Assistive Technology (AT)


What is AT?

Assistive Technology (AT) is any device, system or design that provides people with practical solutions to enhance learning, working, and daily living for people with disabilities and/or chronic health conditions.

What is the benefit of AT?

In university contexts, AT can lessen or remove barriers experienced by staff and students in or out of the classroom, office, laboratories, or during exams. AT can help improve a whole range of difficult situations from access to materials, to research or study skills, to creation and presentation of content, right through to hearing and visual augmentation.

Who can use AT?

Everyone. Both staff and students.

Here at Western we believe in providing an inclusive learning and working environment. We strive to empower all staff and students to reach their potential, whether they have a disability or not. That is why we make various assistive technologies widely available across all our campus computers, with specialised devices and programs available, as required, in our Access Rooms or assigned to staff with workplace adjustment plans. Some AT is also available for installation on a staff or student's personal device.

How do I get access to AT?

Take a look through the information provided below to see a selection of AT available to you here at Western. Some you will need to contact us to access but there's plenty you are able to use independently and even take with you after you've moved on from the University.

Students

Book in for an individual consultation with our AT Specialist if you wish to discuss your situation and get expert advice tailored to you. You are not required to have or disclose a disability to use this service.

If you have a disability or chronic health condition and feel you might benefit from the use of AT during exams, or would like a formal Academic Integration Plan (AIP) in place, please register with Disability Services so you can talk with a Disability Advisor about your situation first.

To make an appointment, call 1300 668 370 (select option 4, then option 1) or email disability@westernsydney.edu.au.

Staff

If you are a staff member with a disability or chronic health condition, and you would like an assistive technology assessment, please speak with the team at Equity and Diversity.


AT that can be useful in a University setting

Note Taking

Are you someone who has difficulty writing and/or typing notes during lectures, labs or meetings while you are also trying to listen and engage with the information being provided at the same time? Can't find the part of the note you wrote that you really need? Note taking technologies can help with the process of creating notes in lots of different environments, and keeping them organised. Find software that suits your needs and see the difference it can make.

Sonocent Audio Notetaker

Sonocent Audio Notetaker is both a software program and an app which records audio and breaks it into 'chunks' that can be colour-coded by the user. At the end of the recording, users can pull out the audio relating to particular colours (ie. important parts) and create their own study notes. You can also import slides or other images, type in areas alongside the audio recording or make use of the features to prepare for a presentation.

The free companion app allows for mobile recording which can be shared with the software on your computer at a later stage.

Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android devices

Access: Visit the Sonocent website for more information and to register for a free 30-day trial today. Ongoing access can be discussed with a Disability Advisor or the Assistive Technology Specialist.

AudioNote

AudioNote allows you to write, type or take photos to create notes while it records audio, giving you further context to your notes. You can annotate directly onto PDF's, customise fonts, colours, shapes and more. Playback of audio automatically highlights and scrolls to display what was being written as the audio was happening so you don't have to double guess.

Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android devices

Access: Visit the website for more information and to start a 1 month free trial. This app is available at the user's expense.

GoodNotes

GoodNotes allows you to handwrite or type your notes, with both formats being searchable. Annotate images, PDFs and Word documents, and even capture audio notes.

Platforms: iPad

Access: Visit the website for more information. This app is available at the user's expense.

OneNote

OneNote is a digital notebook that allows you to type, write and draw. You can import and work with lots of different files - e.g. PDFs, emails and powerpoint slides, write, graph and solve math equations, and keep them organised in different note book tabs. Notes are searchable and shareable, so you can work collaboratively with ease.

Platforms: All devices if using online version. Windows devices if installing the software for offline use.

Access: Available to all Western staff and students. Log in to your University email and click on the Office 365 apps button (top left of screen) and open OneNote to access the online app. Students should visit the Student Advantage website for installation instructions for their personal devices.

Nebo

Nebo allows you to handwrite your notes, draw diagrams, flow charts and math equations which are all easily converted to typed text with a double tap. Import and annotate images, PDFs, Powerpoints and Word documents - you can even add checkboxes to lists and track progress with ease.

Platforms: Windows, Mac iOS and Android devices

Access: Visit the website for more information. This app is available at the user's expense.

Mind Mapping and Process Maps

Mind Mapping has huge beneficial value to the learning process and memory retention in general. Visually displaying content and links between concepts or data gets information into your head in a brain-friendly manner. This often allows easier and faster recall when needed. It's also a great way to plan out projects, order your thoughts for essays, or simplify complex information and processes in a way that can be shared and communicated more effectively as a visual aide.

Microsoft Visio

Microsoft Visio allows you to create flowcharts, diagrams, org charts, floor plans, engineering designs, and more, using modern shapes and templates with the familiar Office experience.

Platform: Windows

Access: Available to all Western students and staff. Follow the MyIT Knowledge Article instructions for downloading and installing.

XMind

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XMind allows you to map concepts and processes easily. It has various modes that can hide features to help keep you focused on your content. You can add value to your maps with labels, markers, hyperlinks, attachments etc.

Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android and Linux devices

Access: Visit the website for more information and download the software for a free trial (exports are watermarked). Full-access to this program is at user's expense. Educational pricing available in the form of a discounted annual subscription.

FreeMind

FreeMind is a simple Mind Mapping tool that is available on all platforms.

Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, Linux and others.

Access: Visit the website for more information and to install. This program is free.

Literacy and Numeracy Support

There are different approaches to supporting literacy and numeracy through the use of AT. Everybody can benefit, and will have their own unique preferences for tools they use and how they apply them. The various tools available are built to help speed up reading, improve understanding, and improve the quality of your writing.

TextHelp Read&Write

TextHelp's Read&Write toolbar is designed to help with the process of researching, reading and writing. The wide variety of tools can be customised and utilised to meet your personal needs. Features include text-to-speech, creation of audio files, pop-up dictionary, word prediction whilst typing, grammar, spelling and confusable words checker, and research highlighters that work across Word documents, PDFs and the web and can collect highlights into organised notes.

Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android devices.

Access: Available to all Western staff and students. Read&Write comes installed and ready to use on all lab computers throughout the University. Students should visit the Read&Write website, download the software and log in using their student account (Microsoft) to activate the University's licence on their personal device.  Staff can install Read&Write onto a University computer from the Software Center, or follow student instructions to install the software on a personal device.

In-built text-to-speech functionality on various devices

Using text-to-speech functionality can help ease the burden of reading whether you have trouble with words, trouble focusing, prefer to listen, or are simply tired.

Visit the relevant website to find out how to turn on the text-to-speech capabilities of your device and find out how to use it.

OneNote math functionality

In OneNote you can write or type a math equation and it can solve it for you, giving you step-by-step working out so you can learn how it reached the solution. You can also turn equations into graphs with ease or change your paper type to grid lines and draw your own.

Platforms: All devices if using online version. Windows devices if installing the software for offline use.

Access: Available to all Western staff and students. Log in to your University email and click on the Office 365 apps button (top left of screen) and open OneNote to access the online app. Students should visit the Student Advantage website for installation instructions for their personal devices.

Dictation

Do you have trouble typing or simply prefer to talk out your thoughts sometimes? Voice-to-text technologies can help take away the added time, stress and pain associated with typing notes, essays and reports. These days, the accuracy of common dictation programs is quite high thanks to the giant leaps forward in Artificial Intelligence capabilities. With most of the options being freely available, you lose nothing giving it a go!

In-built dictation functionality on various devices

Visit the relevant website to find out how to turn on the dictation capabilities of your device and find out how to use it. If you are using an Apple product, you can visit your local Apple Store to attend a free 'Today at Apple' accessibility session (opens in a new window). An Apple staff member will take you through the accessibility features and help you customise to suit your needs.

Office 365 Dictation

Office 365's dictation function allows you to type with your voice in Word, PowerPoint, Word Online, OneNote Online and OneNote for Windows 10. Use voice commands to edit and format your documents. This tool allows dictation in a large range of languages and requires an internet connection.

Platforms: Windows (all applications), Mac OS, iOS and Android (online applications).

Access: Visit the Office Support website for more information. Follow the instructions to set up a microphone and start dictating.

Google Docs/Google Slides Dictation

Using the Chrome browser you can type with your voice, including punctuation within Google Docs and Google Slides. Use voice commands to edit and format your document. This tool allows dictation in a large range of languages and requires an internet connection.

Platforms: Any device running the Chrome browser - Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android and Linux devices.

Access: Visit the Google Support website for more information. Follow the instructions to set up a microphone and start dictating.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Dragon software has the ability to type what you dictate with great accuracy out of the box, and includes easy ways to train your Dragon for greater accuracy. Your personal voice profile is portable and can be used on other computers as needed. On top of that, Dragon allows you to complete certain computer functions by voice command - like opening programs and saving files - which can speed up computer interactions and take away the need for most of the physical interaction with your computer.

Platforms: Windows and Mac OS. Dragon stability on a Mac can be an issue for computers running higher than Sierra, as Dragon is no longer supported in the Mac environment.

Access: Visit the website to see the features in practice. Access to Dragon can be discussed with a Disability Advisor or the Assistive Technology Specialist.

Organisation and Time Management

Being organised, including de-cluttering your device and simplifying what you view on screen can help increase efficiency and focus. It can also help reduce anxiety associated with feeling overwhelmed, lost and out-of-control.

Calendars and Scheduling

The calendar that comes on your device can be a very handy tool for staying on top of your deadlines and getting through your work in a progressive manner. Having things laid out in a calendar can help you identify peak periods and stress points well in advance, giving you the opportunity to plan how you can get through rather than simply finding yourself stuck down the track. Our tips for students are to go through your Unit Outline at the start of semester and add all assignments, quizzes and exams to your calendar. Set up the event so that it has reminders in the weeks and days leading up to the deadline, so that you are notified when you should start working on or continue preparing for the task. Set reminders to notify you a week before, a day before, an hour before a deadline (or whatever time frame suits you best).

It is good practice to have this calendar available on all your University devices so that you are reminded no matter which device you are on at the time.

Trello - visual task management

Trello is a visual task management tool. It allows you to use boards, checklists and cards to identify your tasks, organise notes, files and other information. Track progress easily by moving tasks between columns, and set due dates so that you don't miss a deadline. With an online interface and associated app you can easily manage your work on any of your devices. Trello can also be used in collaboration with other students to better manage group work.

Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android devices.

Access: Visit the Trello website for more information. It is free to sign-up with the option of paying for additional power-up features, should you want them. Whilst power-up features can greatly enhance the capabilities of the tool, you will not need them to get great value out of the product.

Microsoft Excel project management templates

Microsoft Excel has a large collection of templates that can be used for planning and tracking assignments and projects. Particularly helpful for those who benefit from seeing their workload laid out in timelines to help identify peak periods and determine when tasks should be started and completed in order to better manage workload stress.

Platforms: Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Android devices

Access: Visit the Microsoft Templates website to see what's available.

Fences - desktop decluttering

Fences is a tool that allows you to create visible sections on your desktop in which to organise shortcuts, icons and files. Organisation of icons can be automated based on rules you set up, saving you time and keeping your files tidy. Roll up fences allow you to declutter your desktop to minimise distraction and make the most of the space you have. You also have the ability to double click to immediately hide all desktop items if you really need no distractions.

Platforms: Windows

Access: Visit the Fences website for more information and to start a free 30 day trial. Ongoing access to this program is at user's expense.

In-built focus assistance features on various devices

Use the available functionality on your device to adjust your display, remove animations, simplify menus or websites and control your notifications.

Visit the relevant website to find out how to turn on the various de-cluttering and focus capabilities of your device.

Hearing Augmentation

Are you Deaf or Hard of Hearing? Hearing Augmentation technologies can allow you to participate more easily in a spoken environment. Lots of teaching spaces on our campuses have Infrared (IR) Hearing loops installed, with IR units available to loan for use in class. For staff, all our corporate communication livestreams are live captioned. There are also apps to help support you with every day interactions like conversations with hearing classmates or colleagues.

In-built hearing support options on various devices

You may not know it but your device likely has in-built functionality that can better your access to content through adjusting the audio setup (mono audio), customising visual notifications and providing closed captioning options.

Visit the relevant website to find out what is available on your device and how to activate and use the various features.

LiveTranscribe

LiveTranscribe can allow easier access to meetings, conversations and interactions in every day life.

Google, in collaboration with Gallaudet University, a premier school for the deaf and hard of hearing, developed an app that can transcribe conversations live and provides the ability to respond in text within the app. Whilst not 100% accurate at all times, the captions will update as the conversation progresses and provides greater context. Conversations are hosted locally on your device, so stay private.

Platforms: Android devices

Access: This app comes pre-installed on the latest Android phones but can be accessed to install on older Android devices for free too. Visit the website for more information.

Vision Assistance

Do you have any sort of vision impairment that inhibits your ability to access content - Text too small? Colours don't contrast enough? Everything is hazy? Are you partially or fully blind? There's a wide range of functions available on most devices to help assist with access to content. If these aren't sufficient, there's dedicated screen reading software available. There's also a wide range of add-ons for various web browsers which can assist with work on the web.

In-built display options on various devices

Display options can allow you to customise the look and feel of your desktop to suit your needs. Whether you need high contrast, screen magnification, changes to your cursor so you can track it more easily, or reduction in animations and motion - there are a plethora of display options that can be customised to help you.

Visit the relevant website to find out what is available on your device and how to activate and use the various features.

In-built Screen Reader functionality on various devices

Screen reader functionality is aimed at those who have a moderate to severe vision impairment who are prevented from seeing screen content, or navigating their computer with a mouse. It can assist with reading all elements on the screen, including menus, notifications of processes and general text. Both Mac and Windows accessibility features have support for refresh-able braille displays.

Visit the relevant website to find out how to turn on the screen reader capabilities of your device and find out how to use them.

JAWS Screen Reader

JAWS stand for Job Access With Speech. It is the world's most popular screen reader and is available to use in all our Access Rooms on campus.

Platforms: Windows

Access: To gain access to the Access Rooms, please speak with a Disability Advisor.

Visit the JAWS website for more information.

NVDA Screen Reader

NVDA stands for Non Visual Desktop Assistant. It is a free, open source, globally accessible screen reader for the blind and vision impaired, provided by Australian charity, NV Access. NVDA has equivalent features to JAWS, is portable (you can take it around on a USB to whichever computer you use), and is available in multiple languages.

Platforms: Windows

Access: Visit the NV Access website to download and install NVDA, and access training and support materials.

Turning off your screen

If you are on a Mac and do not need to use your screen, you can use Screen Curtain to make the screen black. This helps keep your work private from onlookers. There is no equivalent feature for Windows 10, so if you are using a Windows machine you can reduce the brightness to its minimum (which makes it harder to determine content on screen), or attach a physical covering which blocks it entirely.

Platforms: Mac and Windows

Access: Visit the relevant website to find out how to adjust the screen settings on your device.


If you use an Assistive Technology that you love but don't see here, please feel free to email your recommendation to the AT Specialist on atspecialist@westernsydney.edu.au.