Technology can be very expensive, but here you will find mostly free assistive technology and
augmentative communications devices available free on the Web.
If you can't get it free, here is information on applying for funding
for assistive technology.
This article is devoted to assistive technology for communications and augmentative communications devices.
We have another page with a many other free assistive technology.
Assistive Technology and Augmentative Communication Devices
http://www.wordtalk.org.uk/ For people with reading and writing
difficulties, having text reinforced by hearing it read aloud can be very useful. WordTalk is a free plug-in
developed for use with all versions of Microsoft Word, which can help people with reading difficulties. It will
speak the text of the document and will highlight it as it goes. It contains a talking dictionary to help
decide which word spelling is most appropriate.
http://www.aacinstitute.org AAC Keys is a keyboard and mouse emulation program for Microsoft
Windows-based and Macintosh computers. AAC Keys receives commands through your computer's serial port and
translates them into keystrokes and mouse moves, giving you full control of your computer from another
CHIPSPEAKING is a desktop augmentative communications device that supports up to 99 messages. Users can record
in their own voice (or care-givers can record the voice of someone else of the same gender and age) or take
advantage of computerized voices.
BRLTTY is a background process (daemon) which provides access to the Linux/Unix console (when in text mode) for
a blind person using a refreshable braille display. It drives the braille display, and provides complete screen
review functionality. Some speech capability has also been incorporated.
The vOICe Learning Edition - Synthetic vision software for Microsoft Windows is "an experimental system
for auditory image representations, intended to provide synthetic vision to the totally blind." - http://www.artificialvision.com/winvoice.htm
The vOICe Learning Edition translates arbitrary video images from a regular PC camera into sounds. This
means that you can see with your ears, whenever you want to. Now step beyond your computer screen and screen
reader and try this camera-based "scene reader". With a notebook PC you can even go mobile. How
well you can learn to see with your ears is something that only you can find out, but now you
can indeed find out and learn through this Learning Edition software, for free! It is hoped that seeing with
sound will not only find many practical uses, but that extensive usage may also lead to visual experiences that
truly have the distinctive subjective "feel" of vision.
There are many clipboard readers available, but they don't offer any control of the reading. The most
versatile of these readers is Saypad - http://inspiredcode.net/4VisImp.htm. This actually gives complete control of the curser,
allowing reading by line, word, or even letter, forward and backward. The other TTS apps need sight to use
them, while Saypad can be completely operated by a sightless person, speaking all the menus, a truly unique
feature. Like Natural Reader, Saypad is a word processor and can create MP3 files of any text. It uses the MS
Sam SAPI 5 voice or can also install MS Mike and Mary. Someone who needs a text reader really shouldn't
have to experiment with dozens of different apps until he finds the right one. That could be an extremely
difficult experience, even for someone who is computer literate. And highlighting text is difficult and awkward
if the screen can't be seen.
ReadPlease 2003 (Free Edition) offers full support for all Microsoft voices, reads text via Windows clipboard
from any program, Adjustable voice speed (rate) and more.
Freeware (Open Source). Plug-in for VirtualDub for Closed Captioning manipulation.
ACollab is a fully accessible, open source, multi-group, Web-based collaborative work environment. ACollab is
available as a work groups addon for ATutor 1.4+ , and as a standalone collaborative work environment that will
run on its own. ACollab is ideal for groups working at a distance developing documentation, collaborating on
research, or writing joint papers, and ideal for online educators who wish to add group learning activities to
their ATutor courses.
Compendium provides a methodological framework, plus an evolving suite of tools, for collective sense-making
and group memory. Validated in both small and large scale business projects, it is the result of over a
decade's research and development at the intersection of collaborative modeling, organizational memory,
computer-supported argumentation and meeting facilitation.
ACOMM is an accessible Java-based Instant Messaging and Whiteboard tool. It has been designed to allow
assistive technology users to participate in synchronous Internet-based communication activities that have
traditionally been inaccessible to them.
http://www.ablelink.org/ Ability OnLine "is a
friendly and safe computer friendship network where children and youth with disabilities or chrome illnesses
connect to each other as well as to their friends, family members, caregivers and supporters."
http://www.google.com/talk Google Talk enables you to call or send instant messages to your friends for
free-anytime, anywhere in the world.
As a member of "NexTalk.net", you have many state-of-the-art text-based communication features
available at your fingertips, and best of all--its FREE!
Simple web-based voice messaging. All you need to do is click, talk and send. Lets you set up groups of people
for quick easy email communication.
Audibill is a simple Windows program designed to recognize the denominations of paper currency from the United
States, Canada, Great Britain, and Europe.
http://www.yackpack.com/ YackPack is
simple, web-based voice messaging for groups. For younger or cognitively challenged people this would be
absolutely ideal - it's a closed and controlled system... click on the *PHOTO* of the person you want to
email, click on the BIG button to record, then click on the BIG button to send. It really is an amazing system
and just ideal for people who are able to talk but who have difficulty with functional
typing or writing.
Skype is a program for making free calls over the internet to anyone else who also has Skype: http://www.skype.com/ (Google ginail and yahoo
messenger all allow for full telephone conversations over the web - a benefit for people with physically
Click-N-Type Speech is more than just fun, Typing Sounds provide audible feedback, you may select one of the
"Spoken Keys" options, as well as normal typewriter sounds. The feature "speaks" the keys
back to you, letting you know you've hit the correct key and documentation on how to create "Spoken
Keys" is included with the Click-N-Type help file, so people can create their own.
WordWeb is a Thesaurus and dictionary for Windows which includes a comprehensive English thesaurus and
dictionaiy, and can be used to look up words from within most programs. WordWeb works from a small icon in your
system tray. To look up a word in almost any program just double-click on the word to select it, then click the
WordWeb icon or use the keyboard shortcut. If you are editing a document you can select a synonym and replace
the look-up word.
WordWeb includes a comprehensive English thesaurus and dictionary, and can be used to look up words from within
This software teaches children to know and make the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.
Accessible RSS News Feeds is widely used by the weblog community to share the latest entries’ headlines
or their full text, and even attached multimedia files. In mid 2000, use of RSS spread to many major news
organizations, including Reuters, CNN and the BBC, until under various usage agreements, providers allow other
websites to incorporate their "syndicated" headline or headline-and-short-summary feeds.
Optical character recognition
Free Optical Character Recognition application
The British Broadcast Company
(BBC) allows people to listen to vast quantities of their radio output up to a week after it is first
broadcast on one of their dozens of radio stations. This service, called Listen Again, relies on a web browser interface that might be difficult for
some users, especially people with screen readers. Accessible BBC Listen Again allows you to access the
BBC's Listen Again content through a truly accessible interface designed to work with any screen
HELP Read™ is FREE software that reads along with you while you do the reading. Whether you’re
younger or older, new to reading or have your own library, HELP Read™ should be able to help you read
more and understand more of what you read.
For people with reading and writing difficulties, having text reinforced by hearing it read aloud can be very
useful. WordTalk is a free plug-in developed for use with all versions of Microsoft Word (from Word 97
upwards), which can help people with reading difficulties use Microsoft Word more effectively.
I'm presently checking out a new complete screen reader, called NonVisual Desktop Access, NVDA. http://www.nvda-project.org/ This looks very
promising and, even now, is a very useful program. It requires no installation, just unzipping into a folder
and running it.
Another recent free screen reader is called Thunder. http://www.screenreader.net/index.php?pageid=11§ion=Thunder
I haven't tried it yet, but it has received many positive reviews. Rick Harmon demonstrates this free
screen reader for Windows - http://media.libsyn.com/media/bct/bct1025Thunder.mp3
Non Visual Desktop Access - Rick Harmon describes the advantages and disadvantages of this screen reader,
talks about cababilities,and demonstrates the free, open source screen reader called Non Visual Desktop Access
Hear demonstrations of NVDA and Thunder - podcasts can be streamed or downloaded from:http://www.blindcooltech.com
AccessibleNews is a browser plug in that makes websites accessible to screen readers. It re arranges websites
you visit and makes them screen reader friendly!
Yasr is a general-purpose console screen reader for GNU/Linux and other Unix-like operating systems.
Fire Vox is an open source, freely available talking browser extension for the Firefox web browser. Think of it
as a screen reader that is designed especially for Firefox.
ScreenReader that provides the ability to write letters and documents, hear what you have typed letter by
letter or word by word, change the speed and voice, and repeat what you have just heard and more. It will speak
menus and dialog boxes. You will have full speech feedback for most text-based word processing tasks including
editing documents in Microsoft Word, WordPad or Notepad. You will be able to keep in touch with friends and
family in complete privacy by using email with all the functions of Outlook Express. You will be able to read
masses of information on the Internet on any subject from the price of first class stamps to zebras’ life
expectancy. You will be able to search for information and get answers in seconds. You will be able to enjoy
live and listen again radio, and fill in forms for Internet shopping, banking etc.
For $5 a month you can have access to: over 2,150 signs, Baby Sign, International Sign, Stock Trader
Sign, Animal Sign sections and Sign Stories Articles at http://www.handspeak.com
AIJS Lesson tutor: http://www.lessontutor.com/ASLgenhome.html
Emacspeak is a speech interface that allows visually impaired users to interact independently and efficiently
with the computer.
Audio formatting --a technique pioneered by AsTeR-- and
full support for W3C's Aural CSS (ACSS) allows
Emacspeak to produce rich aural presentations of electronic information. By seamlessly blending all aspects of
the Internet such as Web-surfing and messaging, Emacspeak speech-enables local and remote information via a
consistent and well-integrated user interface.
Available free of cost on the Internet, Emacspeak has dramatically changed how the author and hundreds of
blind and visually impaired users around the world interact with the personal computer and the Internet. A rich
suite of task-oriented tools provides efficient speech-enabled access to the audio desktop and evolving
E-Speaking is free for you to download and use. e-Speaking includes over 100 pre-defined commands. If you
wish to add, edit, or delete commands from e-Speaking, you will need to purchase a license to activate that
part of the code.
SpeakOn is a free program that runs on your PC and is a speech enabled environment containing applications for
listening to various media. SpeakOn has been developed for people who are comfortable using computers. It does
not require a screenreader or magnifier; it does not have a visual interface and in fact does not require a
screen at all. You communicate with SpeakOn using a numerical keypad or the standard keyboard and SpeakOn
responds with speech.
Festival offers a general framework for building speech synthesis systems as well as including examples of
various modules. Full tools and documentation for build new voices are available through Carnegie Mellon's
FestVox project (http://festvox.org)
Text to Speech
Please Read 2003 English, Spanish, German, French, UK English. Works in word processing programs and in
e-mail. http://www.readplease.com or
Sayz Me is a text-to-speech application for Windows. Text can be typed in or read from clipboard. Words are
highlighted when spoken. Select voice, adjust reading speed, voice pitch, font and color.
Talk-To-Me for Windows. Will read your E-Mail, Instant Messages, web pages, letters and documents. Send
Animated Messages to friends. Greet you daily with the date, time, and a personal message and set alarms to
remind you ofevents. http://www.talk-to-rne.net
Mac Users try Text-Edit Plus is a styled text editor that fills the gap between Apple's bare bones
SimpleText and a full-featured word processor. http://www.tex-edit.com
Another free, switch accessible program from Inclusive Technology. Record your voice and hear it played back
while a face animates!
Will read your documents out loud in one of its many high quality voices. This can be a great tool for proof
reading because hearing your text out loud helps you spot all mistakes. This program can also be used for
Natural Voice Reader - software that converts text into voice. Reads text directly from other applications,
without copying or pasting. Can also convert text files into MP3 or WAV files for use on portable devices like
iPod, CD players and PocketPCs. http://www.naturalreaders.com
CyberBuddy at http://www.thecyberbuddy.com has Microsoft Agents that are animated characters that can move
around the screen and talk to you. Keep reminders and get your attention when a reminder is due, Instant
Message (like TCQ) with speech and animation, Send Voice Messages and more.
ATalker is a Web-based text-to-speech utility, based on the Festival Text-to-Speech system. With synthesized speech
ATalker can read text out loud over the Web. With the ATalker Theme
installed, the ATutor interface and feedback messages can be read out loud.
Simply by scrolling your mouse over the text that you want read to you, browsealoud will read and speak what
you require, helping you navigate enabled websites more easily.
PowerTalk automatically speaks any presentation or slide show running in Microsoft PowerPoint for Windows. You
just download and install PowerTalk and while you open and run the presentation as usual it speaks the text on
your slides. PowerTalk is able to speak text as it appears and can also speak hidden text attached to
My Freedom To Communicate (MyFTC) is Assistive Technology (AT) software that uses text-to-speech technology to
enable nonverbal individuals to communicate easily in real life situations.
NaturalReader is software that converts any text into incredibly clear, high-quality, natural sounding voices.
Integrated with the latest One-Click technology, NaturalReader reads text directly from other applications,
without copying or pasting. Unique powerful output function can easily convert very large text files into MP3
or WAV files for use on portable devices.
TextAloud reads text from email, web pages, reports and more, aloud on your PC. TextAloud can also save your
daily reading to MP3 or Windows Media files ready for playback on your iPod, PocketPC, or even on your TV with
Tivo's Home Media Option. You can download a free trial version of TextAloud.
CoolSpeak is a new Internet messaging system which lets you and your friends, family and fellow workers send
and receive voice messages anytime, anywhere via the Internet. CoolSpeak messages can include voice, text and
file attachments. All you have to do is register on the CoolSpeak web site for a FREE CoolSpeak VoiceBox. There
are no hidden charges! You can then exchange voice messages with any other registered CoolSpeak user anytime,
anywhere in the world! CoolSpeak users can send and receive messages at no charge, via the CoolSpeak desktop
application or the CoolSpeak browser plug-in.
Do you have to type e-mails all day long? Hey, your e-mail does not have to be typed - you can create voice
e-mails. And Voice E-Mail Pilot is the program that will let you do this. Your voice e-mail will let your
addressee know how you feel better than the smiley face. You also can use the program as voice notes manager.
You can sort your voice notes by subject, filter them, and save in different files. Voice E-Mail Pilot can
automatically stop recording when you stop talking, which makes your notes free of unnecessary pauses.