Adaptive Software & Hardware

Fall 2022: The Knox Center is now open during the same hours as the Shapiro Library. Please send any questions to Sites.Knox@umich.edu.

Software

  • Supported software will be updated periodically, and is available on all public Sites machines throughout campus.
  • Provided software is available as described.
  • Freeware lists programs and websites that may be helpful. These may be built into operating systems or standard programs, or may be easy to obtain online.

Accessibility Toolbar

Supported

  • Morphic at U-M is an open-source toolbar that makes computers easier to use by exposing accessibility features built into Windows and Macintosh computers. Morphic is available on all Sites computers. Users may also download Morphic to their personal devices at no charge.

Screen Reader Software

Supported

Note: Users at the Knox Center and in other public spaces will need to bring their own headphones when using screen reader software.

  • JAWS (Job Access with Speech) allows blind users to access Windows computers using audio output and keyboard commands.
  • NVDA, an open source Windows screen reader that provides speech output and keyboard navigation for blind users, is now available on all public Sites computers running the Windows operating system. NVDA uses a keyboard command set very similar to JAWS and has been shown to work with the currently installed versions of Chrome and Office. Users may also download NVDA to their personal computers at no charge.
  • VoiceOver is a screen reader built into Macintosh operating systems.

Magnification Software

Supported

  • ZoomText (link to downloadable manual) provides options that make text and cursors easier to see for Windows users.

Reading/Writing Software

Supported

Note: Users at the Knox Center and in other public spaces will need to bring their own headphones when using Read & Write's text-to-speech features.

  • Read & Write for Windows and Read & Write for Mac are literacy toolkits that interface directly with word processors and browsers, which can provide more flexibility than similar stand-alone programs like Kurzweil 3000. Features include:

    • Screenshot Reader, which allows audio reading of many text formats that are otherwise not accessible;
    • Four virtual highlighters, and the ability to extract some or all highlighted text to a separate Word document.
    • A Scan feature that can convert hard copy to electronic format, or convert PDF files into more legible Word files.
    • A Screen Masking feature that can change the background color on some or all of the screen to improve readability.

    Read & Write is available on all Sites-maintained public Windows and Mac computers throughout the campus. Read & Write is also available for personal use to any current U-M student, faculty, or staff member. Please see the Windows and Mac links above for current information on how to download, install, authorize, and use the latest version. Read & Write for iPad (link is to manual), which has a limited feature set, is also available and can be downloaded from the App Store.
     

  • Open Dyslexic is a font that has been installed to the public Windows and Mac computers. The font is designed to make frequently confused letter combinations (e.g., h and n) look distinct from each other, and therefore make reading easier. Open Dyslexic may also be downloaded for free to personal computers. 
     
  • Balabolka is an open source Windows program that we have found to be more useful than Read & Write for converting text files into MP3s. It is now available on all public Sites computers running the Windows operating system.

    Users may also download Balabolka to their personal Windows computers at no charge. We are continuing to look for an equivalent Macintosh program.

    • Open Balabolka.
    • Cut and paste text into the Balabolka window
    • Choose a voice you like from the pull-down list:

      Choose a voice you like from the pull-down list in Balabolka.

    • Choose File menu >Save Audio File... or press Ctrl+W.
    • Use the tab key from the main document area to access the speech synthesizer, voice, rate, pitch, and volume.
      • Sliders are not labeled, but their values are spoken when focus lands on them and when they are being adjusted.
      • One easy way to determine which slider you are adjusting is to move one, press the F5 key, and listen for a change in the voice.
    • You can also change these characteristics through the Voice Menu which is accessible via the keyboard shortcut Alt + v. Sliders are properly labeled if this method is used.

Freeware

  • TypingClub has free lessons and games for learning how to type one-handed on a standard keyboard.

Voice Recognition

Provided

  • Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Windows (link to manual) allows users to dictate text, as well as perform mouse functions via spoken commands. Users will need to bring their own USB microphone headsets when using NaturallySpeaking; the Logitech H390 works well, is inexpensive, and is available from the U-M Tech Shop. NaturallySpeaking is available on the Windows computer ATCS5 (in the leftmost workstation) in room 2064A at the Knox Center.
  • Windows Voice Recognition is a simpler voice recognition program built into Windows 10 and 11. 
  • VoiceControl is built into the Mac operating systems Catalina (OS 10.15) and higher. 

Notetaking Software

Many notetaking programs are available to meet a variety of needs and preferences. Please contact kevkh@umich.edu for up-to-date information.

Built-In Software Utilities

Freeware

Both Windows and Macintosh operating systems have utilities that make keyboard, mouse, and monitor use easier.

Summary of Windows and Mac System Features for Sites Computers

Standard programs are increasingly building in accessibility features as well:

Hardware

Smartpens

Winter 2022: The Echo pen has been discontinued; we are not aware of any fully equivalent alternatives. The information below is for individuals who already have an Echo pen.

Smartpens can be a useful notetaking tool. They look and write like a standard pen, but have additional useful capabilities.

  • The Echo smartpen has a built-in audio recorder. When notes are written in a compatible notebook, the user can later perform a review by tapping the pen on any section of the note and having the associated audio play back. The text and audio can then be archived and even converted to editable text.

    With the smartpen notebooks, it is very important that you archive a notebook that you have completed. There are only four models of notebooks provided by SSD, numbered 1 (blue), 2 (red), 3 (black), and 4 (orange). If you have previously used, say, a #3 notebook, finish it, and then want to use a new #3, you will first need to archive the old one to your computer. Otherwise, when you write in the new book it may play the audio from the old one. Full instructions on archiving a notebook are available from the Livescribe website.

    When you start a new notebook, you should also be sure to tap on the seal with your pen before breaking the seal. This identifies the new book to the system.

Adjustable Furniture

All tables and chairs at the Knox Center are adjustable. Room 2064A has one chair that permits computer use from a reclining position, available on a first-come-first-served basis.

Several adjustable tables are also available in multiple Sites labs throughout campus, including the second floor 

Closed-Circuit Televisions (CCTVs)

Also known as "video magnifiers," CCTVs enlarge text, handwork or anything placed under their cameras. Although they often use computer monitors to display the enlarged image, they do not transfer this image to the computer. Users can adjust contrast, brightness, magnification level and focus. The Knox Center has one CCTV in the back left corner of Room 2064.

Other Equipment

Assistive technology evaluations are an opportunity for members of the U-M community to explore high-tech accommodation options for a temporary or permanent disability. Students affiliated with SSD should contact their counselor for services. Faculty and staff who have medical documentation should contact mhealthyergo@med.umich.edu. Other members of the U-M community are welcome to contact Knox Center staff at Sites.Knox@umich.edu.