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Focus On Supportive Software.

What is Supportive Software? It is software that helps people with learning disabilities overcome learning impediments, interact with a computer or simply learn a new subject. It can be anything from a CD-ROM encyclopedia that responds to voice input, to a full-fledged learning system designed for disadvantaged learners. This article will look at some of the noteworthy and recent products that we think can help learners with various disabilities.

Kurzweil 3000, priced at $250 and available for Windows, is designed to increase LD students' comprehension and retention. The software can display an onscreen version of any printed material that has been scanned, reading the material back to the students. Students can read along, take notes and highlight specific words or phrases. Language tools such as a 175,000 word talking dictionary, thesaurus and phonetic spelling tool are included and provide additional support while kids are interacting with the software.

Kurzweil 3000 also has the ability to read aloud the words of any Web page, using Microsoft Internet Explorer. Students can choose to have the program read in a continuous, self-paced, or word-by-word mode, and can have each word, phrase, line, sentence or heading read separately. The reading speed can also be adjusted to suit individual learners, as well as the accent and pronunciation.

Designed for the blind and visually impaired, pwWebSpeak/32 runs on Windows 95/98/NT machines, translating HTML pages into both speech and simplified visual presentations with variable text sizes. The program lets users navigate through Web pages based on their content and links to other pages, as opposed to scrolling down graphics-intensive pages. It can be used in a dual mode, which provides both visual and auditory assistance, using large-print text and the ability to modify foreground and background colors.

The program can read Web sites by page, word or even character, providing spelling when requested. For just $150, pwWebSpeak/32 supports unlimited page sizes and incremental browsing, normal and secure transactions, forms, long file names, SAPI, HTML and user-defined Audio Style Sheets, FTP, Real Audio and Real Media, and includes the ability to re-map the keyboard.

Earobics Pro Plus, from Cognitive Concepts, incorporates the latest computer speech technology with scientifically based and clinically proven techniques to improve kids' reading, listening and language skills. Designed specifically for children ages 4 to 7, and available for Windows or Macintosh platforms, the software is based on research that indicates learning to read requires strong listening skills. Thus, Earobics focuses on building auditory rather than visual skills.

Six interactive games teach children auditory discrimination and memory, rhyming, sound-symbol correspondence, phonemic abilities, as welt as a host of other necessary skills. The program includes administrative features that give educators a high level of control over each child's learning process. They can select level of play, skip or repeat certain levels, and track each child's progress.

Earobics also offers automatic goal-writing, data storage and report generation, and conforms to goal-writing formats required by federal and state education agencies and insurance companies. Earobics Pro Plus sells for $300 and comes with a complete satisfaction guarantee. Also, an at-home companion product is available for $60, letting parents reinforce what kids are learning at school.

Fast ForWord, from Scientific Learning Corp., is another program based in part on research indicating a link between the ability to listen, or decipher sounds, and the ability to read. It is a complete training program for individuals with language-based learning disabilities. Incorporating over 25 years of research in neuroscience and neuropsychology, Fast ForWord presents an intensive series of adaptive, interactive exercises using acoustically processed speech and speech sounds. By slowing down and elongating many of the various "problem" sounds that children encounter (such as "ba" and "da"), and then incrementally speeding the sounds back up until they approximate normal speech, the program helps learners work through these troublesome areas.

Fast ForWord is designed as a daily program with 100 minutes of training per day for four to eight weeks, under the supervision of a Fast ForWord certified instructor. While this may seem like a lot of time, students get fully immersed in the software, playing various games and activities that, unbeknownst to them, teach them new skills. Students get onscreen rewards for successful segment completion, as well as token economy rewards for achieving point goals determined with the instructor. Results are uploaded daily via the Internet to Scientific Learning Corp.'s consolidated database for analysis and comparison with the student's progress. On average, children completing the program have been found to make 1.5 years of language gains. For more information on Fast ForWord, or the numerous controlled studies conducted with it, visit the firm's Web site or give them a call (see contact info).


* What You Need Now

IBM and Arkenstone have also, recently introduced a product designed to help people who suffer from dyslexia or other reading and comprehension challenges. Called What You Need Now, or WYNN, the software uses speech technology from IBM to read electronic text aloud, as well as spell and define words. Students can use the included microphone to insert voice notes into a document, and simultaneously view text and hear it read aloud. Users can customize the size, color and word spacing of onscreen characters, and scan printed materials into the application for viewing and modification. WYNN, available for Windows PCs, is priced between $400 and $1000, depending on OCR capabilities; site licenses are also available.

Madenta, producers of ScreenDoors II, the onscreen keyboard program recently announced for integration into future versions of Windows, is now distributing Vortex. Vortex is a program that augments users' ability to read, using a unique interface in which the computer actively participates in the reading process. Words are displayed onscreen one at a time at a specific rate set by the user. Font size, background and foreground colors are also user definable. "The combination of Madenta's computer access tools and Vortex means reading a book or newspaper -- or any of the volumes of electronic text available on the Internet -- is completely accessible by people who have limited or no use of their hands," said Randy Marsen, Madenta president and CEO.

Several news items of note have recently indicated that both government and industry are starting to really pay attention to technology-based accessibility issues. For example, the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress has just released a 72-page report outlining both the scope of activity and steps required to develop digital talking books for America's talking book program. The report, Digital Talking Books: Planning for the Future, details how the NLS is working with various organizations to develop a national digital talking book standard through the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), the only organization accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to develop technical standards for libraries and information services.

This new effort will replace the 67-year-old NLS talking book program that currently uses audiocassette playback technology developed in the 1960s. The NLS also produces books and magazines in Braille. According to Michael Moodie, NLS research and development officer, "The NISO standard will address digital talking-book features, file specifications, user control of playback devices, production issues and copyright protection schemes. This project has attracted a highly skilled and committed group of individuals from patron-advocacy organizations, media producers, schools for the blind, accessibility experts, hardware and software producers and libraries."

Also of interest is the announcement that Corel Computer Corp. will equip provincial schools for the deaf in Ottawa, London, Milton and Belleville with CorelVIDEO videoconferencing technology. Students and faculty will use this technology to communicate between schools using American Sign Language over the schools' existing network infrastructure. "We have created a video system that provides the outstanding video quality necessary for the ASL signing community," said Eid Eid, president of Corel Computer Corp. "The Corel solution is a coherent and compelling response to the search for a communications product for our Provincial Schools for the Deaf," agreed Ruth Taber, director of Provincial Schools for the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training. Wayne Reeves, provincial schools technology advisor indicated that the "system is cost effective because we can leverage the existing assets, such as wiring and television sets, in the implementation of this technology."

RELATED ARTICLE: Contact Information

Kurzweil 3000 Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc. Waltham, MA (800) 894-5374

Online Reader Service 8401

Earobics Pro Plus Cognitive Concepts, Inc. Evanston, IL (888) 328-8199

Online Reader Service #402

pwWebSpeak/32 The Productivity Works, Inc. Trenton, NJ (609) 984-8044

Online Reader Service #403

Fast ForWord Scientific Learning Corp. Berkeley, CA (510) 665-9700

Online Reader Service #404

WYNN Arkenstone, Inc. Sunnyvale, CA (800) 444-4443

Online Reader Service #405

Vortex Madenta, Inc. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (403) 450-8926

Online Reader Service #406

Digital Talking Books The Library of Congress Washington, D.C. (202) 707-2905

Online Reader Service #407

CorelVIDEO Corel Computer Corp. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (613) 788-6000

Online Reader Service #408


Microsoft, with help from Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University, is working on Microsoft Encarta Africana, a comprehensive multimedia reference resource on the history, geography and culture of Africa and people of African descent. Scheduled for release in January 1999, Encarta Africana will fulfill W.E.B. Du Bois's dream for an encyclopedia Africana. Educational institutions will be eligible for discount pricing. For more information, watch this space in the coming months. * Broderbund Software's Where: In the World is Carmen Sandiego? Deluxe edition enables kids to speak words, numbers and phrases in 12 different languages: Arabic, French, German, Hindi, Italian,, Japanese,, ,Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swahili, While tracking town Carmen Sandiego, kids can explore exotic cultures and conduct research using the new Talking Foreign Language Glossary. * Multimedia and the Web from A to Z, 2nd revised and enlarged edition, provides readers with quick and concise definitions of more than 1,500 terms and phrases related to multimedia, the Internet and the World Wide Web. First published in 1993, the work has been completely updated, with more than 500 new phrases added,, (800) 279-4663 * The Image Bank is offering CD 7, an image disk containing 5,000 health, medicine and science still pictures and film clips available for licensing. Images can be found easily with the product's built-in search function, and can be integrated into numerous projects, whether multimedia, print or film. (800) 842-4624. Diskovery is offering academic pricing on Visual Cafe for Java Professional Development Edition, its award-winning Visual Java solution with information on Y2K, JavaBeans, debugging and much more. (800) 331-5489 * MediaSeek's ExplorAsource curriculum alignment tool that quickly identifies learning products that match topic and grade level is now available on CD-ROM for Windows 95. It costs $89 for a single copy; discounts are available for volume purchases. ExplorAsource recently won the ComputED 1998 Education Software Review Award in the Teacher Tools category. (800) 372-3277, ext. 315 * MapTech's Terrain Professional offers up to 250 exportable USGS raster maps per CD, in varying scales. Users can select the desired dpi, scale, size, projection, datum and state plane, and export the maps into Arc/Info, ArcView, Mapinfo, AutoCAD and other programs that accept georeferenced TIF files. (800) 627-7236. * Declassified Documents Reference System-US is the first release in a new online reference series called World Government Documents Archive, from Primary Source Media. Full text searching is available, along with numerous options for retrieval including issue date, source institution, classification level, document type and date declassified, * FoolProof Security 3.0, from SmartStuff Software, should be available for Windows 98 by the time you read this. FoolProof prevents users from making undesirable changes to settings on public-access computers. Get a free evaluation copy from (800) 671-3999. * Aladdin Systems recopy released Aladdin DropStuff for Windows 1.0, which provides universal compression and access tools that let Windows and Macintosh users communicate via the internet. Visit to download your trial version.. Ardent Software has launched the Academic Partner Program, providing software, training and the support resources needed for instruction and research using Ardent's 02 ODBMS. Designed for higher education institutions, the program gives students and faculty access to Ardent's advanced object-oriented software, and is available for single classrooms or entire campuses. (303) 672-1242 * Selingua in Java is a Java version of the language tutor that helps you learn 2,000 words in English, French, German, Spanish or Swedish. This new platform independent version lets Macintosh, UNIX and 0S/2 users run the software, in addition to the Windows version released previously. Visit for a demo version.
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Title Annotation:Technology Information
Author:Willis, William
Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Date:Oct 1, 1998
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