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New literacy software offers reading, writing support to all

IU makes history by offering assistive software Read&Write Gold on IUware, providing literacy tools to all

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — People with low vision, English language learners, and anyone who just wants some extra reading and writing support, take note: Indiana University has unveiled a new software license that makes literacy tools available to everyone.

Beginning this semester, all IU students, faculty and staff can download Read&Write Gold (RWG) literacy software at no charge through IUware, the university’s software distribution service. RWG is assistive software specifically designed to help with reading and writing. The software will read aloud a variety of materials, from a Word doc or PDF file to web pages and screen shots.

RWG will also:

  • Predict words as you type
  • Highlight text as you read
  • Collect study highlights
  • Use advanced spell check and dictionary tools
  • Create audio files from a text document

"Our new Read&Write Gold license fits perfectly within IU’s philosophy of abundance, in which we strive to make essential tools widely available," said Anastasia Morrone, IU associate vice president of learning technologies. "It's increasingly important to provide assistive software and accessible systems to the entire IU community, and I’m pleased that Read&Write Gold’s literacy tools are now helping to advance teaching and learning throughout the university."

To learn more, watch a TechBytes video about Read&Write Gold:

The new license marks the first time IU has made assistive technology available university-wide – and that is by design, said Brian Richwine, manager of the University Information Technology Services (UITS) Assistive Technology and Accessibility Center (ATAC) at IU Bloomington.

"To have access to similar software in the past, students had to be referred to an ATAC office as a student with a disability. But sometimes people don’t have the means to document their disabilities, or they are hesitant to identify as an individual with disabilities. With Read&Write Gold available in IUware, there is no stigma or delay in getting the help you need. We look forward to seeing all the different ways our community will put RWG to good use," he said.

IU’s association with RWG began when Matt Springer, IU Southeast (IUS) coordinator of disability services, received a grant for a campus site license in 2010. The software was a game changer for the approximately 450 IUS students needing accommodations for their disabilities and anyone else seeking extra literacy support.

"Read&Write Gold is a wonderful program," said Springer. "Its best feature is that it can convert on-screen text into speech. For someone who struggles with reading text, to be able to quickly and independently hear and understand that same text via audio – well, it’s life changing. It's liberating. Even better is that I can share that experience with others, and watch them enter a world of literacy for the first time. Grown men – and I mean big Army dudes – have wept in my office before."

But that is just the "Read" of Read&Write Gold. The writing features allow for advanced spell checkers, a homonym checker, and more. Word prediction is a tool (now more closely associated with texting) that lets users create sentences with a few keystrokes. For the student with arthritis, the veteran with a traumatic brain injury, the faculty member with a hand injury, or even just the poor typist – the software is a useful tool.

ATAC staff members are working to establish partnerships with units across IU in an effort to maximize Read&Write Gold’s potential. The Groups Scholars Program, which supports first-generation college students with limited financial resources, is already on board. Richwine hopes to see RWG in place at Writing Tutorial Services, IU Athletics, and the Intensive English Program.

"The more popular the program becomes, the less stigma there may be," Springer added. "It stops being the special accommodations software and becomes the awesomely helpful software."