Assistive technology is any product, type of equipment, or system that enhances learning, working, and daily living for persons with disabilities. Everyone may benefit from using assistive technology and it may help you work more quickly, easily or independently. 

Free/Low Cost Assistive Technology

The following website by Augsburg University contains one of the most comprehensive lists of assistive technology we've found. They provide products in the following categories: reading & literacy support, writing support, note taking support, dictation/speech-to-text/speech recognition, mind mapping & brainstorming support, study skills & aids, organization & task management support, time management & distraction free support, research tools, stress management and relaxation, vision, hearing and auditory support, communication and built-in accessibility. 

Free/Low Cost Assistive Technology

Office 365 Allows Dictation (Speech-to-Text)

Instead of purchasing dictation software, Office 365 allows you to use dictation within its applications. To use this feature in Word (maybe you are writing a paper?), sign into your Office 365 account, open Word and start a new document. Make sure your external mic is plugged in and working, or your internal computer mic is on. If the application hasn't already defaulted to the Home menu bar, click on Home in the top menu. At the right end of the menu, you will see the word "Dictate" next to a blue microphone symbol. Click on the arrow next to Dictate to make sure the appropriate dictation language is selected (English, U.S. - although French, German, Italian and Spanish are options). You are ready to begin!

Select "Dictate" and wait for the red dot to appear. Start dictating your content, inserting punctuation into the document by saying the name of the punctuation mark you want to add. You can correct mistakes by moving your cursor to the mistake and fixing it with your keyboard. You do not need to turn off the microphone. When you are finished dictating, select "Dictate" again. For more information, check out Microsoft's "Dictate Your Document" article.

Use Built-in Accessibility in Apple Products

VoiceOver is the built-in screen reader on your Mac/iPad that describes aloud what appears on the screen and speaks the text in documents, webpages, and windows.

To open VoiceOver Utility on your Mac, do one of the following:

  • When VoiceOver is on, press VO-F8.

  • Choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, click Accessibility, click VoiceOver, then click Open VoiceOver Utility.

With Voice Control, you can use spoken commands to open apps, choose menu items, and more on your Mac/iPad. macOS provides a standard set of commands, and you can create your own commands. 

To turn on Voice Control:

  1. On your Mac, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, click Accessibility, then click Voice Control.

  2. Select Enable Voice Control.

The first time you turn on Voice Control, files for the selected language are downloaded to your Mac (you must be connected to the internet) and the feedback window appears on the desktop. When Voice Control is ready to use, the microphone icon  appears in the window and fluctuates to indicate the volume level

Kurzweil 3000 Text to Speech Program

Kurzweil 3000 is a text-to-speech software that reads text aloud (to users) from most digital and print formats allowing users access to more advanced material while improving word recognition, comprehension and decoding.  Kurzweil is available as a web-based software (Kurzweil Firefly), a downloadable application and an extension that allows information available on the internet to be read aloud.

Not only does use of this program benefit all users, it significantly improves access for persons with learning issues (learning disabilities) as well as English Language Learners (ELL). Kurzweil has many other features that may help users understand new information and study (highlighting, sticky/text notes, dictionary, translation). In addition, students may use the program to listen to papers they've written in order to hear issues with flow, grammar etc. Finally, this program has a Chrome extension, (Read the Web) that allows users to listen to information they can pull up using the Chrome browser. This program is available (at no cost) for use by all currently enrolled Cedar Crest students as well as faculty and staff members. Students who are interested in using Kurzweil and would like an account set up, please click on the following link and complete the request form: Kurzweil3000atCedarCrest (you must be logged into your Cedar Crest Office 365 account to access this form). You will receive an email containing your username and password, as well as helpful information about the program.

The Kurzweil Academy contains many helpful videos regarding use of the program.  You can find the Academy at Kurzweil Academy.  The Guide to Kurzweil 3000 is an especially helpful video that covers how to use the program as well as many of its features.  You can find that (45 minute) video here: Video: Guide to Kurzweil 3000.

We are providing several short captioned videos (about five minutes each) on how to use Kurzweil.  You will need to be signed into your Cedar Crest Office 365 account to view these videos.  They are best viewed in "theatre" mode and you can turn on captions by clicking on the "CC" button on the Stream video screen.  The following videos are available:

     Kurzweil Video One: Opening Documents

     Kurzweil Video Two: Reading Text

     Kurzweil Video Three: Translating Text

     Kurzweil Video Four: Chrome Extension: Read the Web

     Kurzweil Video Five: Highlighting and Notes

Kurzweil Information and Instructions (covering the information in these five videos) are available in both Word and PDF formats:

     Kurzweil Instructions Word Format

     Kurzweil Instructions P.D.F. Format

PLEASE NOTE: Kurzweil has recently changed where the tools are located.  Instead of a tool bar at the center/top of the screen, the tools are now at the top left, side left and top right.  Please see the diagram below for the locations and descriptions of each tool.  The Library icon is in the top left corner, as are the Audio Options and Document View icons.  The Bookmark, Highlighting, Notes, Tools and Column Notes icons are now located down the left side, in that order from top to bottom.  The Dictionary icon is in the top right corner.  

New Kurzweil Screen/Tools

To Download Extracted Outlines/Notes:

  1. Open the extracted outline/notes document (while in Kurzweil)
  2. Click on the Save icon (top left - disc shape)
  3. Choose Save to One Drive
  4. You may have to sign into your student Microsoft Office 365 account and/or allow Kurzweil access to One Drive
  5. Choose the One Drive folder to which you want to download your outline/notes (can be the main folder or a subfolder)
  6. Click Save
  7. Name the file and choose the file type from the drop down on the right (MS Word, PDF, plain text, etc.)
  8. Click Save


  • Information Technology does not support Kurzweil, with the exception of installation errors on College-Owned devices.
  • For login and account issues, please contact the Learning and Disability Resources at  
  • For usage questions or installation support on personal devices, technical support for the program is available through the Kurzweil company.  Prior to contacting Kurzweil, please check the Kurzweil Technical Support Page and the Kurzweil Academy for assistance with any issues you encounter.

Kurzweil on Campus

You can find the desktop version of Kurzweil on these campus computers: Cressman Library, HBB 11, Blaney 8, Curtis Residence Hall Computer Lab, Butz Residence Hall Computer Lab and Steinbright Residence Hall Computer Lab.