Assistive technologies are devices or software used by some people with disabilities to access computers, paperwork and other information. Some assistive technologies include text-to-speech screen readers, alternative keyboards and mice, head pointing devices, voice recognition software, and screen magnification software.
The University takes accessibility of our systems very seriously. We have implemented a range of assistive technology products to meet the needs of a broad range of users. Users may have very individual needs and we try to accommodate these. Some individual needs can be addressed by what we already have in place. In other circumstances we may need to work with individuals and other colleagues in the University in order to devise appropriate access solutions.
Students with disabilities or additional needs may be eligible for financial support to help meet the costs of their additional needs. This funding, Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA), is provided by local education authorities. Further information on DSA is available from the Disabilities and Additional Needs Unit (DANU).
Products available for use by students at Aston
There are various assistive technology products around the University. We are currently working on ‘mainstreaming’ assistive technology to make it more widely available around the University. In the interim, the following is available:
For students with specific learning disabilities
- TextHELP Read & Write - This product is designed for people with dyslexia to support their reading and writing needs. Additionally, it can be helpful to some people with hearing impairment whose first language is not necessarily English. It provides a range of tools such as text-to-speech, word prediction and homophone checking. Read & Write integrates as a floating toolbar into standard applications like Word and Internet Explorer.
- Read & Write is available on all student lab Windows XP PCs in the University. Additionally the three PCs in the third floor study room in the Library are equipped with document scanners that allow users to scan text into the PC and have the PC read it back to them via speech output.
- Inspiration – This is a ‘mind mapping’ tool that helps to organise ideas visually. It allows the user to gradually ‘build’ written documents incrementally by drawing out the ideas graphically on-screen and then adding a textual outline. This product is available on the portable PCs in the Learning Development Centre.
- Digital audio recorders – the Learning Development Centre has Olympus DS-2 digital audio recorders for note-taking purposes. The resulting audio files can be transferred to PCs. Additionally there are a limited number of these available for longer term loan from the Assistive Technology Officer in ISA.
- MindManager – this is functionally equivalent to Inspiration (see above) and is available on all Windows XP PCs in student labs.
For students who are wheelchair users
There are height adjustable desks in various PC labs around the University. These can be electrically adjusted to an appropriate height to accommodate a wheelchair.
For students who are blind or partially sighted
- Dolphin Supernova – a combined screenreading and screen magnification package to meet a variety of needs.
- Electronic video magnifiers (CCTVs) – There is an Aladdin Rainbow CCTV in the third floor Assistive Technology room in the library. The Learning Development Centre has two Optelec Compact portable magnifiers for use in the centre.
- Kurzweil 1000 – One of the three PCs in the third floor study room is equipped with a scanner that can be used with this software that allows the user to scan printed documents and the PC will then read the document back to the user via speech synthesis.
Additionally, the University has a facility for the limited production of tactile diagrams and a Scotch Dymo Braille labeller for small Braille label production. These are available for loan to staff in other departments.
For students with a hearing impairment
Loop systems are installed in various locations around the University and fire alert pagers are available from Security.
For students with fine motor impairments
A range of alternatives to standard keyboards and mice are available in the Learning Development Centre in the Library.
Items available for short-term loan
The University has a small selection of products that are available for short-term loan by students who are waiting for their own equipment to be delivered or who are not eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance. These items include:
portable PCs, copies of textHELP Read & Write, microphones, one copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking 7 and a Sarabec phone flasher.
Terms and conditions for loan kit
There is no guarantee that equipment will be available. Equipment is loaned exclusively for personal use and solely for educational purposes. Fines are imposed for the late return of equipment. Students must agree not to load any other software onto loaned equipment and must take full responsibility for the return of loaned equipment in good condition.
The Library third floor study room
Access type: Swipe card access to building. Key available at reception for registered DANU students.
Opening hours: Library opening hours
Access information: Telephone 0121 204 4489 in advance or come to reception with ID card.
Facilities: Three Computers with large monitors, installed with assistive software and scanners. One workstation is on an electric height adjustable table.
Nearest printer: Printer C, 3rd floor.
How to get assistance with assistive technology issues
If you are a student, please contact the Disability Co-ordinator in DANU for an initial referral to the Assistive Technology Officer.
If you have already contacted DANU or if you are a member of staff, supporting or working with a student(s) with a disability, please contact Jeremy Ali, Assistive Technology Officer in ISA: