10 assistive technology Apple and Android apps

These apps can help special needs students thrive in a higher education setting

Copyright: 1000 Words/Shutterstock

As the higher education landscape changes to one more suited to serving the diverse needs of students, part of that responsibility is in helping find resources that can assist special needs students in navigating curriculum, course management and communication.

Some of the more common concerns students with special needs face, such as text-to-speech functionality, organization and scheduling, and communicating with faculty and admin their needs or questions, now have apps available for Apple products—and many times, Android—to help with those concerns. Many have been vetted specifically by educators or students with special needs.

For example, students who have difficulty writing due to disabilities can benefit from the free Dragon Dictation app; or if a visual disability makes using a calculator difficult, the Talking Calculator app could become an ideal solution.

Other apps include those needed for studying, scheduling and visual communication. Though many apps are either free or relatively low-cost, some are on the expensive side; however, the most expensive app is also the most comprehensive, so be sure to check it out anyway.

Know of any assistive technology apps for students either entering or in higher education? Have you tried any of these apps? Leave your comments in the section provided below, email me at, or find me @eSN_Meris on Twitter.

(Next page: Assistive tech apps 1-5)

[Listed in alphabetical order]

1. Dragon Dictation; Free

Students who have difficulty writing due to disabilities can benefit from the free Dragon Dictation app. This voice recognition technology app enables a student’s iPad or iPhone to capture and document what he/she says.

Android’s similar app: Dragon Mobile Assistant.

2. Keynote; $9.99

Keynote is a presentation app designed for a mobile device. Users can highlight data with 3D bar, line, area, and pie charts; animated with new 3D chart builds such as Crane, Grow, Radial, and Rotate.

3. Moody Me; Free

Moody Me is a journal for recording moods or emotions. This online daily journal allows a user to record daily mood with simple color coded smiley designs, take pictures of things that make a user smile, create a slideshow of images, and chart the changes in mood over time. This application is intended as a school counseling app.

Android’s similar app: Mood Meter.

4. Notability; $2.99

People learn differently and the note-taking app Notability embraces this notion. Kathleen H. McClaskey, a digital learning consultant and reoccurring guest on the special education-focused The Inclusive Class Podcast, noted that Notability works especially well with visual learners. Also, those who excel through listening may find the app’s audio recording component useful.

Android’s similar app: Simple Notepad.

5. Overdrive Media Console; Free

This application allows users to directly connect to public, college or school libraries if it is in Overdrive’s network. If a library connects itself to Overdrive’s network, it allows students to locate and borrow digital titles from home/dorm. This would be especially helpful for students who become ill or students with mobility needs.

Android’s app: Overdrive Media Console.

(Next page: Assistive tech apps 6-10)

6. Pages; $9.99

Pages is a word processor for Apple mobile devices. It syncs with iCloud, comes with a choice of 16 templates, and allows for color, font and texture customization.

7. Predictable; $159.99

A text-to-speech application that offers customizable AAC functions with the latest social media integration. Using a word prediction engine and switch access, Predictable meets the needs of a wide range of people using AAC, including those with MND/ALS, Cerebral Palsy and people with communication difficulties after a stroke or head injury.

8. Speak It! Text-to-Speech; $1.99

The app highlights each spoken word so that the user can more easily follow along with the text. This app can also help give a non-verbal student a voice so that he or she can interact with classmates. The ability to save countless phrases adds convenience by eliminating the need to type the same phrases over and over again.

Android’s similar app: Google Text-to-Speech.

9. Talking Calculator; $1.99

If a visual disability makes using a calculator difficult, this app could become an ideal solution. Talking Calculator features large colorful buttons, creating an easy-to-use interface; in addition, the calculator talks. Putting a finger on the screen allows the app to tell the user what button finger hovers over. Perform a calculation and the calculator vocalizes the answer.

Android’s similar app: Simple Talking Calculator.

10. Visual Schedule Planner; $14.99

A completely customizable visual schedule app that is designed to give an individual an audio/visual representation of the “events in their day.” In addition, events that require more support can be linked to an “activity schedule” or “video clip” to help model the task even further.