The Student Accessibility and Support Services (SASS) office has introduced a new study tool called Read&Write. SASS purchased a campus-wide license for the software, making it available for all students, staff and faculty.
Emily Wise, administrative assistant and assistant technology consultant for SASS, said that although the software is aimed at people who need assistance with reading and writing, it also includes features that could be of use to anyone.
“It is important to point out [Read&Write is] not a remedial tool but more of a productivity tool,” Erin Salva, director of SASS, said. “It can really benefit anybody.”
Some of Read&Write’s features include a voice-to-text feature that allows the user to dictate text through the computer’s microphone, which may be helpful for people who have difficulty with typing or spelling. The program also has built-in optical character recognition, which allows users to scan paper documents or ebooks and then manipulate the text on the computer. Additionally, the software can dictate text from documents, web pages, screenshotted photos or PDFs to the user in a voice of their choice.
SASS purchased Read&Write to replace Kurzweil, a software program that is similar but was limited in the amount of licenses available for distribution, reducing the program’s accessibility to students, staff and faculty. Purchasing a campus-wide license for Read&Write means that the software is available to all who want to use it. This change is part of a larger initiative called Access Kenyon, which brings together various partners across campus who work in digital technology, in an effort to promote universal accessibility online. “We’re focused on creating an environment here that is accessible to everyone digitally,” Wise said.
In addition, a highlighter feature allows users to highlight text and copy it into a separate document, which could help to condense the most important information from a large text file or compile a list of quotes for an essay.
Similarly, a highlighting feature called screen masking can help to reduce the level of contrast on the screen. This could be useful for people with temporary injuries like concussions or people who struggle with light sensitivity.
Other features of Read&Write include a dictionary, a picture dictionary, word prediction, a translator, and a spell-checker. In addition to documents, the program works also in web browsers.
Another accessibility tool SASS provides to the campus is Census Access. As a file format converter, it works similarly to Read&Write, but also allows the tagging of converted formats. This makes it easier to navigate for people who use assistive technology, such as a screen-reader, to have the document read to them.
“We want to give everyone [these] tools and make it as easy as possible to build your document, build your posters, your announcements,” Wise said.
Both Census Access and Read&Write are available to download for free from the SASS website for all Kenyon students, staff and faculty. New features and updates are continually being added to Read&Write in order to maximize the user’s productivity.