Free software supports your access to learning

Students at Macquarie University can access free Assistive Technologies to help with the impact of a health condition, and/or carer role, on study tasks.

Assistive Technologies, also known as AT, include any device, instrument, tool or software that helps functioning and independence. AT can assist students with the functional impacts of a range of health conditions and circumstances including:

  • Reading and writing difficulties due to Specific Learning Disability and Dyslexia
  • Conditions that reduce concentration such as ADHD or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Auditory processing difficulties
  • Writing and/or typing difficulties due to physical and/or coordination conditions such as dyspraxia, limited hand function, physical fatigue and back pain

If you would like to learn more about AT for note-taking, reading, and writing then you can register for the Accessibility Insight Skillshop.

If you are a student with more complex AT requirements due to the impact of your health condition, such as low vision or low hearing, then you can register with the Accessibility Service.

A range of AT is available for free to Macquarie students, listed below. These AT have been trialled by the Accessibility service, and endorsed by students taking part in the Student Wellbeing Skillshops program.

Microsoft for Students

Macquarie University students can access the Microsoft Office Suite free via Microsoft for Students. Microsoft Office has a range of Accessibility features described below. Find installation information available on the Macquarie IT webpage under Microsoft for Students.

Students can download Microsoft Office on up to five PCs and five mobile devices. Mobile devices using Windows, iOS and Android platforms can support Microsoft office.

Note-Taking Assistive Technologies

Do you find it challenging to engage with your lectures and tutorials, and take notes at the same time? Note-taking software can help and are listed below.

Note-taking tips

  • Choose note-taking support that helps you capture, understand and review your learning material.
  • Make sure you have a CLEAR PURPOSE or strategy for note-taking that supports your completion of assessment tasks. Avoid gathering too many notes.
  • Find out more about note-taking skills on the StudyWISE iLearn resource, or with a Learning Skills recorded workshop.

Echo360 transcripts

Image of an Echo360 lecture with transcript running in the right hand panel.

Students can download Echo360 lecture transcripts through Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR). As the transcript is automatically generated (not checked by a person), accuracy can vary from 75%-90%, so you will need to check the transcript against the lecture for accuracy.

You can follow the transcript whilst listening and watching the lecture, then download it or cut and paste the text into your preferred word processing document, eg Word or OneNote.

  • Platform: Available on any device that can access the Echo360 platform
  • More Information: Go to the Echo360 webpage and scroll to the Echo360 Automatic Transcripts.
  • IT Support: If your lecture is not ASR activated then request ASR to be activated for your unit via a OneHelp ticket.

Otter.ai Audio Note-taker

Image of a computer screen with a live lecture in the left column and the automatic transcript running in the right column.

Image sourced from the Otter.ai Blog

Otter.ai is a freely available browser software that records real time spoken content with 75%-90% accuracy.

You can generate automatic transcripts for live or recorded tutorials and lectures by opening Otter in a separate tab. You can then copy and paste your transcript into your preferred word processing document to format and make corrections.

As for the Echo360 ASR, you will need to check the transcript against the lecture or tutorial for accuracy. For live tutorials, you will need to note down key words or discipline specific words that Otter might not pick up, and integrate those into your notes from your transcript.

Microsoft 365 OneNote

Image of a computer screen with OneNote open. The three left-hand columns show the Notebook categories, Notebooks within each category, and the pages within the selected Notebook. The right-hand side of the page shows the selected Notebook open with a title, date, a table with text and an image.

Image sourced from Microsoft OneNote homepage

OneNote is a multi-modal digital notebook that allows you to type, write and draw. You can import a range of different files including PDFs, emails, slides, and photos, as well as software for drawing graphs and solving maths questions.

On OneNote, you can arrange different topics into different notebooks and colour coding. Notes created on this app are searchable and shareable.

Reading Assistive Technologies – On-Screen Reading

Do you have difficulty reading text on a screen for short or long periods of time? Student Wellbeing have listed a range of AT that can assist to minimise the impact of your health condition on your on-screen reading tasks.

Fonts

Some fonts can be easier to read than others. Try changing the font to:

  • Verdana
  • Calibri
  • Comic Sans

Glare

Glare can impact on sustained reading. Reduce your glare by:

  • Closing blinds
  • Using a glare filter
  • Reducing brightness on the computer

OpenDyslexic Typeface

Image of 5 rows of font examples with Open Dyslexic in the centre row.

Image sourced from the OpenDyslexic ‘About’ webpage

OpenDyslexic is a typeface designed to reduce the impacts of some forms of dyslexia. The unique font features a heavier bottom and wider letter spacing.

AlphaText

Image of a split screen with a webpage on the left, and the same page repeated on the right with a different font, line spacing and background colour.

AlphaText is a chrome extension that supports customization of online pages. Change font and background colours to personalise your on-screen reading experience.

Reading Assistive Technologies – Text-to-Speech (Screen Readers)

Do you have difficulty reading or processing written material? For some students being able to listen to their articles being read aloud to them makes it easier to process. This could be done by listening only, or by listening and following the text. Below are some free text-to-speech options for all Macquarie students.

Microsoft 365

Image of webpage sample in the left column, and an example of line focus for the same webpage in the right hand column.

Microsoft 365 provides a range of text-to-speech tools on Windows, macOS, and Android including: Immersive Reader, Read Aloud, Speak and Narrator. To download your free Microsoft 365 go to Install Microsoft for Students.

Immersive Reader

Immersive Reader is an interactive reading tool that allows a personalised reading experience. You can modify font options, letter and line spacing, line focus, read aloud, speaking pace, and vocal gender and accent. Internet access is required.

Read Aloud

Read Aloud reads all or part of your word documents without the Immersive Reader additional features. Available in:

Speak

Speak reads only the text you've selected. Available in:

Narrator

Narrator reads your dialog boxes, buttons, and other user interfaces as well as the text. Available in:

Apple VoiceOver

Google Docs

Writing Assistive Technologies - Speech-to-Text (Dictation or Voice Recognition)

Do you have difficulty writing or typing for long periods of time, or are you someone that finds it easier to explain your ideas verbally rather than in the written form? For some students, talking to a device that types for them is a more efficient and effective way to study. Depending on your needs you can use speech-to-text to:

  • take down notes, such as from your assignment research
  • brainstorm ideas onto the page, or
  • to work on longer and more complex writing tasks

Below are some speech-to-text options that are free for all Macquarie students.

Microsoft Office 365 Dictation in the browser

Apple Dictation

Google ‘Type with your Voice’ and ‘Voice Recognition’

If you would like to learn more about AT for note-taking, reading, and writing then you can register for the Accessibility Insight Skillshop.

If you are a student with more complex AT requirements due to the impact of your health condition, such as low vision or low hearing, then you can register with the Accessibility Service.