Student Accessibility Services

Assistive Technology

Assistive technology (AT) is any piece of equipment, product, or system which is utilized to improve the functional capacities of a person’s learning or living environment and can be used by people with a wide range of abilities. Each user is able to interact with the technology in ways that work best for them, thus incorporating the principles of universal design. Individuals at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) have access to various assistive technologies on campus to support their academic needs. This section highlights the technologies available to students through Student Accessibility Services (SAS).

Read & Write Gold

Read & Write Gold is a program designed to provide literacy support for users, including tools for reading and writing. The software has a text-to-speech function which enables individuals to have accessible documents read aloud to them. Read & Write Gold is available for all UNI students, faculty, and staff to download and utilize on their personal computers for free. Students who utilize alternate format textbooks through SAS need to download Read & Write Gold to have their textbooks and other accessible course materials read aloud to them.

Installing Read & Write Gold

Step 1. (Window users) Download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC if it is not already installed on your computer. Most new Windows computers do not have Adobe Reader pre-installed. Read & Write Gold will not work properly without doing this step prior to installing Read & Write Gold. 

Step 2. Download Read & Write Gold

For technical support with installing these programs, students should contact the Service Hub through IT Services. 

Read & Write Gold demonstration and instructional videos.

PDF Aloud Plug-In

If the Adobe software is installed after Read & Write Gold or upgraded to a newer version, individuals will need to install PDF Aloud separately.

To install PDF Aloud separately (if Read & Write Gold was installed before Adobe Reader):

Step 1. Go to the Texthelp Essentials page.
Step 2. Login using the serial number 376404-1528-7654-7755.
Step 3. Select “Re-Install PDF Aloud (For Adobe)” in the left hand column.
Step 4. Select “Download PDF Aloud Installer (8MB).”
Step 5. Run the installation program to download PDF Aloud.
Step 6. Once the installation is completed, open Adobe Acrobat.
Step 7. Select “Edit” from the toolbar at the top of the page, and select “Preferences.”
Step 8. The Preferences window will open. Select “Security (Enhanced)” in the left hand column.
Step 9. ​Unselect “Enable Protected Mode At Startup," and select "OK."

Utilizing Read & Write Gold

Reading PDFs with PDF Aloud

Once Read & Write Gold is installed on a student’s computer, they can begin utilizing the program to have their alternate format textbooks read aloud. Individuals should utilize the PDF Aloud feature in the Read & Write Gold toolbar to read textbooks and other course materials in text PDF format.

To know if a PDF can be read by Read & Write Gold, or other similar programs, determine whether sections of text can be highlighted with the cursor. An image PDF, made when a page from a book or an article is scanned, will have the entire page selected when it is clicked on. A text PDF, made from a Word document or within another program, enables the user to select specific words or sentences.

To read a text PDF with PDF Aloud:

Step 1. Open Read & Write Gold. If a window opens up asking to “Please activate Read&Write below,” select “Activate.”
Step 2. Drag the toolbar to the top of the screen.
Step 3. Select “PDF Aloud” from the toolbar.
Step 4. A window will open to select and open a PDF.
Step 5. Once the PDF opens in Read & Write Gold, select “Tools” from the toolbar at the top of the page.
Step 6. Scroll down the list of tools within Adobe, and select “Enable” under “PDF Aloud” at the bottom of the page.

The PDF Aloud toolbar will open up in the right side column. Users can select Play, Pause, and Stop from the PDF Aloud toolbar to have the document read aloud to them. The Click To Speak function enables users to click anywhere within the document to have the program begin reading at that specific point.

​Resources for Utilizing Read & Write Gold

Texthelp has videos to help users navigate the Read & Write Gold Toolbar and the PDF Aloud Feature in Read & Write Gold. Individuals can also utilize this series of videos for a detailed review of the various functions within Read & Write Gold, including Spell Check, Dictionary, and Prediction.

Support for Read & Write Gold

If students registered with SAS need additional support in understanding how to utilize Read & Write Gold to read their alternate format textbooks and course materials, they can request an assistive technology appointment with SAS staff through their Accommodate account. Students should bring their computers with Read & Write Gold already downloaded to the meeting.

Livescribe Echo SmartPen

A Livescribe Echo SmartPen is a pen with an embedded computer and digital audio recorder. When utilized with Livescribe notebooks, students are able to synchronize their written notes with the audio recordings of course lectures. Students can also utilize the Livescribe Echo Desktop on their personal computers to upload the audio records and their notes.

Livescribe Echo SmartPen demonstration and instructional video.

Downloading Livescribe Echo Desktop

Students utilizing Livescribe Echo SmartPens can download the Livescribe Echo Desktop to manage the audio recordings connected with their notes. Scroll halfway down the page to select either the Windows or Mac versions on the website. The following videos provide support for downloading the Echo Desktop on Windows computers and support for downloading the Echo Desktop on Mac computers.

Resources for Utilizing the Livescribe Echo SmartPen

​Livescribe has various resources to help support users, including an instructional guide on the Echo Desktop, an instructional guide on the Echo SmartPen, and a basics guide on setting up and using the Echo SmartPen. The following videos are a brief tutorial of the Mac version on the Livescribe Echo Desktop and how to take notes and record with the SmartPen.

Support for Livescribe Echo SmartPen

If students registered with SAS need additional support in understanding how to utilize the Livescribe Echo SmartPen, they can request an assistive technology appointment with SAS staff through their Accommodate account.


C-PEN pen scanners become a great piece of assistive technology for reading, empowering reluctant readers, student with reading difficulties such as dyslexia, and EAL students to become more independent.

C-Pen demonstration and instructional video