A huge amount of technology is available to support people with specific learning difficulties, or differences (SpLD), such as dyslexia. Some technology has been designed especially for dyslexic users but there are also mainstream apps, software and mobile phones that can be powerful tools for the dyslexic person.
Making assistive technology available within your organisation can help all members of staff, not just those with dyslexia i.e. screen readers enable someone to multi-task or take notes whilst listening to a document.
With so much variety available you need to ensure you choose the right technology and also remember to factor in time for training, and for your employees to adjust to a new way of working.
Assistive technology can support:
Many dyslexic people find reading difficult or time-consuming. Text readers are a type of software that convert text to speech. There are several on the market but many are now available as free apps for smartphones and tablets, and have been included on most computers as standard. There are many types available; some products work better with hearing aids than others, some will highlight the text as it is spoken (making it easier to follow), and there are variations in voices etc.
Reading pens can be useful as they are more portable, but they tend to be better for small pieces of text, or individual words.
There is no one best program as they all have different features and prices. It is worth researching what product would best meet your employee's needs and allow your member of staff enough time to learn to use it effectively.
Speech recognition software is useful for those who find typing difficult. A free version of this software is available through Windows and many Apple products. There are also several versions available to purchase. Each will have strengths and weaknesses and you will need to find the one that suits your needs the best. However, like any form of software it will not suit everyone.
All word processing packages have spellcheck facilities. There are free add-ins which can support this facility such as WordTalk which will read back the text and the spelling suggestion to the user. There are also subject specific word lists that can be added to Microsoft Word spell checker, such as specialist terminology used in the medical or legal field.
A weaker memory is a common problem for dyslexic people. A mobile phone usually has handy organisational tools like a calendar, notes and reminder functions, the camera on a mobile phone can be used as a take a photo of anything that needs to be remembered without having to write it down.
There are lots of free apps available that are helpful organisational tools. One example is 'stickies'. They can be colour-coded and added to a phone or computer screen to help remember things like deadlines, meetings, overtime etc. There are several different versions that perform a very similar function, you need to look at what operating system your office use and what 'style' works best for your employee
A voice recorder can help during meeting or training sessions as it enables your employee to fully concentrate on the subject without having to take notes.
Dyslexia-friendly calculators are available which read out the numbers as they are typed, or display results with assistive graphics, several versions of these are available as downloadable apps. A mobile phone or tablet has the ability to solve maths problems, and can be used as a converter of measures e.g. inches into centimetres.
A Workplace Needs Assessment will outline your employee's strengths and weaknesses, which will in turn help you to identify the areas in which assistive technology could provide essential support.
Accessibility features in specific software
British Dyslexia Association: Technologies CommitteeThe BDA New Technologies Committee is concerned with all aspects of technology and how they can assist dyslexic people. The website is a wealth of information on accessibility and the different types of technology available.
Dystalk have created some very useful videos on how assistive technology can support the dyslexic user.
1.Dyslexia Assistive TechnologySpeaker: Dr Ian Smythe (video: 7ms)
2.Use of mobile phones for dyslexicsSpeaker: Neil Milliken (video: 4ms)
Dystalk - free technologyDystalk have put together a very comprehensive list of FREE technology available which are particularly helpful for those with dyslexia or other learning difficulties.
Load2Learn Load2Learn provides a series of videos with useful information about technologies for reading.
BBC My Web My Way My Web My Way is a great resource for those who want to make their web browsing more accessible.