99) that your child can make notes, even complete maths books, comprehensions, spelling schemes.
To get access to this wonderful free service you must go through your school. Your SENCO will be able to set up a username and password for your child, who can then login and start browsing and downloading. This is a wonderful resources, so please ask at your child’s school to start using it.
It is possible to download audiobooks on BookShare too, however, this must be done on a PC and sent to other devices. I have found it easier to open the eBook version in an eBook reader app called Read2Go.
This app isn’t inexpensive at £20, but it does allow clear text-to speech of eBooks, super clear dyslexic-friendly formatting and highlights text as it is read.
BookShare.org is an US initiative which gives free access for all US students and low-cost for the rest of the American population. BookShare in the UK and in the US do not have the same access or content so it’s good to be aware that they are different. Read2Go in the US is linked directly to BookShare in the US. Here, we have to click download a book within the BookShare website and click to open in the Read2Go app.