5 need-to-know tech tools for students with disabilities

Free or low-cost tools, some of which are embedded in devices or apps that students already use, can improve readability of digital text, says edtech expert and FETC speaker Leslie Fisher
By: | June 27, 2019
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Leslie Fisher is an edtech expert and FETC speaker.

Leslie Fisher is an edtech expert and FETC speaker.

You don’t have to be an international edtech speaker like Leslie Fisher to see how technology is changing things for students with disabilities.

Robots are helping students practice social skills. Virtual assistants are providing voice-enabled access to the internet. And AAC apps are liberating students from bulky communication devices.

Fisher, however, has a unique perspective: She’s an edtech expert and an individual with a disability who relies on technology to meet her needs.

“I have dyslexia and this little thing called ADSO: Attention Deficit … Oh! Shiny Object!” joked Fisher at LRP’s 40th National Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Individuals with Disabilities®.

Technology companies are striving to make their products more inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities, Fisher told attendees. Here are five technology tools that she highlighted:

Immersive Reader, by Microsoft, includes a range of tools to improve the readability of text. Students can have digital text read aloud; use a line reader to focus on one or two sentences; and adjust the font, contrast, and background of text, Fisher says. There’s also a feature that color-codes different parts of speech and a picture dictionary.

Automatic closed captioning in Google Slides allows teachers to turn on closed captioning in the presenter mode to have what they say aloud appear in text at the bottom of their screen in real-time. This could be useful for students with hearing impairments or learning disabilities, as well as for English learners, Fisher says.

Seeing AI is a talking camera app that recognizes objects and creates audible descriptions of those objects for a user with a vision impairment. The app can describe to a student the brightness of a room or the value of currency in the student’s hand, Fisher says.

Livescribe Aegir pen. This device can record audio while a student handwrites notes. The notes can then be sent to the student’s email or saved in the cloud, Fisher says. If a student’s mind wanders during a part of class, they can write themselves a note to indicate that they need to play back the audio recording from that specific time, she says.

Smartphone magnification. Most smartphones have a built-in magnifying glass that can be used to magnify text or objects seen through the device’s camera or magnify the text on the device’s screen. Turn on magnification under general or accessibility settings, she says.

Jennifer Herseim is an editor for LRP Media Group and program chair for Inclusion and Special Education at DA’s Future of Education Technology Conference.

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