LingApps, a Danish software company that develops speech and language technology, launched AppWriter, a text editor for the iPad, in the United States on Thursday. The software features Dyslexie, a font designed to help dyslexics read and write, as well as text-to-speech, optical character recognition, and other features designed to help users who have learning disabilities or visual limitations.
The software can be set to read all button and menus items aloud. The optical character recognition feature, integrated with mobile OCRKit software, allows handouts, photocopies or textbooks to be uploaded into the iPad and converted to text that the user can highlight or edit. AppWriter can then read the documents aloud through the text-to-speech feature (see video for a demonstration).
For users with learning disabilities, AppWriter offers a word prediction feature designed to help users construct sentences and make fewer grammatical errors. This feature can be used in combination with the word reader so that the application plays audio of the words as the user types or selects them. Further, the Dyslexie may help users to differentiate letters that look similar, making words and sounds easier to comprehend.
Christian Boer, a dyslexic designer who created Dyslexie, praised the AppWriter in a press release (and why wouldn't he?). “People with reading disabilities understand the importance of reading, because they don't take reading for granted," he said. "AppWriter helps these people and enables them to participate in today’s information based society."
Assistive technologies like the AppWriter might seem like niche products but the demand for assistive technology is growing fast -- not only among educators but also consumers.
As Baby Boomers age and their vision and hearing start to fail, expect to see even more assistive technology. In fact, if you use voice-to-text on your phone or if you turn to Siri on your iPhone to find the nearest sushi joint, guess what? You're using assistive tech. The industry is valued at $30.5 billion and it's growing fast.