Providing Learning Support for Students with Hidden Disabilities and Dyslexia Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities

Enabling Technology to Support Students with Dyslexia on Fieldwork


Where a student has access to their own or a shared computer, the following software has proved to be very useful.

Screen / text readers

TextHelp! Read & Write

This screen reading software has word prediction, which has choices for the way the words are ordered, spell checking based on phonic errors, a thesaurus with dictionary definitions and a homophone checking with meanings. It works with most Windows programs but is a separate word processor package in the Mac. The voices, speed of speech and tones can be altered. Changing background colours, font colours and size changes is also easy. The vocabulary is large and adaptable to suit the user's needs.

The Mac version is called Type and Talk (£85) and there is also a basic screen reader (£25.49) that will work with most Windows programs.

Most useful for anyone with dyslexia but could be used by anyone with a mild visual impairment. It will read back what they have typed into Word.

Price: £135.13 inc. VAT

Suppliers: MicrolinkPC. iAnsyst

Mindmapping / brainstorming


This is an easy program to use with clear menus and short cut keys and ideas held in chosen shapes which are linked in a spidergram appearance. It transfers the graphical diagram to the linear format within the program so that updates occur in either mode. As with all the programs, pictures can be imported or copied from other programs. The company's web site has many ideas and templates available for downloading as well as a trial version. Available for Mac and PC.

Price: £82.25 inc. VAT

Suppliers: MicrolinkPC, iAnsyst

System Settings - Mac and PC

Both Mac and PC systems contain accessibility facilities.

Windows98 / Microsoft Office

There are accessibility options within Windows. Choose Accessibility Options from Settings/Control panel. From here adjustments can be made to keyboard, sound, mouse and general settings. The appearance of Windows can be altered to suit. High contrast, custom colours and large fonts are just some of the settings that can be changed.

MS Office contains many features that support people with differing disabilities. Typing 'accessibility' in the interactive Help facility lists the many things that are available. Among these are shortcut keystrokes, autocorrect and toolbar/button creation.

Dictaphone/Minidisk Record

Gennexa (Optimus) CTR-115 voice-activated dictaphone

This dictaphone takes full sized cassette tapes. It has a digital counter that allows you to check where you are on the tape. There is an internal speaker and external headphone socket. Also an internal microphone, with an external mix socket and remote socket. It uses 4 x AA batteries.

Price: £176.25 (inc headset, microphone, footswitch, batteries and re-charger, 25 C90 tapes) inc VAT

Suppliers: MicrolinkPC, Hagger Electronics

Sharp Minidisk - various models

Mini-disks provide the ability to play or record for 148 minutes in mono. Access to material is virtually instantaneous. Tracks can be created, moved or erased with ease. Better sound quality is achieved by using an external microphone.

Price: With accessories from £293.75 inc. VAT

Suppliers: MicrolinkPC, Hagger Electronics

Electronic spellchecker / thesaurus

Separate spellcheckers and thesaurus are available, however, we feel that it is good to have the two functions combined into one pocket-sized format. The speaking version is bigger though still portable.

Franklin pocket Collins dictionary and thesaurus DMQ440

Phonetic spellchecker, complete definitions and inflections for 80,000 words from Collins. Thesaurus contains over 500,000 synonyms. Has a unique BOOKMAN ROM card slot, this enables them to add different publications. The confusables feature identifies and defines commonly confused words. Also has a personal user list which stores up to 50 words.

There is also a speaking version (LM6000 £293.75) for visually impaired students or those with severe dyslexia.

Price: £41.13 inc. VAT

Supplier: MicrolinkPC, iAnsyst


This portable lightweight 80 character keyboard runs off 3 AA batteries for around 2-500 hours. Has a 4 x 40 character screen suitable for text-based work. Cable link or infrared to Mac or PC with 8 files (64 pages) of storage space. No software or floppy disks needed. Printer cable available and spell checker along with sticky keys, left/right hand and Dvorak keyboard options. New Applets Button downloads applets from a computer to extend AlphaSmart's functionality for keyboarding. Two-Way Transfer using Get Utility software, download any text from the Mac or PC to the AlphaSmart.

Applets include AlphaWord SmartApplet to Cut/Copy/Paste within and between files, a basic Calculator SmartApplet and a KeyWords SmartApplet for keyboarding instruction. Future applets will include quizzes, mindmapping and 'cloze' procedures for extending vocabulary.

Price: £276.13 inc VAT

Supplier: MicrolinkPC, iAnsyst


Calcuscribe is a 'clam shell' design portable keyboard (word processor and an interactive calculator), which has similarities to the AlphaSmart or QuickPAD. There are two models, the 'Uno' and the 'Duo'. The Duo has an 8 lines x 80 characters screen, and it offers a zoom feature (big font (16pt)/small font (8pt)). The Uno has a 4 lines x 40 characters screen (8pts). Both have a keyboard that is full-sized, sturdy and quiet. The Uno runs 300 hours on 3 AA alkaline batteries while the Duo runs 50 hours on 3 AA alkaline batteries.

The Calcuscribe's flip-top mechanism protects the screen from scratches and damage, protects the keyboard from dirt and spills, reduces screen glare by adjusting the viewing angle and has a generous space for resting wrists. The keyboard includes a variety of sticky key functions. Both have a file system with a menu, which supports named files, and optional folders with password. Navigation is by keyboard commands with regularly used ones for copying and pasting text etc. and a calculator is situated where you would normally find the glide pad on a laptop.

Connection to a computer for downloading text is by split cables although One-Key Send via cable or beam using an infra red port to the PC or a Mac. You can send files to any computer application or to a printer and InterAct by sending files to other Calcuscribes for collaborating.

Price: Duo £230 inc. VAT and the Uno £200 inc. VAT

Suppliers: MicrolinkPC, iAnsyst

Talking calculators

Talking scientific calculator

A model is produced by the RNIB. Whilst primarily designed for students with visual impairment, it is also useful for students with severe dyslexia who require audio feedback. Read & Write from TextHelp! (see above) will read back from within Excel on a PC.

Price: £222.08 inc. VAT

Supplier: RNIB

Talking calculator (basic model)

This talking calculator with LCD display is suitable for all general arithmetic work, such as checking bills, currency conversions etc. The synthetic female voice is clear, announcing each key pressed and the results of calculations. The keys are large, making the calculator easy to see. This model cannot be used with earphones. It is powered by 2 1.5 volt AA batteries.

Price: £12.20 inc. VAT

Supplier: Cobolt Systems Ltd

Supplier details

Cobolt Systems Ltd

The Old Mill House, Mill Road Reedham


NR13 3TL

Phone: +44 (0)1493 700172

Fax: +44 (0)1493 701037


Hagger Electronics

Unit 22, Business Centre West

Avenue One, Letchworth SG6 2BH

Phone: +44 (0)1462 677331

Fax: +44 (0)1462 675016


Royal National Institute for the Blind

Bakewell Road

Orton Southgate

Peterborough PE2 6XU

Phone: +44 (0)1733 370777

Fax: +44 (0)1733 371555


Iansyst Ltd

The White House

72 Fen Road

Cambridge CB4 1UN

Phone: +44 (0)1223 420101

Fax: +44 (0)1223 426644


Microlink PC

31-32 Queens Terrace


SO14 3BQ

Phone: +44 (0)23 80 315151

Fax: +44 (0)23 80 231621


See the TechDis Accessibility Database (NIAD) at for comprehensive information.

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock