2002 Conference Proceedings

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textHELP! Products For Computer Access by Adults and Children with Learning Disabilities

Jane Berliss-Vincent
Center for Accessible Technology
Berkeley, CA

Paul Brown
textHELP! Systems Ltd.
Antrim, Northern Ireland

textHELP! Systems Ltd. is a software house based in Antrim, N. Ireland that specializes in interface design and multimedia development. The company has developed a range of software products, primarily for the Windows platform, designed to assist individuals to improve their reading and writing abilities. These products include Read and Write, a utility program whose features include speech output, spelling and homonym checking, word prediction, and thesaurus capabilities, and WordSmith, a scanning program that interfaces directly with Microsoft Word. textHELP!'s Web site is www.texthelp.com

The Center for Accessible Technology (CforAT) in Berkeley, California, one of the original Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) members, is a consumer-based technology resource and demonstration center for adults and children with disabilities, families, teachers, and professionals. CforAT has been demonstrating textHELP!'s products to clients for many years and has regularly communicated with the company about their experiences using these products. CforAT's Web site is www.cforat.org

Read and Write

Read and Write works directly in conjunction with standard text-processing applications (Word, Word Pad, Email, etc.) to provide a variety of tools that may be helpful singly or in combination for adults and children with learning disabilities. These tools include:

* A homophone checker--for a preset, modifiable list of homophones, such as "bear" and "bare," the program will provide definitions to assist the user in selecting the correct spelling for the intended meaning
* A spell checker with a "check as you type" option
* A thesaurus to assist the user in finding alternative suggestions for words and providing an audible definition and sample sentence for each selected word.
* A "word wizard" to help users search for related words based on a word they already know.
* Speech output while typing or for review
* A simple word prediction feature
* Motivational aids for children, such as an animated parrot or magician
* Multiple, adjustable voices


WordSmith is a scanning program that can be used to convert printed materials directly into either Microsoft Word in an editable text version or Internet Explorer for a read-only "snapshot" of the page. The program appears as a toolbar within Microsoft Word 97, 2000, or XP. WordSmith includes the features of Read and Write, plus the following:

* Simultaneous highlighting and reading of text
* A Pronunciation Tutor that will break words into syllables allowing easy recognition and pronunciation. The tutor includes a moving mouth as a speech aid. For words that don't follow standard pronunciation rules, the Tutor includes a "Syllable Exceptions" option that allows the presentation of specific words to be modified.
* An add-in for Internet Explorer that allows web pages to be read with highlighting in-page.

Joint Presentation at CSUN

The CforAT/textHELP! session at CSUN will present a variety of sample real-life scenarios about how Read and Write and WordSmith have been used with the student and adult clients of CforAT and other ATA Centers. These scenarios will include examples of how these products have been used as a primary access solution, as well as examples of how they have been used in combination with other technologies, including word processor features and speech input software.

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