Many computers and devices have built-in accessibility features such as text to speech, voice over, voice recognition or zoom:

For software and apps see links below:

Text to Speech

Programs will read text aloud from documents, emails, internet and more - many have natural sounding voices. Most software companies provide free trials.

Kurzweil is a comprehensive reading, writing and study skill software for students who struggle with reading and writing. VIU has purchased a site license, so all students and/or staff can access the software for free. Create a Kurzweil account and then follow the instructions in the email you receive.  Kurzweil is also available at VIU Library Accessibility Stations.

Natural Reader is a free text to speech software with natural sounding voices. This easy to use software can convert any written text such as MS Word, Webpage, PDF files, and Emails into spoken words. NaturalReader can convert written text into audio files (MP3 or WAV).

Text Aloud3 software converts text from Word, Emails, Web Pages and PDF Files into natural-sounding speech. You can listen on your PC or create audio (MP3) files for use on portable devices like iPods, MP3 players and CD players. Highlights as it reads. $29.95 US.

Adobe Reader is not text to speech software, but comes with a free, built-in read aloud feature (under View Menu) that will read PDF documents aloud. The voice is quite robotic.

Speech to Text

Create and edit documents, emails and other applications using speech. Some programs will control cursor and desktop.

Dragon Speech Recognition is speech recognition software that lets you dictate documents, emails, search the web and control desktop. $199.99 US. Dragon App also available.

Study Skills

My Study Bar is a free floating toolbar consisting of a set of portable open source and freeware applications, assembled into one package: studying, reading and writing. MyStudyBar can be saved to and launched from a USB drive, so does not require installation on individual computers.

Kurzweil is a comprehensive reading, writing and study skill software for students who struggle with reading and writing (approximately $1500 single license). Sometimes provided by AT BC if a student is eligible. Free trial version available. Available at VIU Library Accessibility Stations.

Read and Write Gold is designed to assist students and individuals of all ages who require extra assistance when reading or composing text (software or app).

Concept Mapping

Inspiration is useful for visual mapping, outlining, writing and making presentations. Easily add graphics as a way to assist with remembering key ideas; quickly convert mind map diagrams to an outline format or presentations (software or app). Free demo. is a simple and free web application that lets you brainstorm online. You can create colour mind maps on-line, save them as an image, email or print them.

Screen Magnification

ZoomText (Magnifier and Magnifier/Screen Reader) is commercial product that enlarges and enhances everything on your computer screen, making all of your applications easy to see and use. Available at VIU Library Accessibility Stations.

Web Resources

Access Firefox is a free web browser (just like Explorer is a web browser). Access Firefox presents and showcases some of the accessibility tools and features that are available for, and that comes pre-installed with the Firefox web browser. Some of these include: Click Speak (text to speech), Colorful tabs (ability to make tabs specific colours for easier identification), Readability (strips the superfluous information and shows the main content in a single column of easy-to-read text), Mouseless browsing and more.

Assistive Technology BC (AT BC) facilitates Provincially funded programs through the Ministry of Advanced Education and the Ministry of Housing and Social Development to help BC residents with permanent disabilities get the assistive technology they need for overcoming barriers to employment and post-secondary education. Check out their Learning Centre for online training videos, Tip Sheets, and other resources to learn more about adaptive software and hardware.

Resources for Digital Literature is a PDF handout produced by the PACER/Simon Technology Center that provides a list with descriptions of a number of on-line sources of electronic text and audio resources.

OpenOffice is free office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and databases; available in many languages for all computers. It can read and write files from other common office software packages such as Word.

Universal Design

Diversity has become a fact of life in post-secondary institutions. More frequently than ever instructors and staff are interacting, teaching and supporting individuals who are diverse in many dimensions. Universal Design is a paradigm that can help to address the needs of students with a broad range of characteristics, abilities, disabilities and learning styles. It is a process as well as a set of guidelines and strategies that can be applied to instruction, services, information, technology and physical spaces. For more information, check out the links below:

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