Fichten, C.S., Barile, M., Asuncion, J., Lavers, J., Alapin, I., Schipper, F., Généreux, C. & Judd, D. (1998). Mainstream and "free" computer information and adaptive technologies: News from the Dawson College Adaptech Research Project. Alert: The Official Newsletter of the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), 22(2), 11-13.

Mainstream And "Free" Computer, Information And Adaptive Technologies:
News from the Dawson College Adaptech Research Project

Catherine S. Fichten, Maria Barile, Jennison Asuncion, Jason Lavers, Iris Alapin, Fay Schipper, Christian Généreux, Darlene Judd
Dawson College, SMBD Jewish General Hospital, Action des Femmes Handicapées de Montréal,
Concordia University, Université du Québec (à Montréal), Mackay Centre
Montréal, 1998

We would like to tell you about some mainstream and "free" computer, information and adaptive technologies that we have come across while doing research on computer, information, and adaptive technologies used by students with disabilities in postsecondary education.

Together with Alice Havel and Joan Wolforth, we will be reporting on preliminary data from this research at the AHEAD conference in Las Vegas in July (the research is funded by the Office of Leaning Technologies and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada). But what may interest the readers is some "fallout" of our academic research - an interest in collecting and publicizing free, inexpensive and mainstream technologies to help solve problems of students and their professors.

To date, we have found several such products which work well on Windows computers. We do not know much about Macs, so we hope one of may wish to share your Mac software finds. These inexpensive solutions do not, of course, replace the sophisticated, full featured adaptive products that are available. Rather, these are "quick and dirty" solutions to everyday problems without the long delays and considerable expense involved in obtaining the "specialized" products. Among interesting things we have found are:


Text Assist - (for Windows 3.x or Windows95 computers with SoundBlaster cards). This program was included on the CD-ROM of SoundBlaster cards bought until December 1997. It is a very good and totally cost free product. Regrettably, SoundBlaster took it off the CD for 1998, and now claims to have no idea about where to find it. But... if you find anyone out there with any kind of SoundBlaster card that is not absolutely the latest, you will have found Text Assist. (Discovered on the CD by Jason Lavers.)

Clip&Talk - (download from (for Windows 3.x or Windows95 by PC WholeWare). The program can be used in any program which can copy text to the clipboard. The freeware version will read up to 600 words at a time. Unusual words can be added to a dictionary. A full version is $25 shareware. (Found on G. Denise Lance's excellent web page: Free and Cheap Windows Software for People with Disabilities )

SuperReader - (find at ) (for Windows95 by Lorien). The English demo (good for 30 days) is a free download ($29 US to purchase). It is also available in an international version (French, Spanish, Italian, German, etc.) for $49.US. No free download on the international version. But in Quebec, the French is definitely a plus. Also, as each word is spoken it is highlighted.

ProVerbe - (find at ) (for Windows 95 and probably for Windows 3.x by Elan in France). Free! Reads content of the clipboard. Supports English, French, German and Spanish. Can choose between a male and a female voice. Speech volume, speed and pitch are adjustable. The quality of the speech is good and better than most speech synthesizers. (Found on Peter Verhoeven's excellent "Welcome to the Text To Speech Page" at )

Read To Me - (find at ) (for Windows 3.x or Windows95 by the Hawaii Education Literacy Project). Free! Allows you to customize the pronunciation of mispronounced words. Reads text from the Windows Clipboard, Microsoft Word, text files, or the Internet. (Found through resources listed by Greg Gay

in his module "Literacy Support Technology: Introduction" in the on-line Adaptive Computer Technologies course offered by SNOW at the University of Toronto.)

Monologue 97 - (find at )(for Windows 95 by First Byte) This "is very much like Text Assist and works with just about any soundcard. It has been recommended by the people at the CNIB for people whose screen reading needs are not to the point where they require a powerful screen reading application." Supports French and English. Can be customized for: Word 97, Excel 97, Corel WordPerfect 7, Lotus WordPro 97 and Lotus 1-2-3 97. Can be purchased for $70 US. A 7 day demo can be downloaded from (Contributed by Daniel Puskaric.)


The Magnifier - (find at ) (for Windows 3.x or Windows95 by Innovation Management Group). Shareware that works in a pinch for people with low vision. Magnifies the area around the mouse cursor from 2 to 10 times. Described on Peter Verhoeven's excellent " Welcome to the Screen Magnifiers Homepage" at (Contributed by Jason Lavers.)


PureVoice - (download from ) (for Windows95 by Qualcomm). A free, mainstream program which allows the user to create and send voice e-mail using the multimedia microphone on your computer. This is available as a free standalone product. It is also included when downloading Eudora Lite. It The sound quality is very good! (Contributed by Deborah Kennard)


Kurzweil VoicePad for Windows: Platinum Edition - A freebie on the SoundBlaster CD (bought in November, 1997). This is not a state of the art Dragon Dictate system! It uses discrete rather than continuous speech (i.e., you... must... pause...between... words...), and it has a tendency to type 88 for a large variety of words. But the price is right and at least one can get the "feel" for what dictation software can be like.


AUTOTEXT in Word97 - "One of our students came to see me on Friday to show me one of the features in Word (Office 97) that is doing wonders for her and her transcriber in class. The student, who is deaf and has moved from the use of interpreters in the class to the use of C-Note (with amazing results), has been making use of the "AutoText" feature in Word to create her own shortcuts which the typist uses to improve her verbatim-transcription-speed. The idea is that as you type the abbreviations of such words or expressions as "you" (u), "therefore" (tf), "however" (hv), or "as soon as" (sss), etc., these words will automatically convert into full words on the screen without having to use the "find and replace" function as we used to do it before. Go to "insert", then to "AutoText" and type your own little shortcuts. It is great!" (Contributed by Maria-Teresa Zenteno.)


Sharp Electronic Agenda Model ZQ-1300 - This tiny electronic agenda has a large screen and a great qwerty keyboard. It displays 4 lines of text and can easily be used to "talk" during casual situations. And, best of all, it has Indiglo (bright blue light that is available on many digital watches) for night illumination. Great for dim restaurants. (Contributed by Christian Généreux.)


Opera - (find at ) (for Windows 3.x or Windows95 by Opera Software in Norway) This is a small (the zip file fits on a single floppy), full-featured general use web browser which supports screen magnification. It also supports not only the mouse but also an extensive list of keystrokes. Best of all, it exists in both English and French. It is shareware and can be evaluated free for 30 days. Educational price is $18 US. (Contributed by Jennison Asuncion.)


Encarta98 (both regular and deluxe) - this mainstream encyclopedia has closed captioning for both audio and video clips. (Contributed by Maria Barile.)


Alphasmart - This is a lightweight (2 pounds), low-cost ($249.00 US), portable word processor with spell check, built-in LCD screen and full-size keyboard. It enables you to enter and edit text then easily transfer it to a PC or Mac for formatting and printing. It also prints directly for draft printouts. It has 8 files (64 pages of text/128 kbytes), functions on 3AA batteries for 300 hours and has foreign language support. There is no software to install. Features for special needs: sticky keys, key repeat control and four keyboard layouts. Canadian distributor available. For more info: (Contributed by Caitlin Keelan.)


Aspects of our team's research are research online and interactive.

Adaptech Web Site - We maintain a web site which is, as most web sites are, "under construction." We invite you to check it out at (

Adaptech Discussion Forum - We also have a moderated e-mail discussion forum which we use for two purposes. It keeps our project members across Canada and other interested individuals informed and involved with our research. Second, it facilitates useful dialogue on issues and themes as they relate to our interest areas. For more information or to subscribe, send an e-mail message to our Moderator, Jennison Asuncion, at

Tech Fair - We are also planning a Tech Fair, to be held in the fall of 1998 in collaboration with the Mackay Centre in Montreal. The Fair will showcase both mainstream and adaptive computer and information technologies for postsecondary students with disabilities. If you have interesting ideas about this, contact Fay Schipper at .

Adaptech Research Project - The research that has been the stimulus for all these activities is directed by Catherine Fichten and Maria Barile. You can contact us by sending e-mail to Catherine at or to Maria at . Alternately, you can phone (514-931-8731) or write us at Dawson College, 3040 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3Z 1A4.


We hope you find the products listed here helpful in your work. We would also like to hear about any useful products that you have found. If you have any feedback for us or if you have an interesting application or software to share, please communicate with one of us.