Augmentative communications devices for people with disabilities

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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

wordtalk 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.

aacinstitute 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 device.


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." - artificialvision

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.

Clipboard readers

There are many clipboard readers available, but they don't offer any control of the reading. The most versatile of these readers is Saypad - 4VisImp. 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.

Closed caption

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.


ablelinkAbility 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."

google 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 "", 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.

Currency reader
Audibill is a simple Windows program designed to recognize the denominations of paper currency from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Europe.


yackpack/ 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: skype/ (Google ginail and yahoo messenger all allow for full telephone conversations over the web - a benefit for people with physically disabilities.)

free2u 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 most programs.

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 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 reader.


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.

Screen readers

I'm presently checking out a new complete screen reader, called NonVisual Desktop Access, NVDA. nvda-project/ 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. screenreader
I haven't tried it yet, but it has received many positive reviews.

Hear demonstrations of NVDA and Thunder - podcasts can be streamed or downloaded from:blindcooltech

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.

Sign Language

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 handspeak

AIJS Lesson tutor: lessontutor

Speech control

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 Aural CSS 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 semantic WWW.

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.

Speech synthesis
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 (festvox)

Text to Speech

Please Read 2003 English, Spanish, German, French, UK English. Works in word processing programs and in e-mail. readplease or convenienceware for Mac.

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. talk-to-me

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. tex-edit

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 reading e-books.

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. naturalreaders

CyberBuddy at thecyberbuddy 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 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 images

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.

Voice messaging

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.

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