The following is intended as a starting point for finding free software that may assist users with alternative requirements such as Specific Learning Difficulties, visual impairments or mobility issues.
A useful list can also be found on the JISC TechDis website.
My Study Bar
OS: Windows Vista/7
A tool to help with studying, reading and writing, containing a set of portable open source and freeware applications, bundled into one package. Includes speech recognition, mind mapping and literacy support.
TechDis Jack & TechDis Jess
OS: Windows and Mac
Voices can be used with:
- Adobe Reader 'Read Out Loud' function
- WordTalk for Word
- Chrome Speak for Google Chrome
NB: Needs admin rights to install
Free Text-to-speech Software
OS: Windows Vista/7/8
Balabolka is a Text-To-Speech (TTS) program. The on-screen text can be saved as a WAV, MP3, MP4, OGG or WMA file. The program can read text from DOC, EPUB, FB2, HTML, ODT, PDF and RTF files, The program uses various versions of Microsoft Speech API (SAPI). The user can modify a voice's parameters, including rate and pitch, and can create a special substitution list to improve the quality of the voice's articulation.
NaturalReader 12 / Mac3.0
OS: Windows Vista/7, Mac OS X 10.4.1
NaturalReader is a Text to Speech software with natural sounding voices. This easy to use software can convert any written text such as MS Word, Webpage, PDF files, and Emails into spoken words.
WordTalk for Word
OS: Windows (Microsoft Word)
WordTalk is a free text-to-speech plugin developed for use with all versions of Microsoft Word (from Word 97 up to Word 2013). Sitting neatly in your Microsoft Word toolbar it is highly configurable. It will speak the text of the document and will highlight it as it goes.
Chrome Speak for Google Chrome
Select the text you want to read then click the icon for SpeakIt to read it out loud.
Free Planning Software
Cayra Mind Mapping
OS: Windows Vista
Cayra is a free program that lets you represent tasks, ideas, concepts, and other items in a dynamic visual mode. Cayra is based on techniques such as Mind Maps and Concept Maps. You can use Cayra for: Studies, Brainstorming, Project and people management, Planning and organizing, Creativity, Decision making, Problem solving, and Time management.
MindView 6 (available on the MCS Service)
OS: Windows 7
Mindview is a mind mapping tool designed to aid brainstorming and presentation of information and ideas as a visual map. It is helpful in organizing and developing ideas, outlining reports and streamlining decision-making. MindView can also be used as a Project Management tool, creating Gantt charts, time lines and Work Breakdown Structures. Finished maps can easily be exported to other applications including MS Word and MS Powerpoint.
Free Visual Impairment software
MyVisBar is a floating toolbar which delivers a range of open source and freeware applications to support learners with visual difficulties. The floating toolbar is a high contrast (yellow on black) toolbar offering 6 quality applications; Magnify (DesktopZoom, a desktop magnifier), Speech (Thunder screen reader), Write (Q10, a high contrast text editor), Read (T-Bar for colour masking), Resize (change your desktop resolution) and Focus (Sonar ring to track the mouse cursor).
NVDA Screen Reader
NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) is a free screen reader for computers running on the Windows operating system. Here is a snapshot of just some of NVDA’s features.
- Support for popular applications including web browsers, email, internet chatting, and office programs including Word and Excel.
- NVDA can be installed directly on to your computer, but it has the ability to run entirely from a USB stick or other portable media.
- Built-in speech synthesiser for English and more than 43 other languages.
- Reporting of textual formatting where available, such as font name and size, style and spelling errors.
- Automatic announcement of text under the mouse and optional audible indication of the mouse position.
- Support for many refreshable braille displays.
- Easy to use talking installer.
- Support for common accessibility interfaces including Java Access Bridge.
- Support for Windows command prompt and console applications.
FX Software - ssOverlays - (scroll down page to ssOverlays)
ssOverlay (the ss stands for Scotopic Sensitivity), places a coloured overlay onto the screen. The colour and transparency levels can be adjusted to suit the user. Everything is controlled from the icon in the Notification area of the Taskbar (where the clock sits). Right clicking this icon will open the menu showing Settings (where colours and transparency can be changed) and Multi Monitor Support option.