Microsoft recently made a new add-on available for its OneNote software which aims to help students with dyslexia. The add-on works within Microsoft's note taking software and is currently available to download as a beta. Once installed, a new tab appears which gives users the option to read content using text-to-speech or dictate using speech-to-text. While both of the features have been available before it is nice to have a free option that can be used directly within OneNote: an application that many schools and parents already have installed as part of the Microsoft Office suite.
The text-to-speech reader mode is called "immersive reading mode" and includes some handy features. When activated the reader fills the entire screen with text from your OneNote notebook. While reading text is highlighted as it is read aloud. Users have the option to change the background color and text size in order to create a more comfortable reading experience. The add-on also includes the ability to highlight nouns, verbs, and adjectives in different colors; a feature that could be helpful for younger students. Microsoft even includes the ability for users to break words up into syllables.
It is exciting to see the fruits of Microsoft's enhanced accessibility initiatives. While the new features are not novel they seem easy to learn. Since the "Learning Tools" are free for OneNote users and easy to learn they may prove to be a great starting point for people new to assistive technology. Microsoft seems to be increasing their focus on accessibility. Recently, the company announced a new Chief Accessibility Officer and a reorganization of accessibility teams. Hopefully, with the new reorganization, "Learning Tools" is just the beginning of Microsoft's accessibility improvements.
The "Learning Tools" add-on available as a free download for Windows. Click here to learn more and download the add-on.