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Assistive Technology & Accommodations: Overview

Assistive technology

Students are required to “arrive on campus” independently, prepared to participate in the online classroom and should arrange for any necessary assistive technology on their own.  Disability Services can serve as a resource for information about software successfully used in the past by Walden students and faculty with disabilities, but does not provide that software. 

Texts in an alternate format

Students who have been approved to receive texts in an alternate format are instructed to send an email to disability@mail.waldenu.edu at least four weeks prior to the course start date with a list of upcoming courses.

Requests received with less than four weeks notice will be honored but will be addressed as time allows; and therefore, related materials may not be available by course start date.  Students are responsible for obtaining their course materials by the course start date.

Copyright laws require students to purchase their own hard copy of those materials provided to them in an alternate format by the university. 

Voice recognition software (speech to text)

Many students and faculty at Walden use voice recognition software in the online environment (you talk, it types).  Some have documented disabilities, but many others do not and are using the technology as a preference or to reduce the normal muscle strain caused by extensive typing.  Many word processing packages have built in speech to text capability. Check your software by searching “accessibility” in the “help” menu.   Most students with disabilities using voice recognition technology purchase separate software for that purpose. It costs around $100 and comes with a tutorial that teaches a novice user to begin dictating after only a few hours training. 

Most of our students who purchase this software use it to “dump text”.  They open a blank Word document and “talk” in their material.  Then, later, they use their hands to clean up the text, if necessary, format it, and cut and paste it into the online discussion page or assignment dropbox.  People with very limited dexterity can use the same software to do a great deal more – everything from turning the computer on and off to complicated library searches and internet surfing – as well as navigating through the online class.  Anyone who wants to spend the time to go through the entire tutorial provided can do all those things with this software.  Most people simply want to use it to reduce the strain of typing, and so just use it to “dump text” as described here.

Screen reading software (text to speech)

Students who have learning disabilities or vision loss - any type of issue that impacts the ability to read text - may use software that reads aloud text on the computer screen.  There are many different options for listening to your computer read out loud a PDF or Word document.  People who are completely blind often use JAWs, which is quite sophisticated and can be expensive.  It is a complete "screen reader" and allows users to navigate through all the Windows commands through all types of computer software - beyond word processing - spreadsheets, internet searches, etc.  An alternative to JAWs is NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) which is a free, open source full-screen reader.  

Information about NVDA at Wikipedia.

Students who just want to have their textbooks, articles, or study notes in the BlackBoard classroom read aloud may use less sophisticated text reading software.   There is a variety on the market, some with options for choosing male or female voices, adjusting speed without losing quality, etc.  A simple internet search will lead to a lot of information about text to speech software. Many computers have built in text to speech capabilities.  Check your own computer by searching "accessibility" under the "help" drop down menu.   There are free downloadable text to speech software packages.  Some examples can be found at www.naturalreaders.com, http://www.chromevox.com/ (an extension to Google Chrome), http://www.firevox.clcworld.net/ (an extension for Firefox).

For PDF books and articles, try the read out loud function in Adobe.  It’s very easy to use.  Open up an accessible PDF document in Adobe, go to “View” menu on the top, scroll down to “Read out Loud” and select “Activate Read Out Loud.”  Then go back to “View” and down to “Read out Loud” and “Read this page.”  It should start reading the page you’re on in the PDF.

There are many apps available for smart phones and tablets which is another way to listen to the PDF books.  You can find different options by searching the App Store on your device.

Contact Walden’s Disability Services office for more information.