Assistive Technology Supports for Reading

by Cindy L. Richardson

As we determine a student's need for assistive technology, the type and level of support considered are often shaped by several guiding questions. The answers to two of the most critical of these questions, "What task is the student unable to accomplish with existing supports?" and "What are the barriers that prohibit task accomplishment?" can often help identify possible options.

In this article, we review two software programs that can be used to provide different levels of support for students who struggle with the task of reading. This software is representative of a newer category of literacy software that provides support not only for the task of reading, but also for writing and studying. The software is moderately priced compared to other software in this category, yet offers features that can meet the demands of an advanced general education curriculum.

SOFTWARE REVIEW
Title: WYNN Reader and WYNN Wizard

Type of Software: WYNN Reader (text reader), WYNN Wizard (text reader with OCR capability)

Terminology Defined:

  • Text reader: Software that uses a speech engine to read electronic text (computer-created or web documents). These types of programs provide the user with various levels of support and  features that are often customizable.

  • Text reader with OCR capability: Software that, in addition to the features described above, reads printed documents such as textbook pages, magazine articles, and so on, that are scanned into the program. The use of a scanner is required in order to access this feature.

  • Word prediction: A feature sometimes integrated into comprehensive literacy tools that reduces the number of keys a student must strike in order to type a given word, usually increasing the speed with which a written task is completed.

All features contained in WYNN Reader are available in WYNN Wizard. The only difference is the types of documents to be read. For example, if the student needs to use the program to read textbook pages, worksheets, or articles available in print format only, WYNN Wizard would be the more appropriate choice. For all other types of reading (tests or documents created on the computer, web page information, or text downloaded from the Internet Public Library or other electronic libraries), WYNN Reader would suffice. For schools considering this software for more than one student, a copy of WYNN Wizard may be purchased and installed on a designated computer in order to convert scanned print material to electronic text. Once a scanned document has been saved to a disk, it can be read on the computer containing WYNN Wizard or on any computer containing WYNN Reader. 

Which Students Benefit from WYNN Reader or WYNN Wizard?

  • Non-readers or students whose reading skills are below a level necessary to keep pace with the curriculum;

  • Students who could benefit from adjustments to text presentation (e.g., font type, style, size, color, background color, use of a text highlighter, word and line spacing, or portion of the text that is visible as it is being read);

  • Students who would benefit from being able to access a comprehensive dictionary to look up and have read to them the definition of an unfamiliar word;

  • Students with English as a second language or language disorders who could benefit from hearing the word broken into syllables and correctly enunciated;

  • Students who could benefit from being abie to actively engage with the text by having study tools (the ability to highlight or take or record notes) as they are reading, thereby increasing comprehension and retention of the information;

  • Students who not only need to read and understand the text, but who may also need access to writing tools such as word prediction to complete a written assignment that follows or is integrated into the text.

  • What Makes WYNN Reader and WYNN Wizard Effective Supports for Students?

  • Students who need multiple types or levels of support gain access to these supports through one application, instead of having to use several applications at the same time to accomplish a given task;

  • For students who need access to several pages of scanned text, whether from one or several sources, the application (WYNN Wizard) offers several features that reduce the time required to accomplish the task of scanning;

  • Students are provided with the tools necessary to complete the tasks of reading, writing, and studying independently.  With modeling from instructional staff, students learn to independently  apply these skills, rather than relying primarily on another person (e.g., teacher, teacher assistant, peer, or family member) to accomplish the assigned task;

  • Students can easily extract highlighted or recorded information into a separate document. Once extracted, this information can be used to reinforce important concepts or to support a writing assignment; 

  • A web-access feature allows students access to the literacy support tools contained within the application (WYNN) while online. A Web Focus feature allows the reader to "mask" other text or graphics, so that attention is focused only on the text being read; 

  • If desired or required, any of the supports mentioned can be temporarily "locked out" during test taking.

WYNN Reader and WYNN Wizard are manufactured by Freedom Scientific Learning Systems Group, (888) 223-3344;  www.FreedomScientific.com. The program is available for IBM-compatible Pentium 2 or higher computers, with at least 64 MB of RAM; supports Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, or Me. Macintosh computers (G3 or G4) with an operating system of 9 or higher may also be able to support the software. Single copies of WYNN Reader sell for $425. WYNN Wizard sell for $995. If you are considering this program as a tool to support the literacy skills of a student or group of students and would like more information, please contact Cindy Richardson, Assistive Technology Specialist, at (757) 221-2374 or [[cxric2]].

Date: February/March 2002