Assistive Technology Support for Students with Reading Difficulties

Supporting access to the curriculum and increasing capabilities for students with reading difficulties

There are assistive technologies and strategies available that can support access to the curriculum and increase capabilities for students with reading difficulties. Many of these technologies and strategies are readily available in the classroom and can also be used at home to support a student who struggles with reading. Assistive technology is never meant to replace instruction, but when paired with research-based instructional methods, it can bridge the gap between a student’s current skills and the material that they need to access. 

Microsoft Word and Google Docs Strategies 

There are many simple adjustments that can be made in Microsoft Word and Google Docs that might help students who struggle with reading.

Fonts

The font in which text is presented can make a difference in how well students are able to differentiate among letters. Fonts that have distinct shapes and minimize extra flourishes tend to be easier for students to read, such as sans-serif fonts. Here's how to change the font in Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

There are also free fonts available that have been designed specifically for increased readability. 

Text-to-Speech Readers

Text-to-speech readers convert text on a computer screen to spoken words to be read aloud to a student. 

  • Natural Reader - Natural Reader is a text-to-speech program that will read aloud text. The free version can be downloaded at home and is also available in schools through AppV via request to your school's Technology Support Specialist (TSSpec). 
  • Speak Tool in Microsoft Office - Speak is a read aloud feature built-in Microsoft Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Online Text Tools 

  • Text Compactor - Text Compactor is a free online text summarizer. After typing or pasting text into the provided text box, the user can select the percentage of summarization. Text compactor will provide a summary of the text that could then be read aloud by a separate screen reader, such as Natural Reader.
  • Rewordify - Rewordify is an online tool that will simplify text. Words that are simplified are highlighted on the screen. The user can click on the highlighted words to see and hear the original word.  

Accessible Text 

  • AIM-VA - AIM-VA provides accessible instructional materials to eligible Virginia K-12 students who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and are unable to access traditional print. For additional information on AIM-VA and to see if your child is eligible, please visit our Accessible Instructional Materials page.
  • Learning Ally - Learning Ally provides members access to audiobooks, including literature selections. Some students may qualify for access to Learning Ally books through AIM-VA.
  • Bookshare - Bookshare is another company that provides access to accessible books for students with print deficits. Bookshare is free to students who qualify. 
  • FCPS Online Books - Fairfax County Public Schools students have access to many online book services through Library Online Databases. These resources include myOn books, TumbleBooks, MackinVia, and PebbleGo among many others.