The following blog post was written by Erin Beneteau, a senior learning and development strategist for accessibility at Microsoft. Erin has worked in the field of assistive technology for over 15 years. (Note: This story is based on my experience, but names and some details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.)
A little more than five years ago, I helped two people who were struggling with the same problem: reading and writing emails and documents at work. John and Barbara did not have any physical impairments, but they told me they had dyslexia. Only one of them had told their employer, but both were looking for ways to work more efficiently, without drawing too much attention to themselves.
I am not a specialist on dyslexia, but I work extensively with assistive technology. I showed Barbara and John software, including ClaroRead and Read & Write Gold, designed for people who need support with reading and writing. These software programs have plenty of helpful features, including highlighting text as its read aloud. As important, both systems were compatible with Microsoft Windows, the operating system used where John and Barbara worked.
Since I didn’t often work with people who needed reading and writing support, I had never used either software application. After trying both extensively, I realized some features helped me too. When I read long documents for work, especially when I was tired, I was turning on Read & Write Gold’s text-to-speech option. This proved incredibly useful when I reviewed and edited documents.
When using technology to improve your work, tools need to fit your needs. In the end, John chose ClaroRead and Barbara chose Read & Write Gold. Both John and Barbara also found that personalizing their existing Microsoft Outlook and Word programs also helped. Specifically, they changed the font to blue Comic Sans and expanded the layout to double spacing. These modifications made it easier for them to see and process the written word.