AppWriter: A writing app for people with learning disabilities

According to the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, about one in ten Canadians are estimated to suffer from learning disabilities. As educators, it is important that we respond to the needs of students with learning disabilities. I wish there was an app for that…

Wait a minute! When I went through a list of 52 iPad writing apps, AppWriter ($20, iTunes link) caught my attention. It was the most expensive one of the bunch, so I naturally wondered how AppWriter justifies its hefty price tag.

 

A writing app specifically tailored for people with learning disabilities

It turns out that AppWriter may be well worth every penny for people with learning disabilities! According to the developers,

AppWriter is the first text editor for the iPad to offer users of all ages with reading and writing disabilities the necessary tools for unlocking a world of information. All tools are seamlessly integrated and comprise text-to-speech, context based word suggestions, OCR and the special Dyslexie-font.

Side note: I have to say “may be” because I didn’t test this app first hand. This post is based on the information available on the developer’s webpage (including some videos), which looks all very promising. But back to AppWriter…

AppWriter lets the iPad read aloud the text of the current file as well as commands within the app. The WriterApp webpage has a video that demonstrates how this works. When it comes to synthetic voices, we are nowhere near to the perfection of Star Trek, but AppWriter’s synthetic voice is decent.

For some people with learning disabilities, hearing the word is helpful for understanding the text. Educators can cater these needs by providing information in digital text form that can be easily imported into AppWriter through Dropbox or copy and paste.

 

Text-to-Speech meets Scan-to-Text

But what about non-digital text? Another great feature of AppWriter is its Optical Character Recognition (OCR) function. OCR allows people with learning disabilities (and everyone else) to scan a typed text (e.g., a page in a book) and to make it machine readable. This text can then, in turn, be read aloud by AppWriter.

The good news is that no internet connection is required for OCR to work. However, the bad news is that you will need the higher quality camera of the new iPad (3rd generation) in order to achieve decent OCR results.

AppWriter for students with learning disabilities

AppWriter offers students with learning disabilities the necessary tools for unlocking a world of information. All tools are seamlessly integrated and comprise text-to-speech, context based word suggestions, OCR and the special Dyslexie-font.

 

An app to help with writing and reading

Another cool function that can improve the writing skills of people with learning disabilities is Word Prediction. This features makes it easier to construct sentences by predicting the word you want to use next. You can even let the app read out loud a word before selecting it, thanks to  the text-to-speech function discussed above.

 

My personal favourite, however, is the Dyslexie typeset that is used in AppWriter. Our standard fonts are difficult to read for some people with learning disabilities because of the similarities between letters and the spaces between words and sentence. The Dyslexie font aims to optimize reading accuracy and readability of texts for dyslectics. Check out this video about how this works. It is really informative for understanding learning disabilities in general:

 

 

There is some science behind the Dyslexie font: According to a Master Thesis at the University of Twente (Netherlands), students with learning disabilities made overall fewer reading errors (although some specific type of errors increased) when the text was printed in the Dyslexie font.

You want a sample? Here you go:

Appwriter Sample

A private license of the Dyslexie font is available by studiostudio graphic design for $69. Since the Dyslexie font comes for free with the AppWriter app, the ten dollar price tag looks suddenly more like a bargain, doesn’t it?

There is also an educational license for 445 Euro, which should be useful for universities that want to better cater the needs of students with learning disabilities.

Learning disabilities are important to consider in today’s higher education. If you want to help, please let the Learning Center or other institutions at your university know about AppWriter and the Dyslexie font. Why not sending them this post? You can use the sharing buttons below for this.

Disclaimer: All images and videos by AppWriter. Please consider sharing this article if you found it useful.

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Comments

  1. Jo says:

    For everyone: the iTunes link in this post points to the US version of AppWriter. If iTunes comes back to you saying it is not available, just search for AppWriter directly in the AppStore to find a version that works for you.

  2. stefan pal says:

    Hi,

    great post – thanks!

    I just want to let you know that AppWriter is available in Canada, but it’s not the “English” version but the “US” version. So if you search for AppWriter US – it should turn up there.

    Thanks again,

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