Gavin Wright is a student at one of the schools the Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB) operates in their region. Wright is in grade six and struggles with writing and spelling because of this the DCDSB has provided him the necessary software to achieve his goals.
“Because I struggle with my spelling, and writing. My laptop has Word Q and Dragon.Word Q helps me spell and Dragon lets me speak into it and my words come out. Kurzweil helps with my reading because it will read what I scan into it,”said Wright.
Kate Remiz, a Student Services Coordinator of Assistive Technology,said the school board is using voice to text and text to speech software such as Dragon Naturally Sound, Kurzweil, and organizational software Such as Smart Ideas to help students reach their full potential.
Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS) is one of the text to speech software Ramirez has been recommending for students who are not proficient at typing or may have issues with mobility.
With DNS student can use their voice to perform tasks such as search the web, send emails, and write documents with Microsoft Word. DNS was created by an American company called Nuance and is used in a variety of environments such as schools, workplaces, and libraries.
Kurzweil is another text to speech software that the DCDSB is using to help its students. With Kurzweil students can listen to their textbooks being read to them on their MacBooks or other devices.
“Text-to-speech software is well-received by our classroom teachers and teachers are supportive of our students who use technology to support their learning. A common misconception about our students with unique learning needs is that they are unable to meet the demands of the curriculum. This is not true. These are really smart students who, with the support of Assistive Technology, are able to problem-solve, collaborate, and share their thoughts and ideas.” said Remiz.
Although Remiz says she has received positive feedback from teachers and students on the speech to text software and other assistive technology, she has also faced challenges in implementing the technology.
“In terms of assistive technology, there can be some challenges. Research shows that if a student isn’t ready to have a piece of assistive technology, then they won’t use the assistive technology and will revert back to using paper and pen. Therefore, our team of Assistive Technology Specialists take time to assess the needs of our students to ensure they are ready to receive the technology. Once the assistive technology is in the hands of our students, the Assistive Technology Specialists train the students to use the different assistive software. Our students are always supported by the Assistive Technology Team, as well as by the Program Support Teachers and the Classroom Teachers in the schools.”said Remiz.
In a 2007 survey done by Statistics Canada, it was found that 3.2 per cent of Canadian children have a learning disability,nd in a 2012 survey Statistics Canada found 2.3 per cent of adults ages 15- 24 reported having a learning disability.
According to the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, assistive technology can benefit children such as Wright with learning disabilities by improving their confidence and self esteem, and can help them become more independent.