Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wow! There was a lot of information about assistive software this week! I spent time looking at several of the options presented and placing them in the rubric that follows. All the options were useful and would help people with a variety of disabilities achieve more independence.
Inspiration proved to be an interesting way to present information. I have thought for a long time that pictures presented with words make more of an impact on people. When I present information to my students, I almost always have some kind of picture of graphics to go along with my words. I created a very simple overview of the lessons and activities that I would teach associated with the story Chinatown. I loved how Inspiration allows so access to so many features, like a dictionary and all kids of graphic organizers. Everything was extremely easy to use and the work was easy to save. There was not enough room for a great deal of detail, which I would need to present actual lesson plans. Unfortunately, I can't link my Inspiration lesson plan to this blog, and I can't copy and paste it, either. It exists in my Farmer file for school.
I was very interested to see Kurzweil 3000 in action, and spent over an hour downloading it, but there ultimately ended up being some kind of a problem, and I didn't get to use it. I read all the info about it, and it really got me excited about using it. I wanted one for every kid in my class!

I'm glad I checked out the accommodations that Windows has already made. I didn't realize that so many aids were already in place to help people with disabilities. Some of these accommodations would be great for people who aren't disabled as well.

Last, I knew we could count on the libraries of our land to provide people with the information they seek, whether they can see it or not. To be a librarian is to provide services to my patrons - no matter their issues.

Assistive Technology Rubric


Software is noted in pink.

Name of Technology





Positive Features

Negative Features


  1. iCommunicator

iCommunicator Company


iCommunicator Software Setup CD's
• Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional
• Plantronics CS-50 (or equivalent)
• Visikey Wireless Keyboard
• iCommunicator Installation Guide


Translates spoken words into text, sign language, or a computer-generated voice.

Allows people with hearing impairments to be independent and to work at their own paces.

Helps people who are deaf practice speech.

Internet access. 

High cost.

Must have computer with program loaded on it at all situations where the iCommunicator is needed. 

While expensive, the iCommunicator is an extremely helpful tool for hearing impaired people.

2.Dragon Naturally Speaking

Nuance Communications, Inc.


Turn your voice into text three times faster than most people type with up to 99% accuracy. It's so easy, you can use it right out of the box. It learns to recognize your voice instantly and continually improves the more you use it. Dragon NaturallySpeaking works with the most commonly used desktop applications, including Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer, AOL and more! Just about anything you do now by typing can be done faster using your voice. Create and edit documents or emails. Open and close applications. Control your mouse and entire desktop

Types faster than most people can.

People with speech impediments or accents can use this.

People with physical impairments can produce documents without someone else typing for them.

Works with most desktop applications.

Easy to install and learn to use.

Voice commands can control most functions performed on a computer.

Reasonable price. 

User is limited to the computer that has Dragon Naturally Speaking installed on it.

Because of its reasonable price and versatility, Dragon Naturally Speaking would be a good choice for many people, not only those with some sort of disability.

3.Project Gutenberg

Michael S. Hart, founder


downloadable collection of 1/2 million eBooks

People with visual impairments can enjoy books.

No cost.

Collection is growing.

People without disabilities can also use. 

Must have appropriate technology to download books.

Not everyone is an auditory learner.

This tool is excellent for everyone who prefers to listen or who must listen to a book to access it.

4. Braille Plus: This handheld, personal digital assistant boasts an 80GB hard drive, wireless Internet, Bluetooth, stereo speakers, a built-in microphone, and a Mini Secure Digital storage slot. By using the telephone-style interface, the user can access an address book, music, digital books (including those from Audible,, NFB Newsline® and the National Library Service for the Blind), a word processor, a calculator, a stopwatch, the Internet, RSS feeds and podcasts, and more. The Braille Plus includes a set of Perkins-style Braille input keys for rapid text entry. American Printing House for the Blind. Price: $1,395.

Access to many forms of technology for people with visual impairments.

Offers independence to visually impaired people.


Cost may be too high for some people.

If other physical issues exist, more modifications may be needed for a person to use.

User must know Braille.

This would be a good way for visually impaired people to access information and be independent in all areas that support Internet access.

5. Bookmaker Braille Printer (also called Braille Bookmaker): This is a 50-pound portable or desktop 80 CPS interpoint Braille printer with built-in ET Speaks speech synthesizer, and a 512K-text buffer. The menus are spoken, and the printer can be used as an external speech synthesizer. Enabling Technologies Company. Price: $9,995.

People without sight or mobility can use this, as it is speech activated.

Printer can produce Braille or speech. 

Heavy; immobile.

Must know Braille.


This would be a good product for someone to use at a job site or a home office.

6. Talking Business Calculator: This is a fully functional business calculator with speech output. Each key is announced when pressed. The visual display calculations and results can be spoken with a press of a button. In addition to the usual arithmetical functions, this calculator offers items such as: repetitive addition/ subtraction, chain multiplication/division, constant multiplication/division, and much more. Electronic Technical Services, Inc. (ETS). Price: $358.66 (please use this order number - Canon TBC-1).

Makes it possible for visually impaired people to perform math functions independently.

Must be able to use hand/finger function.

Somewhat costly. 

This would be a great tool for visually impaired people, although less expensive versions exist.

7.Kurzweil 3000

Cambium Learning Technologies


Software grades 3–Adult

• Built on text-to-speech


• Reading, study skill, and

writing support

Provides users with learning disabilities the opportunity to have material read to them.

Material is scanned into the machine, making use quick and easy.

Highlighting tools and split screen enable users to make notes and prepare written work while having the reading material open in front of them. 


Must be loaded on a computer.

Not available for younger children. 

While costly, this looks like an excellent learning tool for anyone who struggles with reading or assembling their thoughts.

8. Trekker: This is a stand-alone device that consists of a shoulder strap with a GPS receiver, power module, speaker, and PDA. Several GPS receivers are available including a Bluetooth receiver for wireless connectivity.  When connected wirelessly the PDA may be stored in a pocket or on a belt clip.  The GPS receiver is attached to the shoulder strap for ease of operation.  Several maps may be loaded into the PDA, covering the regions the user is traveling in.  Ear buds or an ear phone may be used in place of the speaker so the user can hear surrounding traffic and noise.  HumanWare. Price: $1,695. With Maestro option, $1,995.

Independence for people who are visually impaired.

Works with more than one type of receiver.

Earpiece can be used instead of a speaker, making the user less noticeable.

Could be used by people without impairments also. 


Must be kept charged. 

This is a good way for visually impaired people to gain mobility, even in areas with which they are unfamiliar.


Rebecca said...

Wow! Fabulous rubric! I love how simple you kept it, so it is easy to compare the software.

Lesley Farmer said...

yes, providing AT info is part of our job