Something I’ve wondered about for many years is the mismatch between the diversity of learners and the uniformity of assistive technology provision. For example we know that there is no such thing as a “typical” dyslexic learner and yet there is very definitely “typical” dyslexia provision. The same products come up time and time again.
There could be a reason for this – they are generally very good products with a wide range of features. However…. there are also downsides. Unless you have a site license for these tools and promote them as productivity tools for everyone they can be perceived negatively by image-conscious students who don’t want to use special “disability” software”.
Even if they are installed across the network what happens about the students who want to use them on their own laptops but can’t afford them or only need occasional use? Or those who want to have software on the workstation they use in their work experience placement?
Encouraging “have a go” independence
Learners with difficulties reading swiftly or effectively may not always be aware as to the nature of the difficulty. Is comprehension the difficulty? Do they find it hard to take the meaning from the text? Or is focus the issue? Are they too easily distracted? Or is it a comfort issue? Would a change in font size or background colour make a difference? Or is it just the frustration of reading slowly and a desire to be able to read more quickly and still taking the information?
Excellent free tools and plugins exist to meet each of these needs but the problem with free tools is knowing which ones are any good and which sites are the safe ones to download them from.
Rather than every HEI in the country having to work this out by trial and error, Jisc have piloted recommendations to develop your own awareness or you can use directly to support learners (see screenshot, right).
Use the comments area below to tell us how you get on with these or to inform us if there are any great tools let you know about but we haven’t yet found.