Articles from Contact Magazine

Enabling Technologies- Part 1


In recent years, the range of accessibility features now found within the basic operating systems of the latest computers and mobile devices have become more extensive. Some now offer a range of options that were once only ever available with the purchase of commercial packages. These features do not replace the need for more specialised software for some users, but they do offer some individuals a chance to try options which may offer sufficient support in certain contexts.

BDANTC have embarked upon a series of articles which will help you learn more about some of the features available on the devices you own. We will be looking at a range of operating systems, and begin the series with some of the helpful options Victoria Crivelli learned about the iPad, during a recent workshop run by Mike Watkinson from Jigsaw 24 (

Enabling Technologies on the iPad.

N.B. These options can also be enabled on your iPhone. All images and details about Settings relate to iOS 10.3.

Key Messages:

  • Before downloading a mass of additional Apps, explore the many useful built in options and accessibility features iPads have to offer to everyone, but especially to support those with additional learning needs such as Dyslexia.
  • Users may prefer to use headphones with a personal microphone for privacy and more accurate recordings e.g. in public or noisy environments.

General Tips:

  • If you “get lost” – just press the home button (round button located at the bottom of the device) at any time.
  • To switch to and from recently used screens – press the home key twice (i.e. double click). Any recently used apps will appear for selection.
  • You must be connected to the internet in order to use Siri . If necessary activate this in Settings (accessed from the home screen).
  • Many of the changes to personalise and increase accessibility can be found within

Gestures: Commands can be made with hand ‘gestures’ i.e. swiping across the screen with one or more fingers.

Search: Swipe down with one finger from the middle of the Home screen. This will enable a keyboard that you can use to search for apps or websites.

Siri:  is an inbuilt facility which may help you to find and do things using voice commands (once activated in Settings). Hold down the home key and then use the microphone to make a search or find an app. Try this by saying something such as:  “Open Safari,” or for those struggling to spell:  “How do you spell…”

Quick Access: You can quickly access useful features by swiping up from the bottom of the screen with one finger to access a grey panel. This will let you adjust:

  • Volume control (this is easier than finding the buttons on the side of the iPad).
  • Brightness control.
  • Camera or video.
  • Locking the screen facility (i.e. so it doesn’t spin or change from landscape to portrait).

Features to support reading:

Speak provides text-to speech: Enable this by going to Settings >General >Accessibility > Speech. Choose Speak Selection.

Select text  by tapping with one finger (and hold briefly). If necessary expand the selection by pulling the blue ‘handles’ in the corners of the selection box. Choose the option Speak from the pop-up menu and the selected text will then be read aloud. N.B. Not all documents (e.g. some books) will permit this option.

Speak Screen: is a screen reader function. (Enable by: Settings >General >Accessibility > Speech. Choose Speak Screen). It will read most text shown in a document e.g. email, PDF, some e-books, webpage.

Swipe down with two fingers from the middle and top of the screen.

This will display a screen where you can change the speed of speech using the hare and tortoise symbols, pause or replay.

Use the X symbol to turn off.

You can also change the Speaking Rate and download different Voices (including those that are enhanced) from Settings >General >Accessibility >Speech. 

Highlighted Text: Text can also be highlighted in some screens and Apps as it is spoken. This may help some dyslexic learners.

Select Settings > General >Accessibility > Speech > Highlight Text. You can choose to highlight the individual words and/or sentences.

Features to support note-taking, writing and spelling:

Predictive text: (Activate through Settings> General>Keyboard>Predictive). Suggested words then appear above the keyboard.

You can also tap and hold each word to hear it spoken in the Predictive panel by activating: Settings >General >Accessibility >Speech >Typing Feedback. Choose the Hold to Speak Predictions option.

Dictate provides speech to text: Activate this in Settings >General >Keyboard >Enable Dictation.

Tap the icon next to the space bar and speak into the microphone. The words will appear as they are spoken. Dictate is a scaled down version of Dragon Dictation and will accept very basic commands such as “new line ” or ” question mark.”   It is ideal for short notes and paragraphs.

Use Speak (described above) to help you edit any typed text.

Some users also like to hear each word spoken back to them as they type. This can be set up from Settings >General >Accessibility >Speech >Typing Feedback and selecting Speak Words. 

Useful Accessibility Features:

Go to Settings from the home page to access other Accessibility features (General > Accessibility) to change :

  • Text size
  • Brightness settings
  • Colour tints and inversion of colours for the screen (General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations). This may be useful for those with visual stress and colour blindness).

To stop Auto Capitalisation (for example in lists and notes) go to Settings > General > Keyboard.

N.B. Third party keyboard apps can also be added after purchase from the App Store and downloaded if required. E.g. ‘Lowercase Keyboard’ is a lowercase keyboard for younger users using OpenDyslexic font. Maths keyboards are also available for easy access to symbols such as square roots.

Simplifying a screen when using web pages: 

The Reader function in Safari strips away distracting and often irrelevant adverts etc from a web page so just the key information is presented. Look for the icon   inside the e-address window on the left hand side. (Most good web pages will display this icon).

Select the icon and the main text will appear without any additional info / adverts .

The Aa symbol, on the opposite side of the e-address window, enables text size, font and colour background options for web pages. (This feature is available in some e-Books too).

To hear words or part of the text or information, tap and select the text, then choose the Speak or Speak Screen options described above.

For further information and training around this or any other aspect of using iPads in the classroom contact: .


Enabling Technologies: Part 2

Continuing our series of articles exploring some of the useful features available on the devices we own, Robert McLaren from Diversity and Ability ( draws our attention to some of those offered on a Mac. The images and location of features referred to are based upon those found within Mac OS Sierra. However, these may appear in different locations of System Preferences depending upon the version you use.


Text-to -speech can be a great tool for proofreading your own writing or reading from websites or PDFs. Macs have this feature built into their operating system. It enables most text to be read out loud by the computer. Once the feature is set up, the user can select some text in (almost) any program and then press a key combination to hear the text vocalised. Note: this does not work in Adobe Reader but does in Preview.

To set up the feature: go to ‘System Preferences’ then ‘Accessibility’, then ‘Speech’.

On this screen, you can check the box for ‘Speak selected text when the key is pressed’. You can also select a choice of voice and how fast it will read. If you use the feature regularly, then it may be worth buying an additional voice: I use Cereproc Jess which costs £25.99 ( ). By default, the key combination to speak the selected text is ‘Alt and Esc’ but you can change this by clicking ‘Change key…’


The inbuilt dictation feature writes the words you speak. It works in any text editor, from desktop programs such as Word, to websites, including Facebook and Gmail. The dictation is not always completely accurate. Sometimes it will write something that sounds similar to the words you have spoken and it is best to sound the end of words clearly for good results. However, it can be a good way to produce text without spelling errors, and you can use the text-to-speech feature to check for any inaccuracies. To use the feature: just place the cursor where you want to write and press the key combination (by default this is set as a double tap of the Fn key). This feature also allows you to perform some other computer tasks using your voice e.g. you can say ‘underline that’ to underline the selected text.

To set up the feature: go to System Preferences, then ‘Keyboard’, then ‘Dictation’ and choose the ‘On’ option.

It is also a good idea to check the box for ‘Enhanced Dictation’, which allows you to use the feature even when you are offline.  Please note to set this up you will need to be online and it may take up to 25 minutes to complete. You can change the key combination to use the feature by clicking the menu ‘shortcut’. To see a list all the commands you can use (and unlock and add more advanced ones) go to ‘System Preferences’, then ‘Accessibility’ and click ‘Dictation Commands’.

Popup Dictionary and Thesaurus

This feature allows you to select a word and then see a pop up window with the definitions and synonyms. It can be really helpful for proofreading because it lets you check for so called ‘word confusion errors’. This means that you can check if the word you have written really is the one you meant to write, and not a similar looking word. As an example: if you meant to write ‘whether or not…’ but actually wrote ‘weather or not…’, you will see the error when the definition of the word ‘weather’ shows: ‘the state of the atmosphere…’. Popup is also useful for looking up words you are reading or checking for an appropriate synonym to avoid repeating the same word too often in your writing.

This feature is set up by default. There are two ways to use the feature. One is to select the word and press Control and Command D together. Another is to use Force Click. This method of activating the popup is only available on a Mac with a Force Touch trackpad (i.e. post-2014 MacBook Pro and MacBook; not MacBook Air). If you have a Force Touch trackpad you can rest the mouse pointer over the word and then press down firmly on the trackpad.

Add Auto Corrections

You can also set up a list of Auto Corrections. This means that when you type one string of letters it will automatically change to another: e.g. ‘experement’ can be set to auto correct to ‘experiment’. This can be useful if you find that you consistently misspell the same small group of words. The feature can also be used to save time because you can set an auto correction from an acronym to a full phrase, e.g. ‘coa’ could correct to ‘Catherine of Aragon’.

To set up the feature: Go to ‘System Preferences’, then Keyboard’, then ‘Text’. Click the plus icon to add new auto corrections.

Enabling Technologies Part 3: Windows 10 and Microsoft Office latest developments: Abi James

In the last two articles we have looked at tools that are built into iPads and Macs that can help with reading, writing and overcoming common issues associated with dyslexia. In this article, we will focus on the features now available within the latest Microsoft tools – Windows 10 and Office 365, which includes the most common Office tools: Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. This article is timely, as Microsoft have recently added many features specifically to aid users with dyslexia and other learning difficulties.  Microsoft have made a commitment to continue to add additional support for users with learning difficulties and disabilities with recent blogs about accessibility listing the support they are offering. (

Built- in enabling technologies are not new to the Windows operating system, but Microsoft’s latest version has made it much easier to find each application.

Text to speech

Nearly all Windows computers have built in text to speech (TTS). This is the computer voice to read aloud text and since Windows 8 this has included a British English voice. It is not as fluent or realistic as commercial text to speech tools, but it is not as robotic as the early computer voices. In the TTS setting, accessed by through the “Ease of Access” settings or by searching for “text to speech settings”, you can select different voices and choose the speed you prefer. The British-English voices available in Windows are Microsoft Hazel (available in Windows 8 and 10), George and Susan (available in Windows 10). Details of free voices in other languages, including Welsh are listed at

Once you have selected a voice then you can use it within Office applications to read aloud text. Microsoft have recently added a “Read Aloud” tool in their internet browser Edge, their note-taking app OneNote and the latest version of Word 365. The Read Aloud tool selects the word in the text as it is read aloud to help you focus on the text.

Microsoft have also developed an Immersive Reader mode for OneNote and Word 365. This provides a simplified reading mode, showing a few lines of text at a time. You can alter the colours, font size, style and line spacing to ease reading. Immersive Reader can also be used to create an e-book experience and includes many tools for developing vocabulary such as:

  • highlighting different parts of speech.
  • breaking words into syllables
  • integrated picture dictionary.

To add the Immersive Reader you simply need to install OneNote (free) and the Learning Tools from

Further information about the new picture symbol feature can be found at .

If you have Word 2010 or 2013 and other Office applications such as PowerPoint, you can also add a text to speech button by following the instructions at

Microsoft plan to roll out their Read Aloud and Immersive Reader tools for other operating systems and applications. They already have it on Word and OneNote apps for iPad.

Spell Checker

While spell checkers are helpful for identifying incorrectly spelt words, it can be challenging to identify the correct word in the spell-checker’s suggestions if you struggle to read. Word 2016 now includes a read-aloud option in the spell checker as well as synonyms to help you understand the meaning of the suggested word.

Speech Recognition

Windows also has a built-in speech recognition tool. This is made up of Cortana (Window’s digital assistant) and the speech recognition tool for dictating into applications. Cortana is particularly useful if you struggle to correctly spell a word, simple start Cortana and ask it to show the definition by saying “What does [the word] mean”. The spelling is then displayed, broken into syllables along with the definition, which is then read aloud.

Windows speech recognition works best for dictating and editing text in applications like Microsoft Word. To turn it on type “Speech Recognition” into the windows search box or ask Cortana to “Start Speech Recognition”. The first time you start the speech recognition tool you will need to set up the microphone. You do not need to go through the tutorial (voice training), although it will improve the recognition accuracy. Windows Speech Recognition is relatively accurate if you have a clear dictation style and do not pause or stumble. However, it is not as forgiving of ‘umms’ or pauses as the commercial speech recognition tool Dragon Naturally Speaking. Nor does it have tools to help with identifying dictation mistakes or controlling your computer that comes with the Premium and Professional versions of Dragon. So, if you are thinking about whether speech recognition is a suitable tool for you the Windows tool is a useful starting point. It will give you a chance to experience how speech recognition works and whether you are comfortable dictating. But if you find it makes lots of mistakes, then you may need additional training or to invest in a Dragon NaturallySpeaking licence.

More information

If you want to find out more many other ways of customising Word 2016 and Word 365 to support learning then Call Scotland have produced a handy guide available at




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