Co:Writer Word Prediction App Released!

CoWriter screenshotI am always excited when our trusted special education software manufacturers make a program available in app format. I am REALLY excited this week, as Don Johnston just released an app version of Co:Writer®!!

This is a word prediction tool that reduces the number of keystrokes required to type and that makes it a great tool for students with physical disabilities or just poor typing abilities.  Since it provides support for spelling and grammar with writing tasks, it’s an amazing tool for our LD students who know what they want to say but can’t seem to think of the right word or struggle with spelling.  As the first letters are typed, Co:Writer predicts the intended word and presents a selection of word choices. The program uses ‘inventive’ spelling to predict words, even if the student misspells the word or omits vowels.

Word suggestions can be read aloud with a swipe; selecting the intended word places it into the document. Built-in text to speech will read letters, words, sentences, and the entire document using the Heather voice.  Control settings allow for adjustingt the font, text size and color contrast for improved readability.

Co:Writer has access to a main prediction dictionary (that includes core words) and an endless range of Topic Dictionaries (that includes topic specific words).  Available today on iTunes, it will be the best $17.99 you’ve spent in a while!

I already have it and absolutely LOVE it.

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Read Bookshare books almost anywhere!

Thanks to Shelley Haven from Tech Potential for putting together this great list of Bookshare Reading Options!  This list includes reading your accessible books through programs like Kurzweil, WYNN 7, Read&Write Gold and iBooks.  It also tells you how to transfer them to your Kindle!

Download the PDF:  Bookshare reading options

Check out more great AT resources from Shelley at www.techpotential.net 

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Low Vision Apps

There are a number of handy apps out there for those with low vision.  Clarix, a leading provider of magnification systems, has created three new apps and all are free (always the best part!)  Visit their website http://www.clarixusa.com/index.php/products/apps or the iTunes store for more information.  Just remember that iDevices have small megapixel capabilities so the magnification resolution will never quite as sharp as we’d like, but the apps are great.

iCam is a low vision magnifier and reader for your iPhone or iPad. It features 5 high-contrast false color modes, as well as black and white, and color.  iCam can magnify printed text and includes an optional light feature for use in dimly lit rooms.  iCam uses OCR technology to convert printed text to speech, as well.  It takes a picture and then converts it to spoken text.  It uses state of the art OCR technology.  Features include: variable magnification levels, contrast enhancement, pinch zoom magnification, 4 inverse color choices,  full-color and black/white mode options.

Voice IT will read your text messages, incoming calls, voice mail alerts, eMail, etc.  Advanced settings allow you to choose a ringtone alert and repeat what is being read.  For privacy, a discreet mode is available when using headphones.

    

Need to find something on your phone and quickly launch it?  No need to fumble to find a website, contact, song, or app.  Use Find IT.  Start typing and Find IT will show you what you commonly used.  Find anything on your phone quickly and easily.  It remembers your favorite items and search history.  Featuring large type.

  

LARGE Timer is a simple countdown timer for those with low vision.  It has a very simple interface and a large display.  Use it for any timed event or as an alarm.

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Free Web Accessibility Tools

 

ATbar

I have just fallen in love with another web 2.0 support to add to our technology toolkits!   The Mada Assistive Technology Center in Qatar has created an amazing array of web 2.0 supports packaged in a single toolbar for improving web accessibility.   The “ATbar” contains tools for font magnification, text-to-speech, word prediction, background and font color changes, pop-up dictionary, spell checker and readability adjustments (to reduce visual clutter).

There are three versions of the ATbar:

  • The download version stays available when you move between web pages and is made up of the standard functions.
  • The lite version acts in a similar way to a bookmark or favorite and has to selected each time you visit a new web page – it also has the standard functions.
  • The marketplace version allows you to build your own ATbar, by choosing the plug-ins to suit your needs then save the custom made bar as a bookmark.
  • Other software is available on a USB flash drive with an accessible menu system as a Portable Accessibility Toolkit and there is a desktop version of the ATbar on the download page.

These supports are available for download onto any PC for personal use or directly onto your own website or WordPress blog as a plug-in for those who visit your site.

And…best of all…they’re FREE!!

For more information, visit their site  https://www.atbar.org

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Voice Dictation With Dragon Software

I keep a million notes on student and classroom needs, assessment findings, etc. and I have begun to lean heavily on my voice dictation tools to get it all written down before I’ve forgotten it all.  If you’ve never used Dragon Naturally Speaking, you should give the free version a trial run.  I have  the Dragon Dictation app on my iPod  and use this for making notes  throughout the day.  Once back at the office, I upload the notes through my wi-fi onto the software on my desktop for transcription.  We use it for our students with writing difficulties and also for our teachers who need to keep notes throughout the day without taking their hands off the students.  It’s easy and it’s accurate!  For more information on the full range of Dragon programs available, visit http://www.nuance.com/for-individuals/index.htmDragon

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Free and Cheap Screen Magnifiers

I am often asked to recommend screen magnifiers for students with low vision who are struggling with computer use.    There are several amazing, multi-function programs available for purchase with a wide range of features, but they can cost between $199 – $500 per installation. This becomes a pricey option, especially since we may not know exactly what each student needs and they may need the support on multiple systems across classrooms (or buildings). With that in mind, I always recommend starting with one of the freebie or low cost options available online.

Mac systems have a nice set of assistive technology supports built in, including cursor enlargement, color inversion, voice dictation and the Zoom magnifier.  Many of you may be familiar with these features, as they are also on the iPad.  http://www.apple.com/accessibility/osx/#vision

Windows systems are also equipped with similiar supports, including text-to-speech, voice dictation and a screen magnifier:  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/make-items-on-the-screen-appear-bigger-magnifier

Here’s a link to a wonderful article by the American Federation for the Blind, comparing some of the most popular freeware and shareware (low cost) screen magnification programs. You might want to look at these as possible options for any of your low-vision students using a range of computers in different settings. These are just some of the freebie and cheaper choices as reviewed by AFB. http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw140403

The freeware options are just that: free.  But they may not have a wide range of features, offer low screen resolution or lack tech support.  The shareware options allow you to take a free trial download, then buy if you like them.  All listed here are under $29 and the authors make several specific recommendations based upon their trials.

The article suggests creating a separate user account on the computer so the files are downloaded there and then activated by the student user when they log in. We have always used this approach so the system reverts to standard settings once the user has logged off.

If you have a contained classroom or lab, you may want to put one of these on a single system so those students with low vision have immediate access to an adapted computer.  These are inexpensive options for students to use at home, as well.

 

 

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Need help with Bookshare?

If you are lost when it comes to using Bookshare or if you have questions about some of its specific features,  you’re in luck!  Bookshare has several tutorial videos available for free on their website to help you navigate and use Bookshare skillfully.  They also have over 35 videos on their YouTube channel uploaded by BookshareTeam. Check out these resources here:   Bookshare.org/Training.    YouTube/Bookshare

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Bookshare is now even MORE accessible!

You can now access your books on the go through Bookshare’s new app for Apple, Read2Go.  This app gives full audio feedback as you navigate through its menu to customize your reading experience.  With many different color themes for highlighting, changing backgrounds and text you are able to change each visual feature to suite your needs.  It also has several audio options such as reading text out loud, how fast it is read and whether or not you  need the menu read out loud.  You are also able to increase the text size to a 70pt font!  The app is priced at $19.99, which isn’t bad, considering both the membership and online versions are free!

With over 203,000 accessible books, Bookshare is the largest accessible library in the world, and it keeps growing!

Learn more about Read2Go

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Bookshare – FREE Accessible Books

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Do you know students who have difficulty reading because they are visually impaired, physically unable to hold a book or turn pages, or have visual tracking problems?  Bookshare is a great resource for students that are not able to read or turn pages in a standard book to still receive the material in a format that is simple and easy to use!  They can have words highlighted as they read, change fonts, letter size, background colors and text colors, have the book read to them, and even put a digital copy on an iPod or iPad for on the go reading!  To learn more about Bookshare and how to join, check out their website:  Bookshare.org  We will be adding more information about Bookshare and its amazing features soon!

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