Note-taking hacks for dyslexic students

For the average student note-taking can be challenging and laborious, but for the estimated 10% of the student population that are dyslexic the task is even more so. In the 21st century technology has some great things to offer for students looking to ‘hack’ their note-taking though, and OneNote, which is free to download on Windows and iOS, really shines for its inclusivity.

OneNote is a multiplatform digital notebook for personalised information gathering and user collaboration. You can capture your thoughts in free-form text, drawings, screen-clippings and audio notes. Dyslexic Advantage named Microsoft’s Learning Tools for OneNote one of their Top Dyslexia apps of 2016, praising it for clearly having been “created with students and adults with dyslexia in mind”.

OneNote is ideal for speed note-taking in lectures, reading through dense textbooks and decoding an assignment brief need no longer be intimidating or a barrier to students succeeding. Discover the ways OneNote can make note-taking simple and easy for you:

Immersive ReaderExample of OneNote Immersive Reader with some words and group of words highlighted in a different colour

An indispensable learning tool designed to increase the readability of content in OneNote. This feature improves fluency and comprehension by reading text out loud, breaking words down into syllables and increasing line spacing. Perfect for proofreading essays and decoding dense source texts, the Immersive Reader has several settings you can personalise to suit your reading needs. You can optimize fonts to reduce visual crowding, implement grammar highlighting to help decipher complicated sentences, and even change the background colour for greater readability.

Bonus Hack!

Is the source you need for your essay not available as an audiobook? Perhaps your required readings are on reserve and can’t be checked out of the library? Or is there too much information on the lecturer’s slides to jot down? Microsoft Office Lens is the built-in camera tool for OneNote on iPad and iPhone which enables you to take photos of printed documents and whiteboards. It enhances the readability of the text by cropping, sharpening and straightening the photos. Plus send the snaps to OneNote to have the photographed text read to you in Immersive Reader. 


A hugely beneficial tool for students who have copious amounts of coursework to write and are often pressed for time. If you’re dyslexic and struggle to translate your thoughts into the written word, speech-to-text features can be life-changing. The dictation feature on OneNote allows you to speak and have the app type for you. Punctuation can be added by simply saying ‘period’, ‘comma’, etc. Dictation reduces the stress associated with spelling, felt by many dyslexic students, by removing the need for typing completely. 

Digital InkExample of OneNote Digital Ink in practice showing how it can be used to annotate an image

If visually rich notes help you absorb information try using Digital Ink to annotate directly on top of web clippings, PDF printouts and photographs taken with Office Lens.

Using a digital pen (a stylus, your finger or desktop mouse) and virtual paper can help reduce the writing challenges usually faced by some dyslexic students. Ideas can quickly be jotted down in time-sensitive lectures or whenever creativity strikes, but students need no longer worry about rough handwriting or losing ad-hoc pieces of paper. All hand-written notes can be instantly converted into polished text by using the lasso function which also works for converting drawn shapes into formatted content, though this function is only available on OneNote for Windows 10 and iPad.

Bonus Hack!Example of OneNote Ink Math Assistant

OneNote is not only a master of words, but of numbers too! With the ink math assistant students can now write out their equations using digital ink and use the math button under the draw tab to not only convert the selected equation into a neat format, but to solve it too!

AbilityNet can help

AbilityNet is a UK charity that helps people to use technology to achieve their goals. If you have questions about disability and technology you can call us on 0800 269 545 or email

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