Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More Online Accessibility

Again, I am indebted to Ira David Socol. His article "The Unhappy Place: What Libraries Can Do to Welcome Kids Who Struggle with Print" in the May 2010 issue of School Library Journal has many ideas for making libraries and computers more accessible to students with learning difficulties. You can read his article online at

Microsoft Word can be customized for students who need help with spelling and grammar. In the Word program, click on help (or the little question mark in the top right hand side of the screen). Type"spell check" in the search box, and click search. Look for the following heading: "Choose how spelling and grammar checking work". Click on the link and follow the instructions. For help writing math equations, click on the insert tab, and then on equation (right next to symbol).

You can add the WordTalk plug-in to Word for free! WordTalk is software that will speak and highlight text as the student writes in Microsoft Word. It is customizable and has a talking dictionary. You can convert text to speech and then save it as a .wav or .mp3 file so you can replay it on your iPod or mp3 player. The web address is

Users of Windows Vista or Windows 7 can install free voice recognition software. Windows Speech Recognition enables users to dictate documents and emails and to use voice controls. The web address is:
Other Windows accessibility plug-ins, including onscreen keyboards and magnifiers, are available on the Windows accessibility page or

Here are some other free tools identified by Mr. Socol:

A Graphing Calculator, indispensable to anyone taking Algebra II, Trigonometry, or Calculus, available from GraphCalc (

A talking calculator is available from myZIPS (

(, free text-to-speech with natural sounding voices. Can read any text and convert it into audiofiles, and you have a choice of voices!

PowerTalk ( speaks the text on PowerPoint slides.

Click-N-Type Virtual Keyboard ( is an onscreen keyboard. Type using your mouse!

Here's one my kids like to use: Create A Graph ( Enter your data and make a pie, bar, or line graph.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More Accessibility: Free Audiobooks Available Online

To follow-up on my last entry about making the Internet more accessible to people with visual or reading difficulties, I thought I would highlight online sources of free audiobooks. Most of these are included on the libraries page of my website: The School and Home Library: The Online Library for Home Schoolers.

Free audiobooks from the public domain (public domain works are creative works that are not protected by copyright and may be freely used by anyone. In the U.S., this includes books published before 1923, works for which the copyright has expired, books for which the author failed to establish a copyright, and works by the U.S. government). You can receive books in thrice-weekly podcasts, download complete books from the catalog, or subscribe through iTunes.

Bookshare Free accessible books and periodicals for individuals with print impairments (loss of sight, visual impairment, physical disability, learning disability, developmental disability and ESL). Free reading software and Braille options. Others may join; however, registration and annual fees apply.

Project Gutenberg Over 32,000 free books to download to your computer, iPad, Kindle, Sony Reader, iPhone, or other portable device. Human-read and computer generated audiobooks. Sheet music. All materials are in the public domain.

Accessible Book Collection High interest, low-reading level digital texts (formatted for individuals with visual disabilities) for qualified people with disabilities. The html text can be used with text-to-speech software. Subscription required.

Internet Archive A free digital library of Internet sites (active and archived), downloadable software, movies, audio, live music, ebooks, and texts including children's books, fiction, historical texts, and academic books. Software is available to convert text-to-speech for users who have blindness, low vision, or learning disabilities.

For text-to-speech software, see the last entry in this blog or consider:
  • vozMe Install a speech synthesis bookmarklet into your browser. Then, just click the vozMe button to listen to the text. Free!
  • Humanware Hardware and software for individuals with blindness, low vision, and learning disabilities.
  • Don Johnston Software for a variety of learning disabilities or impairments including autism.
Members of Bookshare (see above) may obtain Humanware VictorReader Soft Bookshare edition or Don Johnston READ:OutLoud software free with their membership.