Tech Tools for Dyslexia at work, in education and at home

How can inclusive tech bridge the gap to help dyslexic people when learning, at home or in the workplace?

Two women looking at computer screen with computer code on itIn this webinar guest speakers from AbilityNet and the British Dyslexia Association share tried and tested tools and solutions to benefit people who are dyslexic. 

During the webinar:

  • We learned from people with lived experience of dyslexia their recommendations for tech that can help with everyday tasks, and in specific work and education settings.
  • Found out what are reasonable adjustments in the workplace for dyslexia.
  • Discovered ways to support dyslexic employees or students.
  • Evaluated a range of 'Dyslexia Simulators' and share guidance about apps and adjustments to help people with dyslexia.

Tech tools for dyslexia at work, in education and at home - AbilityNet webinar slides via SlideShare

Meet your guest panellists:

Adam Tweed, smiling at cameraAdam Tweed, AbilityNet

Adam is a Senior Workplace and Education Consultant and has a BA in Film Studies, a BSc in Psychology and a career in IT in both the commercial and education sectors as well as also working as an assistant psychologist. A self-described jack-of-all-trades, Adam is a lover of all thing's tech and fascinated by design and how it dictates how well (or badly) people engage with technology. He believes that technology should be intuitive and that "if you can break it, it's been designed badly." 

Catherine Parfitt, British Dyslexia Association

Catherine ParfittBritish Dyslexia Association logoCatherine is the Head of Accredited Training at the British Dyslexia Association and is responsible for training services, including short courses, practical teacher training and postgraduate level programmes. She has been a specialist teacher, adviser and assessor for adults with a variety of specific learning differences (SpLD). She has also been a lecturer for the University of Brighton and Canterbury Christ Church University in special educational needs and inclusion, inclusive and assistive technology, and dyslexia.

Catherine has worked in a variety of contexts, including prison education, mental health services and higher education. She has specific research interests in neurodiversity and social responses to difference, technology for inclusion and the impact of working memory vulnerabilities. Having gained a dyslexia diagnosis herself later in life, Catherine is a passionate advocate for neurodiversity and the belief that everyone can thrive in school, work and life when their differences are recognised, valued and accepted.

Rina Wharton, AbilityNet

Rina Wharton, standing outside and smilingRina is a Senior Accessibility Consultant Team Leader at AbilityNet, her main responsibilities day to day are supporting both her team and the wider team through checking people’s work in quality assurance and peer review and answering questions posted by others. She also delivers training and guidance, both internally and externally, and undertakes testing for clients. She has just finished her studies at the Open University in Computing and IT, alongside her role at AbilityNet. 
Rina is autistic and dyslexic and often speaks about her experiences studying and in the workplace. She is a regular speaker at AbilityNet's annual TechShare Pro event, which is the UK's largest meet-up for accessibility professionals.

Learn more about dyslexia and digital accessibility

Why digital accessibility is important

Digital accessibility, or web accessibility, is about universality and making websites and digital services that can be accessed and used by everyone - people on different devices, in different environments and with different abilities. AbilityNet's vision is a digital world accessible to all, and we believe the power of technology should be available to everyone. 


This webinar lasted 60 minutes and included an opportunity to pose questions to the guests. The panel was able to answer many questions from attendees during the live session, which you can find by watching the webinar playback or accessing the transcript. 

Q: Hi good day, I would like to thank you about this webinar. I have one question I have already my dyslexia test with results from Davis Assosciation:dyslexia with attention deficit disorder, how you can suggest in terms of what kind of job to choose, thank you.

Catherine from the British Dyslexia Association: Don’t feel that your dyslexia and ADHD should hold you back from doing whatever job you would love to do! The Equality Act means that you shouldn’t be discriminated from applying for work on the basis of your ‘disability’ and when you are in work there are many tech tools that can support the things you are not so good at because of your dyslexia and ADHD. Think about the things YOU are good at and enjoy and use that to guide the jobs you should consider.

Q: Catherine do you support people who live in Northern Ireland

Catherine from the British Dyslexia Association: The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) provides services and support for people from all around the world, including NI!

Q: Is dyslexia usually diagnosed in secondary education then? or should the student self identify in post-secondary education? Primary and secondary schools don’t automatically screen for dyslexia.

Catherine from the British Dyslexia Association: This is something that the BDA are campaigning on. If a student, or their parent, thinks they may be dyslexic, going through a self-accessed checklist can help understand if there is a likelihood of dyslexia. Speak to the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) at school too – they may be about to screen for dyslexia and consider support that can be provided.

Q: Does Access to Work fund Dyslexia Assessments?

Catherine from the British Dyslexia Association: No, unfortunately not, but it can be worth asking an employer if they would fund or contribute to an assessment, if you think you might be dyslexic.

Q: Hi Catherine. Is the helpline contactable by email/webchat/WhatsApp too? 

Catherine from the British Dyslexia Association: I'm autistic as well as dyslexic and have speech issues too, so phone communication is difficult for me. You can email enquiries to or contact the helpline through direct message from our Facebook or Instagram.

Q: How common is it for young persons to be diagnosed dyslexia - especially in higher or further education - generally?  Son diagnosed at the age of 20, after exam failures at Uni, but had really to push for the assessment, and subsequent support links. 

Catherine from the British Dyslexia Association: It’s more common than you might think – a high proportion of people get diagnosed at college or university, often having never been identified as having dyslexic-type differences at school.

Q: Would you recommend training your library faculty at your institution? In the interest of digital literacy? 

Catherine from the British Dyslexia Association: Absolutely! The more people that have an awareness of the experiences and challenges that people with dyslexia, and other neurodiversities, have the better! This way services can be reviewed so that they are accessible to all!

Q: Hi, I upload the online learning content in my organisation, If you have engaged in online learning, what do you feel are the main challenges with learning content/formats? What 'top' tips would you give someone such as myself when designing learning content?

Catherine from the British Dyslexia Association: Learning content that is hosted online should comply with web accessibility guide. There’s lots of info there but top tips would be, keep it simple (don’t overload), ensure information can be accessed in a variety of ways (visual, auditory, activity, text …) and try to make sure it can be individually adapted.

Q: Do you know of any spell checkers that pick up phonetic mistakes well? 

Adam from AbilityNet: Global AutoCorrect from Lexable (now part of Texthelp) is one that I have seen working particularly effectively with phonetic mistakes.

Q: PowerPoint what the best way to allow viewers of the slides (given out before lectures or embedded in a online resource ) to change the colours to their own choice - obviously with the originals made to be as accessible as possible in first place? 

Adam from AbilityNet: You could suggest they use the option to export the slides to Word (create handouts option). This would then allow viewers to apply page colours. The other option would be through the slide master if they had edit access to the deck. 

Q: Does office 365 have the diction facility? 

Adam from AbilityNet: Yes, the dictate feature is in Office 365 (web and desktop).

Q: I don't have that dictate option in my Word. Is it only available as an online Word tool?

Adam from AbilityNet: No, it should be available on the desktop version (Office 2013 or later but Microsoft state that it also requires Windows 8.1 or later).

Q: Which is the lowest version of Word that Dictation runs on or is it on all of them?

Adam from AbilityNet: According to Microsoft, Office 2013 is the earliest version dictate runs on.

Q: Regarding read aloud: were those commands pinned to your bookmarks bar? Are they in the menus specifically somewhere?

Adam from AbilityNet: If the website supports the Immersive Reader, you will see the book icon up in the address bar. Once you click on the icon and enter the Immersive Reader mode, you should see the available options in the top right-hand corner of the webpage.

Q: How did you get the immersive reader in your web browser? 

Adam from AbilityNet: It’s an in-built feature, but not available on every website. If the website supports the Immersive Reader, you will see the book icon up in the address bar.

Q: Is Immersive Reader only available in Edge? Thanks. 

Adam from AbilityNet: Yes, it’s only available in the Microsoft Edge browser.

Q: What do you think (and why) offers better support for Dyslexic's, the Windows OS or the Mac OS? 

Adam from AbilityNet: It tends to be individual preference, so I can’t say one is better than the other. The features such as dictate and the Immersive reader are available within Office and the Edge browser, both of which will run on either Windows or MacOS.

Q: Already got a great tip from the demo that Adam gave that we can use to answer an issue here for students with Dyslexia viewing Powerpoint slides and changing colours  - notice that immersive reader for PowerPoint only in the web view ? 

Adam from AbilityNet: That’s really great feedback, I’m glad it was helpful. Yes, as far as I’m aware Immersive Reader for PowerPoint is only available in the web version. 

Q: Is there a way to apply coloured filters to your documents, particularly excel documents? Thank you 

Adam from AbilityNet: With Word, you can apply page tints/colours. With PowerPoint, you can tint the background of the slide master. Unfortunately I’m not aware of any view or setting that can change the sheet colour. You can apply ‘themes’ that will change the appearance of the ribbon. 

Q: Do you have details of tools in Linux and other open source tools - Libre Office and the like?

Adam from AbilityNet: Open source tools are typically heavily reliant on the ongoing support of the communities developing them. There are some good dictation and text-to-speech packages but I’m not sure how well they integrate with the OS or with things like the Libre Office suite.

Q: I find it difficult to use read aloud on pdf docs. often have to download then convert to word is there a free app for this?

Adam from AbilityNet: PDF’s can be ‘problematic’ in terms of accessibility and this is one of the reasons why we typically advise people to avoid them (or to include an accessible version a more accessible format such as a text document.

Q: Are there any note takers that don't record the info (I work with confidential info).

Adam from AbilityNet: To the best of my knowledge dictate doesn’t store the information it transcribes, it only keeps it long enough to work out context/corrections.

Q: A student I'm working with has requested an adjustment to alternate lines of text in lecture notes, into two different colours to support a visual difficulty. Would R&W software enable the student to amend their text in this way? Would it be reasonable to request the student makes these adjustments using their software, rather than asking academics to alter format? Many thanks

Adam from AbilityNet: I would suggest the student use the in-built vba code in word (courtesy of ChatGPT!) to run a macro to achieve this (example is for red and blue):

Sub ColorAlternateLines()
    Dim i As Integer
    Dim paragraphCount As Integer

 ' Set the number of paragraphs in the document
    paragraphCount = ActiveDocument.Paragraphs.Count

 ' Loop through each paragraph and color alternate lines
    For i = 1 To paragraphCount Step 2
        ActiveDocument.Paragraphs(i).Range.Font.Color = RGB(255, 0, 0) ' Red
    Next i

For i = 2 To paragraphCount Step 2
        ActiveDocument.Paragraphs(i).Range.Font.Color = RGB(0, 0, 255) ' Blue
    Next i
End Sub

To add and run the macro:

  1. Press Alt + F11 to open the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) editor.
  2. In the editor, select ‘Insert’ in the menu 
  3. Select ‘Module’ to create a new module
  4. Copy and paste the code into the module
  5. Close the VBA editor

Now, you can run the macro:

  1. Press Alt + F8 to open the "Macro" dialog.
  2. Select "ColorAlternateLines" from the list and click "Run."

Q: We have Readspeaker on our LMS, works similar to Immersive Reader. Are there recommendations for engaging or increasing awareness for students?

Adam from AbilityNet: I can only suggest looking for opportunities to demonstrate it and normalise its use. Perhaps encouraging academic staff to use it during lectures etc. – It’s an issue with a lot of accessibility/productivity tech, particularly the in-built features. The Immersive Reader for example has been around for several years (at least 6) but outside of the disability/accessibility community has rarely been heard of.

Q: Is there anything developers can do to make sure the browser reading mode works on their pages?

Rina from AbilityNet: Ensure that your page is correctly marked up using semantic HTML. Avoid trying to hack the page just so features like Immersive Reader are available as this can cause additional accessibility issues for users with additional access needs. 

Q: Please can anyone comment on 'brain storming' or mind mapping tech please - helps with package (can remember its name) can swap between bubble diagram and outline and back

Rina from AbilityNet: Inspiration is a common one provided through DSA and AtW. It can switch between outline and diagram as well. If you are using a Mac, personally I find MindNode is more aesthetically pleasing (I find it hard to motivate myself to use tools that don’t look pretty). This also has a bunch of similar features including outlines as well.

Q: Concerning typography, what are your thoughts on OpenDyslexic project

Rina from AbilityNet: I don’t particularly like “dyslexic” fonts. Personally, I find them harder to read due to the in consistent weight of the lines within each letter (they tend to be heavier at the bottom than the top).

I think the key to being as inclusive as possible is either providing a selection of fonts for users to choose from, which could include fonts such as the one suggested here, or allowing users to apply their own stylesheets to your web content such that they can apply the font that they like best.

Q: Does increasing line spacing within paragraphs (vs. single space) help people with dyslexia?

Rina from AbilityNet: It can do, some people may find more spaced out text easier to follow and means they lose their place less. Some may find the additional spacing harder to follow as the next line of text is further away from the previous line.

Q: Creating content for assessment or practical task evidence gathering is very tough to deliver for all those with specific needs. Do the panel have any tips to produce single versions of content and not have to create a 'special' version?

Rina from AbilityNet: This can depend on how this content is then distributed. If you can distribute as an accessible and editable Word document for example, users can then tailor it to their needs, and also make use of features such as immersive reader.

Providing content online also allows users to customise the content through the use of personal stylesheets loaded into the user’s browser, by the user, which then applies those styles to each web page. Ensure you are not inadvertently blocking the use of these.

Q: Are there fonts that are better to use?

Rina from AbilityNet: Generally, the research indicates that there is no one font that is better than others for dyslexic people in general. Some may find fonts designed for dyslexic readers, such as OpenDyslexic, easier to read, others may not. The best approach is to allow users to customise your content to their own preferences, through editable documents, such as Word, and using personal stylesheets online


Useful resources mentioned in the webinar

Date of webinar: 
3 Oct 2023 - 13:00