Assistive technology

Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.

These types of technologies can range from colour tint apps, to mind-mapping software, to screen magnifiers, so there’s a huge range. For each of the areas below we’ve identified a few apps and tools that might help. You can also find out more by following the further reading links at the bottom of the page.

Reading, writing & spelling

Reading and writing can be a real challenge for learners, whether they have SpLD or not. Fortunately there are many tools available that can help.

Norwich University of the Arts has subscriptions to some specific software which is available on computers across campus:

  • Apple Text to Speech and Dictation
    This enables your Mac to read out loud text that is on the screen.
  • ReadIris OCR scanning
    This will allow you to convert any paper document, image or PDF into editable and searchable digital files (Word, Excel, PDF, HTML, etc).

There are also many free tools available:

  • Microsoft Speak
    Feature in Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and OneNote which will read text out loud to you.
  • Change Microsoft colour themes
    You can change all the default colours of Office applications which may help you with reading on screen.
  • Google Docs speech-to-text
    This means you can speak into your microphone and Google will convert it to text for you (very handy if you are good at thinking out loud, but not so good at typing!)
  • Chrome text-to-speech web extension
    Just select the text you want to read and you can listen to it.
  • Screentinting
    If you find reading from a screen challenging, this guide shows you tools and apps you can use to colour or tint your screen.

Some software has been developed specifically to support SpLD learners, and this usually needs to be paid for (although many also have free ‘lite’ versions). If you are applying for DSA you may be able to request these from your needs assessor as part of the application process. Here are a few examples:

  • TextHelp Read&Write
    Toolbar to make text resources more accessible, from hearing emails or documents read out loud to text prediction and a grammar, spelling and confusable words checker.
  • ClaroRead
    Easy to use reading and writing software including text to speech.
  • Grammarly
    A grammar checker instantly eliminates grammatical errors and enhances writing.

Note taking & memory

Free tools:

  • Evernote
    Free note taking app, useful for easily collating notes from multiple sources, making web clippings, and capturing ideas in a variety of formats.
  • Microsoft Edge web notes
    Really useful tool that lets you highlight, annotate and save notes on a web page. Just click the pen icon to the right of the address bar.
  • OneNote
    Microsoft OneNote is not like Word – it allows you to click and start typing anywhere on the screen, easily add pages, and highlight and colour-code, making it a brilliant note-taking tool. OneNote is available to all NUA students via Office 365.
  • Audio recording
    You can use your phone as a recording device to record teaching sessions, and then play them back in your own time. If you don’t already have a dictaphone app installed, you can find lots of options on the app store for your device.

Tools available for individual purchase:

  • Claro Audionote
    Software to record and playback lectures or to use as an audio scribe.
  • Sonocent
    Audio notetaker that allows you to collect audio, text and slides into a single workspace.

Learning & study skills

NUA provides access to two different mind mapping tools:

  • XMind – available on all university computers.
  • MindView – available on stickered computers in the Library.

You can find out more from the Design Studio intranet pages. There are also some free online mind mapping tools such as MindMeister.

Assignments survival kit
Developed by Kent University, this tool can help plan your work schedule for you.

Academic Phrasebank
Resource from the University of Manchester that explains the use of academic terminology.

Quick and easy citation and reference generator. Remember to change the blue drop down bar to ‘Cite Them Right 10th Edition – Harvard’.

Organisation & time management

My Study Life
A free cross platform planner app for students, teachers and lecturers designed to make your study life easier to manage.

Remember the Milk
App for creating a digital to-do list.

Further sources of information

DnA Diversity and Ability:
This website compiles a huge range of resources to assist in a range of different areas from note taking to  mindfulness

Loads of advice here for helping make the most of the accessibility functions of your computer.

These sources were used to create this page:

The Dyslexia Association (2019) What is assistive technology? Available at: 

For more information on support related to your studies see the Student Support pages on the intranet.