|Lisa Guernsey works for the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation,|
not directly for The New York Times
So here is what The New York Times and Lisa Guernsey left out:
Speech Recognition - speech-to-text - doesn't only come from Dragon. It is available at no extra cost on every Windows computer running Windows 7 (or Windows Vista). The Windows Speech Recognition system has some significant advantages over Dragon, especially for "immature" voices and in terms of working across the widest range of web and software applications.
There is also VLingo, for just $20 lifetime, which offers Text-To-Speech and Speech Recognition for Android and BlackBerry.
WordTalk might be the best free Text-To-Speech system. Yes, it is limited to Windows and Microsoft Word, but within those common contexts WordTalk provides word-by-word highlighting with excellent settings control and instant conversion of text to mp3 files.
PowerTalk, which provides text-to-speech for Microsoft PowerPoint, is another free essential tool. And though, yes, we all love Prezi, Prezi is not accessible, and really has no place in public education at this time.
WYNN (from the JAWS people), much less expensive and appropriate for a wider range of ages than Kurzweil 3000, should have been included in the Text-To-Speech paragraph. We should be "brand agnostics" here, looking for whatever works for each student.
I love CLiCk-Speak, and I'm proud that my conversations with the brilliant Charles L. Chen at the CSUN Conference on Technology and People with Disabilities in 2005 contributed to its development from the FireVox platform, but, CLiCk-Speak development has halted and it does not work with all systems. So it is vital to link people to newer answers, notably FoxVox (for Windows) and Speaking Fox (for Mac OS).
EduApps from RSC-Scotland North+East. Or you might look at our Michigan version, the Freedom Stick, whose new version - coming later this month - includes the screen reader Balabolka. These "carry anywhere" tools represent an exciting way around the bad rules of bad school districts which block access.
Going back to Firefox, there are so many add-ons for accessibility, which should have been discussed. In Michigan we've collected these into two collections - one for PCs, one for Mac OS. You may also want to look at the Bookshare Firefox DAISY Book Reader.
Anyway, I appreciate The New York Times discovering "Assistive Technology" but I wish they had done a bit more research, and written a slightly more useful article.
- Ira Socol