Assistive Technology: What is It?

Assistive Technology (AT) is any device, piece of software, equipment or tool that helps people with disabilities improve, maintain or increase their functional capabilities. Essentially, what tools and software help you do, what you want to do more quickly, easily or independently. Although Assistive Technology has traditionally been developed for people with disabilities, the applicability of much of this technology has been found to be useful to almost all of us at some point throughout our lives.

Many college students with a disability who would qualify for Assistive Technology, don’t know what Assistive Technology is and don’t know there are tools and programs available to support them prior to starting college. Students who have access to these tools and resources prior to starting classes, feel more prepared for their classes, the work, and tasks required of them in a college setting. With this preparedness and training on these technology tools comes increased confidence towards and a more positive outlook on one’s college career.

Students seeking assistive technology services may need to complete the accommodation process prior to receiving access to specialized software provided by Reynolds Community College. 

Faculty and staff seeking to support a student with implementing AT accommodations in the classroom and testing environments should start by contacting OSA with your questions and concerns.

Assistive Technology Available to OSA Students

If you are a current, returning student, or a prospective student please contact us at or call (804) 523-5628 if you have any questions. 

Books in Alternative Format (BAF) 

Electronic textbooks are available for students to read with the aid of assistive technology software programs. These textbooks come in various file formats. If you are a student who qualifies for textbooks in this format, please review the information below after completing your intake review.


Vital Source

Some publishing companies are making their accessible textbooks only available through Vital Source. The books are accessible with their web reading called “MyBookshelf”. These textbooks provide a copy of the print text with the option to also have it read aloud. If you use screen-reader or text-to-speech software to read your books, we recommend checking VitalSource to see if your book is available there. 

How to Create an Account 

To buy or rent ebooks, you can create an account on Vital Source, which is compatible with screen-reader or text-to-speech software. Additionally, Vital Source has its own integrated text-to-speech program.

  1. Go to
  2. On the top right-hand side click on “login”.
  3. Click “Create an Account”.
  4. Fill in the necessary fields with your personal information.
  5. Click “Submit”.
  6. You will receive a message saying, “Account Created Successfully”.
  7. You will receive an email welcoming you to Vital Source.
  8. Install the Vital Source app on either your cell phone, tablet or both. The name of the app is  “Bookshelf”.
  9. Install Vital Source on your laptop by going to
  10. Use the Search Bar to find your book by submitting either the ISBN, title or author.
  11. Click Add to Shopping Cart to purchase or rent your ebook.
  12. Click “Read Now”.

Note: If books come in a package, provide the ISBN from each book, not the package.


These books are available in multiple formats. Students approved for alternate format accommodations can request a free Bookshare account by contacting


Check Learning Ally and Audible. Books available through these sources are only available in audio format; books will not be accompanied by a print copy. Students are responsible for creating their own accounts to access the books.

Learning Ally – How to Create an Account

Provides audio books only.

To be downloaded on a computer, tablet or cell phone.

Charges an annual membership fee, which entitles members to receive all of their books for free.

  1. Go to
  2. Click on “login”.
  3. Click “Create Account”.
  4. Fill in the necessary fields with your personal information.
  5. Click “Submit”.
  6. Submit medical documentation to confirm you have a print disability.
  7. Submit the yearly membership fee.*
  8. An App will be created called “Bookshelf”.
  9. Click “Browse Audiobooks” in the toolbar or use the Search Bar to find your books.
  10. Enter either the ISBN number, title or author.
  11. Add the textbook to your bookshelf.
  12. Install the Book Manager and the Book Reader on your computer.
  13. Install the Learning Ally App on your cell phone, tablet, or both.
  14. Download the textbook and begin to listen to your textbooks.

*Students with visual impairments get free membership if they enroll in College Success Program

Note: If books come in a package, provide the ISBN from each book, not the package.

If the book(s) are not available through these sources, purchase it through the Reynolds bookstore or another provider and submit your request for Book in Alternative Format (BAF) by following the steps listed here:

  1. Current students can log into their Accommodations Portal
  2. Look at your dashboard on the left side of the screen
  3. Click on the Alternative formats and follow directions
  4. Check-box the class(es) for semester want to use alternative format books
  5. Click the button: “Continue to customize your accommodations”
  6. Check-box requested accommodations and Submit (repeat as many times as necessary)

Once requested, and proof of purchase / receipt for your book(s) has been received by OSA, book files will be released to your Google Drive folder.

Please email your receipt or proof of purchase to or bring in a physical copy of the receipt into any OSA office to have it copied.

If you have questions or concerns about Books in  Alternative Format or a request you have made, contact OSA by email at, or by phone (804) 523-5628 or (804) 523-5290.

Assistive Technology Software

The following assistive technology software programs are available on campus and a few are available for personal use. For more information, please contact the OSA at (804) 523-5628 or email us at

Screen Readers

JAWS by Freedom Scientific


  • Screen Reader developed for those with vision loss
  • Reads aloud what is on the computer screen
  • Intelligent tools for accessing and navigating web pages and screen content
  • Can be paired with a Refreshable Braille Display for Braille output instead of speech
  • More Information: Jaws Website

Compatibility: Windows 

Kurzweil 3000

Kurzweil 3000 is an accessibility software designed to help students access course materials in college. With functions such as text-to-speech, highlighting, and integrated note taking and brainstorming.


  • OCR (Optical Character Recognition)
  • Picture and Talking Dictionary
  • Read text in Word, PDF, EPUB, RTF, Daisy, and on the Web
  • 31 Natural Text-to-Speech voices in over 18 languages and dialects
  • Create Brainstorm documents and Draft documents
  • Magnify text
  • Highlight, Spell check, and more
  • More Information: Kurzweil Website
Reading / Literacy Support


This software is given to all of our students for personal use.


  • Literacy software that supports reading, writing, study skills, and research
  • Toolbar integrates into many popular computer programs including Microsoft Word, Adobe Reader, and web browsers
  • Text-to-Speech, Word Prediction, Mind Mapping, Screen Masking, Dictionaries, and Highlighters are just a few of the almost 25 features
  • Available in the web browser as a chrome extension
  • More Information: Read&Write website

Compatibility: Windows; Mac; Chrome Extension


Provides digital math support and comes with Read&Write.


  • Digital math assistive technology
  • Includes handwriting recognition, text to speech, graph editor, speech input, and more
  • Can be used in a variety of online platforms
  • More information: Equatio Websitee

Compatibility: Chrome, Windows, Mac

Thorium Reader

This software is given to all of our students for personal use


  • Supports audio features and resolves EPUB opening problems
  • Seamless integration with screen readers like JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver
  • Built-in text-to-speech functionality
  • Customizable font, font size, and color
  • Opens accessible EPUB files
  • Constantly evolving with a focus on accessibility for visually impaired and dyslexic individuals
  • Localized in various languages
  • No ads and guarantees user data protection
  • Suitable for avid readers, library patrons, and students.
  • More information: Thorium Reader website

Compatibility: Windows 10 and 11, MacOS, and Linux

Built-in Accessibility

Immersive Reader


  • Built-in text decoding solutions for students to assist with reading
  • Enhanced dictation, focus mode, immersive reading, font spacing, short lines, parts of speech supports, syllabification, and comprehension mode
  • More Information: Immersive Reader
  • Cost: Free add-in through Office Suite

Compatibility: Edge Browser, iOS, Windows



  • Personalize your Windows Computer with any of the build-in Accessibility Features to support ease with seeing, hearing, and mobility interactions with computer
  • Features Available Are: Screen Reader/Text-to-Speech (Narrator), Magnification (Magnifier), Keys Commands (Mouse Keys), Speech-to-Text and Voice Control (Speech Recognition), Visual Notification to replace sounds, Keyboard on Screen, Toggle Keys, Adjustable Mouse Settings, High Contrast Schemes, and Ability to Personalize the Appearance of the Computer including text
  • Tutorial Videos Available on the websites below
  • More Information: Microsoft Website

Compatibility: Windows



  • Personalize your Mac Computer with any of the build-in Accessibility Features to support ease with seeing, hearing, and physical/mobility, literacy interactions with computer
  • Features include: Text-to-Speech (VoiceOver), Zoom, High Contrast, Sticky Keys, Speech-to-Text and Voice Control (Speech Recognition), Word Completion (Word Prediction), and more!
  • More Information: Apple Accessibility Website

Compatibility: Mac

Google Voice Typing


Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android

Google Suite


  • Apps built into Gmail accounts
  • Includes access to Google Calendar, Tasks, Keep, Docs, Excel, and more
  • Items put into Google Task and Keep can by synched directly to the google calendar to assist with keeping track of items and organizational planning
  • More Information: Google Suite Website

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, IOS, Android