Up to one in ten of us are affected by dyslexia; 4% of the population severely so. It’s common for dyslexic students to experience difficulties in higher education settings, but with the aid of assistive technology, it’s possible to create a level playing field where dyslexia need not be a barrier to learning.

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) that causes problems with reading, writing, spelling and comprehension. It’s not linked to intelligence, but if the symptoms are not picked up, dyslexic students may feel that they are poor learners, even if their knowledge of their subject is good. Some people with dyslexia may also be affected by other SpLDs such as dyscalculia and attention deficit disorder.

Challenges for dyslexic students

Studying at university level involves a number of activities that may prove especially challenging for students with dyslexia. Common issues may include:

  • - Difficulty taking notes and writing essays
  • - Confusion when dealing with written instructions on assignments or exam papers
  • - Poor spelling, getting letters and numbers jumbled up in the wrong order
  • - Low self-esteem and a poor estimation of their own abilities

Assistive technology for dyslexia

Fortunately, support systems for dyslexia are now a legal requirement (dyslexia is classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010), so every university must have a policy on dyslexia to show how they can provide assistance for dyslexic students.

In addition, assistive technology can provide a vital support system that can transform the learning experience for those with dyslexia in higher education. Here are some of the most helpful gadgets, apps and technologies that can help dyslexic students to overcome their disability:

Speech recognition software. This eliminates the need for students to take written notes or write quickly, automatically converting spoken word into text.

Voice recording technology. By recording lectures and seminars, students can listen back to them, rather than referring to written notes.

Text-to-voice readers. These convert pdf and other text-based files into speech, allowing students to listen to text instead of reading it.

Mind mapping software. Rather than relying on the written word, mind maps let students use spatial awareness, images and colour as memory prompts. Mind mapping software provides a quick and easy way to create mind maps.

Specially designed typefaces. Dyslexic people can find it easier to read when text is presented in a more accessible way. Fonts designed with dyslexia in mind, and documents with lots of white space, can help dyslexic students to digest the contents.

Spell checkers. These provide a vital safety net for dyslexic students, to double-check spelling errors before submitting an assignment.

Notetalker is also assistive technology that enables students to manage their notes more effectively. It records lectures via a mobile or desktop app, and if they choose, enables students to make colour-coded text and/ or pictorial notes at the same. Learners can organise their sound and vision notes to create study resources for assignments, exam preparation and presentations. Notes can also be used in mind mapping software.

Assistive technology is a constantly evolving field and it’s exciting to discover new innovative software and equipment which comes into the market.

The Association of Dyslexia Specialists in Higher Education (ADSHE) will be holding its annual conference in Birmingham on Friday 22 June 2018. Why not stop by the Notetalker stand to discuss how our note making app can help students with dyslexia?