Assistive Technology & Alternative Formats
Students with disabilities such as vision impairments, learning disabilities or other disabilities that impact reading may need alternatives to standard print in order to read effectively while in college. There are many forms of assistive technology that can help, such as text to voice software and voice to text software.
These tools are easy to use, but will take time to get comfortable learning in a different format and to develop more efficient reading and learning strategies. If you are struggling to keep up with your reading due to a disability, these alternatives can be life changing and worth the time investment.
Responsibility of the Student
All students with disabilities who require alternative format materials and support services from Smith need to work closely with the Office of Disability Services. You will need to set aside time to communicate your needs, get materials to us that need to be converted to other formats, pick up finished materials, as well as learn about the reading software or other options available at the college, discuss procedures and policies, solve problems when they come up and complete paper work as needed.
Students need to submit their schedule and syllabi at registration time for the following semester. Dropping and adding courses will create delays in getting accessible reading materials. You must also be prepared to explain the syllabus for each course in which you are requesting accessible materials and communicate any priorities.
There are different types of print alternatives and you must determine with us what works best. It is suggested that you become comfortable with more than one reading strategy, since print materials may not always be available in your preferred format. Print alternatives may include:
Audio formatted books can be obtained commercially in book stores and through Web sites like Audible.com and iTunes. Audio books are also available to individuals with disabilities through several sources such as Learning Ally, a subscription service for people with print disabilities.
Books can be obtained commercially through products and services like Kindle, Nook, and Ibooks. Texts books can be obtained in digital formats from publishers by requests from the Office of Disability Services on your behalf. To comply with the college's digital rights management obligations, you will be required to show proof of purchase of the book in order to obtain the book from the publisher in an accessible format or obtain permission for ODS to scan the book in its entirety. You may also independently use other sources such as bookshare.org.
Scanned Electronic Materials
Books, articles or other materials can be scanned and turned into PDF, Word or other formats to be read by text-to-voice software. The college will provide support for preparing these materials for you when other sources of materials are not available. When Disability Services is not able to obtain your books from the publisher in digital format you will need to provide the book to us. We will cut the binding of the book for scanning, edit the book, and rebind it with a simple spine.
Online Document Conversion Service
If you wish to access these materials independently or need a document converted immediately for courses or research you can send a file to our new online conversion service at:
A PDF or word file can be converted to a digital version for use with Adobe, Voice Over on Mac, etc. or you can request an Mp3! The turn around time is usually a few minutes to an hour depending on the size and quality of the document. The service will not return a good result, if the document being sent is not clean, i,e, no underlining, highlighting, black marks on the page, etc.
Books, articles or other materials can be enlarged to preferred font size on paper or can be scanned for enlargement using Word or other software. The college will assist in the process of enlarging materials. We also have a CCTV available in the Assistive Technology Lab in Neilson Library which enlarges print to be viewed on an attached TV screen.
Materials on the Web can be read with screen-reading software or downloaded and read with text-to-speech software.
Braille materials are available through electronic conversion of print materials to formats compatible with refreshable Braille devices or printed on Braille paper when appropriate. The college will seek out available Braille resources and provide this service to the greatest extent possible. Students will need to work closely with disability services and plan ahead.
Assistive Technology for Reading
Commercial Reading Devices
A variety of new sources of digital reading material are becoming available as well as new devices and software with which to read them. Devices like Ipad, Kindle, Nook and sources like Google Books allow you to obtain mainstream media along with some classic literature.
Educational materials for these devices are still limited but are expected to grow in coming years. These devices have some accessibility features that allow you to control the font and contrast when you are reading and navigate using audible headings. Some materials on these devices are able to be read with the installed voiceover function, but be aware that not all materials available are also audible.
This software reads digital PDFs, Word documents and other digital formats aloud. Low-end versions of this type of software simply read what is on the page without much other functionality. Higher-end versions often include other educational functions such as dictionaries and thesauruses as well as the ability to highlight, underline, bookmark, and so on. You can also search and clip content into a notepad for later use. Digital materials are increasingly available through a variety of commercial and private sources. Textbooks can often be obtained from publishers, and many online scholarly journals use accessible formats. We can assist you in identifying these options.
Audio players and software
Recorded materials can be played with many devices such as tape recorders and CD players. Computer software and devices like iPods can also play digital materials such as MP3s.
Assistive Technology at Smith
Smith maintains two assistive technology labs with text-to- speech software called Kurzweil, Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software, ZoomText screen enargement, and other software. You will need to be trained before using the lab, but it is available to any student needing this software. Smith's Educational Technology Services (ETS) department maintains the labs and can train students to use the software. More information >
The Best Technology Is on a PC
If you will need to read using computer software and don't want to use our labs, you will need to consider purchasing a PC rather than a Mac or get a dual platform computer. While there is accessible software for the Mac, the best accessible technology for reading and also for voice recognition (another important educational tool for many) is still on the PC.