Going for Gold

Read&Write Gold is just one of the assistive technology tools currently available

For many students with intellectual and learning difficulties, reading and writing can be quite difficult. Often, the planning and organising as well as the ability to express themselves in writing can be extremely stressful. This can lead to difficulties in accessing education, training as well as employment opportunities.

The good news is that for some of these students, better access and participation can be facilitated by the Texthelp-developed software Read&Write Gold. However, to ensure that this tool is utilised to its full potential, it's important that the specialist disability teacher who's trained to use it provides a systemized and differentiated teaching approach.

Read&Write Gold is already currently available on student computers in some TAFE NSW campuses. The software's user-friendly interface doesn't draw unwanted attention to the student who may already feel uncomfortable about being further stigmatised. Its floating toolbar sits on top of an open windows page or a PDF and can be modified and adjusted to suit the individual needs of the user.

Many students seem to like the software's ability to convert text from either the web or document format into speech. This can then be saved as an audio file, which the student can access on their iPhone afterwards in the privacy of their own home. This is a huge benefit for students who prefer to (or may need to) listen to information more than once. This conversion feature effectively eliminates the anxiety and frustration that comes from reading. Needless to say, this can be extremely empowering for a student, increasing their motivation and giving them a newfound sense of control over their course work.

There are many other interesting features of Read&Write Gold. These include a picture dictionary, screen masking which blocks out any text that isn't being read, word prediction and the ability to create digital print by scanning books into MS Word, PDF or HTML formats. The ability to convert fixed text into digital text allows the student the choice of reading it aloud or saving it as an audio file.

Advances in technology mean that print is no longer fixed on a page but can be manipulated. This increased flexibility means that students with different disabilities and learning styles can fully participate in class. Although not the panacea, Read&Write Gold is just one of the assistive technology tools currently available that make this increased access and participation possible.