Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Working Together: Computers and People with Learning Disabilities

Working Together: Computers and People with Learning Disabilities
Reading Systems

An individual who can take in information through listening much better than by reading may benefit from using a reading system. These systems allow text on screen (document, web page or email) to be read aloud through the computer's sound card. A scanner and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software (e.g., Freedom Scientific's WYNN or Kurzweil 3000) adds the feature of reading printed text. Hard copy text is placed on the scanner where it is converted into a digital image. This image is then converted to a text file, making the characters recognizable by the computer. The computer can then read the words back using a speech synthesizer and simultaneously present the words on screen.

Reading systems include options such as highlighting a word, sentence, or paragraph using contrasting colors. If desired, the reader may elect to have only one word at a time appear on the screen to improve her grasp of the material. Increasing the size of the text displayed on the screen as well as changing text color can increase reading comprehension for some people with specific learning disabilities.

I wonder about using one of these tools to help a child who's far behind in reading participate in some classroom activities.

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