Most common tech devices have built-in features that can act as assistive technology, supporting users to turn text into audio, navigate without a mouse, or convert spoken words into text. These features only work well when content and software are designed with accessibility in mind, so remember to be proactive to keep your work accessible!
Below, the IS Technology Accessibility Team shares some links to those widely available tools and features, plus a few resources to learn more. We hope you will try some of these tools and tips and discover the many benefits of assistive technology intersecting with accessible content!
- Adobe Acrobat Read Out Loud Feature
- Immersive Reader in Canvas
- Type with your voice in the Google suite
- Immersive Reader in Office software
- Use Narrator to speak text on the screen in Windows operating systems
- Use voice typing to talk instead of type on your PC
- Dictate text using Speech Recognition
- Dictate in Microsoft 365
- Have your Mac speak text on the screen
- Change the voice your Mac uses to speak text
- Hear your Mac read documents
- Use Voice Control on your Mac
- Control your Mac and apps using Voice Control
- Dictate messages and documents on your Mac
- Voiceover is Apple’s free built-in screen reader and is part of both the latest Mac operating systems and iOS
- Use Voice Control to interact with your iPhone
- Dictate text on your iPhone
- TalkBack is Google’s free screen reader for Android devices.
- Get started with Voice Access spoken commands
- Type with voice on your Android device
- Getting to know text-to-speech tools and screen readers
- Getting to know speech-to-text tools
- Leveraging Text-to-Speech and Screen Reading Tools
If you have additional tools or information to share related to the digital accessibility space, please reach out to us and let us know.
AI and accessibility
Many accessibility tools have long used machine learning to enhance their functionality. These include Automatic Speech Recognition or ASR which uses speech recognition to shift spoken words into accurate text, voices that sound more human-like for tools that turn text into spoken audio, and optical character recognition (OCR) to interpret images of text and turn them into selectable and machine-readable text. Many of these tools have leveraged machine learning, computer algorithms, and computational methods to become robust.
With the surge in Artificial Intelligence (AI) efforts, we can anticipate increased marketing emphasis on the computer-powered and AI technologies used in accessibility tools, as well as new advancements in existing tools. Advancements being discussed by vendors include improved accuracy (for instance, when interpreting handwriting and turning it into computer-based text) and new and better options (like additional voices and more natural-sounding voices for text-to-speech).
As AI contributions mature within existing and new tools, continued enhancements of accessibility features are anticipated. Users of AI are encouraged to keep in mind that, for the foreseeable future, accessibility tools should be paired with a human review process to ensure output accuracy and inclusion. Additionally, users of AI generative platforms are also reminded to advocate for accessibility in the platforms themselves, as it is imperative that the AI platforms be made accessible to support all people, including those with disabilities. Please reach out to the IS Technology Accessibility Team to chat about current and upcoming AI and accessibility enhancements or to discuss accessibility more generally!