Learning solutions for students with disabilities

I have lived with a visual impairment for over 44 years now and have been working with disabled people for the past 25 years First as part of the team within the Carlton University libraries centre for disabled students and later during my professional career in IT.

Below you will find useful links and my thoughts about how best to support disabled students. All gained from designing solutions for myself, my dyslexic family members and other people over the years both professionally and personally who have asked for advice. This page will evolve over time as I finally get down to documenting my thoughts and experiences :)

Access to digital books

Access to printed material in alternative formats has always been a challenge but it is getting better with the advent of accessible online digital libraries.

Any Canadian who has a print disability can sign up for CELA and then via CELA apply to gain access to Bookshare.org. Bookshare.org has over 400,000 accessible digital books.

Use the link below to get registered with CELA.


      • You must have a public library card to register for CELA
      • Bookshare.org requires you to get proof of you print disability. A doctors or psychologist can normally complete the form for you.
      • CELA will pay for you bookshare.org account.

What I do

I typically search bookshare.org from Voice Dream reader. Find a book and download it to my phone. This is the easiest process I have found so far.

If the book is not on Bookshare, I will search for it on CELA. But the user experience of CELA's website and the apps which they support is quite poor. So it is a last resort.

Other sources for digital books

Local library

Some local library offer digital books you can download and read on a mobile device via an app called Over Drive. This app has been around for a while but at last testing it did not work well with Voice Over on iOS.

Kindle Unlimited

If you can afford to buy a book. The Kindle app on iOS works quite well.

Audio books (CD, MP3, DAISY, Audible)

Some times if I can't find the digital text version of a book i wanted to read. I will seek out and audio version.


It is imperative in my opinion that the kids need to pick a high quality voice and then just get used to it over time. Avery like a British one ;). I am an expert in accessibility so if you ever have any questions list ask.

Must read books on Dyslexia

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New And Complete Science-based Program For Reading Problems At Any Level

Sally Shaywitz



This book is worth every minute you will spend reading it. As parent it will provide you with the language to speed to your child's school along with providing you tips and tricks to help yourselve or your child.

Smart but scattered


Apps of interest

There are a whole host of apps on the market to help both visually impaired and learning impaired students read digital books and access print in general. Two of the most popular on iOS are:

This is the primary app I use to read books. It costs $20 but can be added to a family share and works well most of the time. Voice Dream can read pretty much and book you try to throw at it.

Top Add document

Type search term

Top download icon

Books shows up in your library

This app is great for reading small amounts of text on packaging or for one page at a time reading. It is improving at a rapid pace.

Looking for more apps?

The CNIB offers a great list of apps for reading digital books and documents here: http://iguana.celalibrary.ca/iguana/www.main.cls?surl=CELA-CompatibleDevices&theme=celadefault&lang=eng


I finished by Masters of HCI a few years back. It contains some interesting insights into what I learning testing the custom reading app I created to help me get through the detailed reading required of a masters.


SpokenText Reader: Testing a Study Support Mobile Application for Visually and Learning Impaired University Students


Accessibility Challenges of Hybrid Mobile Applications

Scanning books, articles etc

Gaining access to accessible books has been a struggle for print disabled people for a long time. But in 2019 we do have access to a lot of material in digital text which can be read out loud via text to speech technology.

But with this said you will still find times when you have to convert f printed books, article or chunk of text to digital text so that you can have it read to you.

Short text

If the text is short and you will not need to refer to it late. Use Seein AI. It works great and is easy to use.