Assistive Technologies for READING (with your ears)!!!!!

There are some truly amazing technologies out there to help a person READ (or in my case, to HEAR-read).

I want to share a couple of my searches with you guys.


  1. First of all, there is the smart phone voice itself. I can only describe this from the perspective of an iPhone user — but it is quite easy with the iPhone. Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech > And you will find all sorts of wonderful options here!! You can turn on features to speak highlighted text to you, and/or you can turn on a “2-fingered swipe” down from the top of your phone screen to automatically read aloud whatever text is on your screen!! (I LOVE IT.) And most importantly, to me, you can adjust the speed of the voice, and the gender, and even the accent they use! Personally, I find the male voice for U.K. English the least distracting/easiest to follow for me.
    When I 2-finger-swipe down from the top of the screen, a very easy menu pops up so I can adjust the speed of the reading even while it’s reading to me. I can also pause and rewind and such. Fabulous invention.


  2. Next up, I have only tried a couple of apps so far that will READ ALOUD whatever text you happen to have laying around!!! Say you are trying to read a book — you can just use your smartphone, open up this app (my favorite so far is called TurboScannerOCR), and use it to snap a picture of the book page. Then you have the option of adjust the boundaries of the page you want read (for example, maybe you only want a single paragraph read to you, not the whole thing). Then you click OCR on the app, and it turns the picture into text — editable, savable, READ-ALOUD-ABLE words. I am then just 2-finger-swiping down my screen and voilà! It’s all read aloud to me!!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!!

    This app is FREE and you don’t have to upgrade to use it!!! I personally did pay $2.99 to remove the ads, however, because I love the app so much. I am planning on using it to read aloud any part of my upcoming textbooks that I will need help getting through this semester!!!


  3. This one doesn’t count — it’s not for ear reading. But I want to mention this here really quickly anyway. There are other devices that can help. I wish I’d had this in grade school — I have the “Rivers” reading disorder and this would have been SO wonderful. As it was, I improvised for myself eventually by using a sheet of paper above and below the line of text I was reading. But look at this! Too perfect! And actually, I would still find this useful today. I usually get lazy and use my own hand to block text below the line I’m reading, but this is fabulous and colored layouts are supposed to be useful for some people. This one’s about $20.

    They do come in other colors from other companies, however, and some are only a few dollars (but do not block as much text). There are many options out there — even colored tapes that you can lay down to make your own sort of line highlights as you read.


  4. The Intel Reader, sometimes marketed for people with Dyslexia but also good for other vision/reading issues, looks fabulous. It’s is the most portable I’ve found of these types of devices. It basically snapshots your paper, book page, whatever, turns it to text, and reads it to you. It also displays it on the screen and you can increase the font size or whatever you need to do. This picture doesn’t show how small and basically awesome it is. I watched a video on it in use and it’s pretty amazing. BUUUT it’s going to run you at LEAST $500.


  5. Reading pens. These look just super cool, and SO portable and usable. I’m hesitant to buy one, however, just because it’s only able to “read” the line you’re scanning, obviously. I can’t imagine wanting to go over every line of my textbook like this. I wanted something that can snapshot the whole page and read it aloud to me. But for smaller things or daily things, wouldn’t this be awesome??? I think they’re going to run you like $200. Of course, these have really cool features, like you can look up a word you don’t understand right then and there. It is a dictionary and can give synonyms and all kinds of neato stuff! Some can translate English to Spanish. I’m not sure about other languages.


  6. Now for the ones I wish I could afford because they’d be so EEAASSYY to use once set up!!!!! I mean, check this sucker out. Just set down your book and boom. Text to speech (and magnified or highlighted text on the screen, if you wish to eye-read along). And BOOM, minimum $1700, sometimes MORE.There are other devices along this same line, but they’re all very expensive like this one.

So that’s my list for today!!!!! I think this covers the basic gist of the assistive technologies that I would personally find really useful and great. ENJOY!!!!!

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Reading disorder: “Rivers” or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome or Irlen Syndrome

Animation of Rivers effect, from site http://www.irleneast.com/simulations.htm

This was reading for me! They’ve made it into an animation! This is the rivers effect of the white spaces on the page. The rivers were moving and I couldn’t focus on the text to read. From website: http://www.irleneast.com/simulations.htm

Wikipedia says: “Scotopic sensitivity syndrome (SSS), also known as Visual Stress, Irlen Syndrome, and Asfedia”

Wikipedia gives the symptoms as following. I have bolded and blue-colored the ones that were most related to myself:

“Symptoms

One or more of these symptoms may be related to the condition:[citation needed]

  • Eye-strain
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Migraines [I used to get a lot of visual migraines]

[11][12]

  • Nausea, including visually related motion sickness
  • Problems with depth perception (catching balls, judging distance, etc.)
  • Restricted field of view and span of recognition
  • Discomfort in presence of fluorescent lighting
  • Discomfort with busy patterns, particularly stripes (“visual stress” and “pattern glare”)[11]
  • Discomfort with extreme conditions of bright/dark contrast (i.e. backlighting)
  • Discomfort or difficulty reading (reading involves busy patterns, particularly stripes. People with strong symptoms of the syndrome find it very difficult to read black text on white paper, particularly when the paper is slightly shiny.)
  • Text that appears to move (rise, fall, swirl, shake, etc.)
  • Losing text content and only seeing rivers of white through the text
  • Words moving together becoming one unrecognizable word
  • Attention and concentration difficulties
  • Seeing the part and losing the whole
  • Epileptic seizure related to strobing or pattern glare”
Simulation of wavy text from www.irleneast.com

Simulation of wavy text from: http://www.irleneast.com. They are advertising the lenses which can apparently help some people to be able to see the text without movement.

My biggest problem was that I could not read text on a page because the white spaces kept jumping out at me and moving around. Also, the words often seemed stuck together or split in the wrong spot, so I would read “phone number” as “pho nenumber” or something like that, and spend a while wondering what the word meant), and the lines of text were wavy and moving. Did I tell anybody? Of course not. I didn’t find out this was a “thing” until a decade later.

Rivers example from site www.lexdis.org.uk

Another Rivers example, from http://www.lexdis.org.uk Although, rivers can cut straight through words, too.

MY WORK-AROUNDS: So somewhere around 7th or 8th grade, I learned to keep 2 sheets of paper with me during class: 1 sheet to lay above the line of text and the other sheet to lay beneath the line of text. That way, only 1 line of text was visible at a time for all of my in-class reading, and reading was then more do-able. Sometimes even having the whole line visible was too much, and I could narrow the margins, too, as I read.

After my Asperger diagnosis I spoke with someone there about it, and they told me that there are also tinted lenses now available for students who have that kind of issue, and can be very useful for some people.

On computer screens, I keep the scroll of the page so that there is a bar beneath or above the line I am reading. I also scroll with my computer mouse just beneath each word that I am reading. When necessary, I click and use my mouse to highlight one line at a time as I am reading. Sometimes it helps to have the line of text itself highlighted, and sometimes I highlight the whole page and then UN-highlight each line as I read it, so that the highlight is actually all the stuff beneath the line I am reading (often revealing just one word at a time, if I’m still distracted with just one line at a time). (This has driven many a person crazy, when they are trying to also read something over my shoulder.)