Simplifying reading and writing for students with disabilities


by Corinn Hower

Corinn Hower

Corinn Hower

Technology continues to open doors for students who experience challenges with reading and writing. Text-to-speech, word prediction and voice-to-text software provide alternate ways to access content and demonstrate understanding for students with disabilities in reading and writing. Students and teachers now have access to many of these supports in an online environment.

Google Chrome offers free text-to-speech extensions, including Select & Speak and Speak It!, which are available in the Chrome Web Store. These extensions allow students to select text within a document or website and have it read to them through the computer, providing access to content and background information that may be above a student’s independent reading level. Recently, Google has made voice-to-text an option for writing, with the introduction of a voice dictation add-on and Voice Typing tool in Google Docs.

Using this support, students capture their thinking on a Google Doc by dictating thoughts or responses into a computer, Chromebook, or other device. This technology automatically translates speech into typed responses, making it possible for students who struggle with writing to demonstrate their understanding.

While these free and readily available tools will support many students, there are some who may benefit from additional subscription-based tools. Two recently released examples include Co:Writer Universal and Snap & Read Universal. These Chrome-based tools offer a level of support that is currently unavailable through free Chrome apps and extensions.

Co:Writer Universal provides access to word prediction throughout Google Drive, e-mail and online environments, supporting students who require spelling support for writing.

Snap & Read Universal is a text-to-speech tool with an added feature: it can adjust the complexity of a reading selection. When text from a document or website is selected, this tool allows a student to decrease or increase the reading level. This is completed automatically through analysis of the vocabulary within the selection, which is then replaced with more or less sophisticated language, depending on the student’s needs and preferences.

Corinn Hower is an assistive technology consultant with the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. As an occupational therapist, she has worked in the school system for 12 years and has provided assistive technology services and professional development in the area of assistive technology for 9 years. You can reach Corinn at


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