The free overTHERE iPhone app has been called a ‘game changer’ by Stuart Ball as it allows places to be located via their signs by holding the phone in a horizontal manner. You can then simply turn around on the spot and listen as businesses/shops are brought to your attention. It also tells you how far away they are from where you are standing. According to the app developer it is an “accessibility app that helps blind individuals explore and interact with the surrounding environment by using virtual audible signs.”
“When the phone is held vertically you can use the screen or VoiceOver to review the list of signs around you. By selecting a sign from the list you can access details about a location such as its address, phone number, or web site.”
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 .