I have found that Claro ScanPen works well with typed text and has the advantage of real time scanned conversions without an internet connection. You can take a photo of the text using your smartphone camera and the app will scan the content and read it aloud using optical character recognition (OCR). Having had the text read out you can copy and paste sections into another app such as Notes.
It works both on an iOS or Android phones and tablets and is available from the Apple app store and Google Play. The Android version is free and updates have fixed some of the glitches, the iOS version costs £6.99 outright at the time of writing. This version has a restricted number of voices for different languages, whereas the premium version with an annual payment of £9.99 provides unlimited access to many different languages and option to have 10 free scans before paying as well as a 14 day trial.
Dr Abi James – Research Fellow, University of Southampton.
In MS Office programs you can get instant access to text to speech via the ‘speak’ button by using the Quick Action toolbar in Word and other Office programs. Go to File > Options > Quick Access Toolbar > Choose All Commands from the drop down menu > scroll down to Speak > add
“Immersive Reading Tools which were originally available in OneNote (and required a download) are now available in Office 365 – Word Online and OneNote as standard – no installation required. It’s also cross platform so will work on a Mac with Safari browser.
To access the Learning Tools in Word Online or OneNote Online, log into your account, open Word or OneNote, go to the View menu and click Immersive Reader.
• Read Aloud—Reads text aloud with simultaneous highlighting – although no option (that I can see) to change the voice. Still, the voice is ‘okayish’.• Spacing—a range of spacing options to help declutter pages. • Syllables—Shows the breaks between syllables to enhance word recognition and decoding.• Parts of Speech —Supports writing instruction and grammar comprehension by identifying verbs, nouns and adjectives.
Immersive Reader also has options to change the page colour, font size, style etc. ”
I really like OneNote as I can dump all my research into different sections and pages, grabbing things from the web. I can share them with colleagues which has been made easier now that OneNote can be used both off and online and there is a Chrome extension called web clipper. You need to have a Microsoft account and download the extension. The icon sits at the top of the browser and when there is something you want to keep for reading later you can choose to have the complete page or sections etc. OneNote has always been good at automatically capturing where the clip comes from with a URL but this method allows you to add to the information.
Office lens is a free app available on an iPhone, Android and Window smartphone that links to One Drive accounts and allows you to take photographs and put them straight into Microsoft Office applications. The really good thing about Office Lens is that when I take a picture of a presentation or whiteboard I can make sure it is exactly the right shape and is straight not set at an angle using the outline on the screen by selecting the document or whiteboard menu item.
Making sure the image is straight for OCR
That is really important if you are taking photos of text that you want to have read aloud later. If they appear out of focus or at an odd angle you will not be able to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR), to have the image converted to text so you can use a text to speech or screen reader application later on. Once you have taken your photo you choose which application you want to send it to and if this is Microsoft Word it will extract the text. The other options are your photos on the phone, OneNote, OneDrive, PowerPoint and Outlook or your phone mail if you want to send it as an email attachment. The app will also save it as a PDF.
Ready for exporting
The best thing I like about Office Lens is how it is linked to OneNote because I can collect all the images, notes and presentations, even photos of handwritten notes straight into my Notes folder and then I can search for them at any time, as I really have trouble remembering what I have heard in lectures etc and this process acts as a back up .
The Boogie Board is the equivalent to an electronic Etch a Sketch but instead of turning two horizontal and vertical knobs you are able to use a stylus. I currently use the device to write out a To Do list every day. Other family members use it in the kitchen to write out shopping lists because it has magnets that allow it to attach to the fridge. Furthermore, the Boogie Board allows you to write or draw while the device is switched off. This current model could do with the means to be able to erase sections of the writing/drawing area and Bluetooth connection to allow ‘screen’ captures to be sent to a computer or other mobile device. It also does not guard against unwanted mark making The Boogie Board Sync eWriter allows all of these suggested features except for currently erasing specific areas. There is also a mobile app that allows you to connect with your writing by providing access to your notes, lists, drawings and brainstorms.
Neil – PhD in mobile accessibility and academic etexts
knfbReader by Sensotec nv – View of the iPhone screen with a scanned document and output
I received a free version of the app through my role on the British Dyslexia Association’s New Technologies Committee and I love it! For my own personal use (dyslexia rather than VI), I’ve historically relied on apps such as Prizmo or ClaroSpeak (with OCR addon). I started using this app a few months ago and for me this app is a big step up for two reasons:
1. Exceptionally fast user experience
2. Exceptional accuracy
1. Exceptionally fast user experience
The app’s purpose is essentially the same as Prizmo / ClaroSpeak (with OCR addon) / CapturaTalk. However, the main advantage for me is that the time from snapping the photo and to starting to hear it being read aloud is a couple of seconds on my old iPhone 4S, and instantaneous on my iPhone 6. They do this by:
a) Having an auto-read function, so as soon as it has text from the photo it reads aloud to you, without you having to press another button.
b) Starting to read before the whole page has been analysed. As soon as it’s recognised the first sentence it starts to read that aloud.
The user interface is really nice – open the app, hold it above the page and press one button! Then sit back and relax while the page is read to you. This is a big plus for day-to-day use.
2. Exceptional accuracy
From my non-scientific playing with the app, the OCR accuracy appears to be at least as good as (and I think better than) ClaroSpeak’s OCR addon, and it is much better than Prizmo.
So money-no-object it wins hands down for me – an ideal example of an app that does only one thing and does it very well. Cost £79.99 for the iPhone
One of the easiest ways of checking for the spelling of a single word when on the move and not requiring a whole document to be spell checked is to say the word into a smart phone or tablet. As long as you have one of the fairly recent versions of Android, iOS iPhone or iPad or Windows, they all have built in speech recognition. I am showing an example of how it works on an iPhone with Siri and this iOS5 hot tip has been on the web since 2012. There is an Android tutorial on using Speech to Text and one for Windows Surface speech recognition
I said to Siri – “spell /filosofical/” (spelt as said) – It not only repeated the word back to me with text to speech, but also gave me the correct spelling and dictionary definition. If I just said the word it gave me the text to speech version back and a collection of links such as the word in Wikipedia.
This comes thanks to Annie – dyslexic researcher, University of Southampton.
Google Drive is an online tool which uses your Google account to store files online and can also be used to share files with other people and work on projects together. Being able to join in with a few others to work on a project and be able to take a break and have work still done is really useful.
Google Drive is compatible Windows Vista, XP, 7, 8
Mac, mavericks (10.9), Mountain Lion (10.8), Lion (10.7)
Linux can access Google Drive through the website but the software is not available on the system
android 4.0+ and iOS 7.0+ are able to use Google drive, android 2.3-3.2 and iOS 6.0+ Can only view the files
Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer run Google Drive but require Java script
Siri asked to check appointments on 22nd September
Siri is brilliant for calendar management and time/task management, but underused, you can verbally manage your calendar/ tasks which, I personally find reduces the burden on my working memory and is more intuitive . The speed of which I can set myself a reminder by taking the phone out of my pocket rather than searching for a pen and paper which I inevitably end up losing anyway is astounding! I really like iOS accessibility. I definitely find low maintenance strategies with gainful upsides work well.