Information Services

What is available

The University aims to support disabled students by providing assistive software and hardware across the university in a variety of ways. These pages detail how we provide access and what types of technology are available.

Ways we provide access to assistive technology

1. University wide site licenses

Some assistive software is available on all open access PC’s. Users can access Inspiration 9 and Mind Genius 4 (mind mapping software) as well as TextHelp Read and Write 11 from any open access PC. To access these programmes on Windows click Start>All Programmes>Accessibility. In addition "free" take home licenses for Mind Genius are now available. For more information on this see the Mind Genius information below.

2. Memory Sticks

A memory stick loaded with assistive software can now be borrowed from all the libraries at the University to let you try out various applications. Two applications, in particular, are thought to be potentially useful for students - Balabolka and XMind. Balabolka is a text reader or text to speech program and XMind is mind mapping software. If you find any applications useful, you can download the software for free onto your own USB stick.

3. Ergonomic Mice and mouse-mats

Ergonomic mice and mouse-mats are available to borrow from the IS Helpdesks at all site libraries.

4. Accessible PC’s

Each has a range of specific assistive software and hardware. They are located around the campus. For details on their locations and what is available at each site please follow the link below:

Accessible PCs on campus and their technology

5. Accessible study rooms with assisitive technology

Accessible workstation, Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library, with flatbed scanner, compact keyboard, independent number pad and tr

There are 3 accessible study rooms dedicated to assistive technology on Floor 1 of the Main Library.

There 2 accessible study rooms with assistive technology in the Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library at King's Buildings.

To arrange access to these rooms please contact the Student Disability Service.

To see what technology is available in each of these rooms please follow the link below:

Provision of assisitive technology in study rooms


Student Disability Service

  • The University of Edinburgh

Contact details



Third Floor
Library Building
55 George Square

Post Code

Types of assistive hardware


Accessible Study Room 1, Main Library, with Sara scanner, document feed scanner, ergonomic keyboard and trackball mouse

Scanners copy images whether they be pictures, printed text, journals etc into a digital image that can then be altered and changed by the user to make it more accessible for them.

Location: Scanners are available with all Accessible PCs, including Accessible Study Rooms 1-3 in the Main Library and Accessible Study Rooms 1 and 2 in the Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library at King's Buildings.

SARA, a speaking scanner, is available in accessible study room 1 in the Main Library and Accessible Study Room 2 at the Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library, King's Buildings.

Intel Reader

This handy mobile device lets you take a picture of any printed page and convert it to a digital text. The Intel Reader is a mobile handheld A5 sized high resolution camera unit that enables a user to take photos of a book whilst a built in computer converts this image to digital text using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). It can then read this out loud to the user or be transferred to another device as a text, DAISY or sound file. DAISY is a format that synchronises text with audio and has an easy to navigate structure.

Location: May be borrowed fom Student Disability Services with prior agreement (contact details above).


The CCTV is a piece of equipment that allows you to view a book or printed article via a screen which then enables you to magnify the document and change the colour of the background and fonts as well as being able to specify the way the information is displayed e.g. a line at a time.

Locations: Accessible PC in Moray House Library, Manson Room Lab and Library Accessible PCs at New College, Accessible PC in the Law  Library and a stand-alone unit in the Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library.

HD desktop document magnifier readers with OCR

Desktop video magnifiers provide magnification and other optical and colour adjustments to allow reading of printed documents. They also utilise optical character recognition processing to read aloud printed text. There is a Humanware Prodigi magnifier in Accessible Study Room 3 at the Main Library and a Merlin magnifier in Accessible Study Room 1, Noreen and Kenneth Murray Library, King's Buildings.


All Accessible PC’s are on adjustable height desks, have large widescreen monitors, optional ergonomic mice and specialised keyboards which are either ergonomic or high visibility.

All libraries have ergonomic mice and wrist support mouse mats to borrow at the Helpdesk.

A large print keyboard is available in accessible study room 2 in the Main Library.

Types of assistive software

Dragon Naturally Speaking 12

This software requires a headphone and microphone.

It converts your speech to digital text. It also allows the user to control the computer using voice commands. This software is widely used by people who have difficulty using a mouse, keyboard or using other forms of computer input device.

Location: Accessible Study Room 3 in the Main Library and on a laptop that can be borrowed from the Student Disability Service with prior agreement (contact details above).

Mind Mapping Software - Inspiration 9 and MindGenius 4

Many people find it easier to construct plans and visualise work to be done by creating structured visual images, or 'mind maps'.

In this manner it is easy to create as many different topics as you need, move them around, make links between them and set up sub-headings and attach notes.

Then you can convert your mindmap to a Word or Powerpoint document, with headings and bullet points.

Mind mapping can be helpful for in planning study or essay writing. People with dyslexia and some other forms of special needs may find mind mapping particularly helpful for getting an overview of a subject and making connections between topics which they would struggle to visualise from text and bullet points.

Inspiration and MindGenius are two different programmes which have different appearances and strengths, so some users will prefer one to the other.

For example, Inspiration has a range of 'template maps' for different subjects and tasks which provide a starting framework.

MindGenius has support for task and team project planning.

Location: Available on all open access PCs and it can be provided for a managed desktop on request. "Free" take home licenses for MindGenius are now available under our latest deal for current staff and students at the university. Please visit the website below for more information:


Convert paper documents to electronic formats for editing using optical character recognition processing.

It is especially useful for people with a visual impairment who can then use something like ZoomText or Texthelp Read & Write to read the text aloud.

This can be particularly useful for reading lists where the originator of a document cannot make an alternative format available, but care must be taken to comply with relevant legislation such as copyright law.

Location: Available on all Accessible PCs

Texthelp Read & Write 11

This software can read aloud, magnify, highlight and colour overlay text.

It supports spelling and grammar checking, and it will suggest word completion.

You can scan in images of documents and convert them to a readable digital format. Electronic documents such as Adobe Acrobat PDF formats can also be converted.

This is helpful for people with reading difficulties (such as dyslexia), typing difficulties or a physical impairment which makes it easier to listen to text than read it onscreen.

It can also increase reading speed and improve concentration and productivity for many students.

Location: This software is available on all public access PCs and can also be downloaded for free from the Applications Catalog to a managed desktop.

OpenDyslexic Font

The University has installed Open Dyslexic Font on all University computers for students.  OpenDyslexic is a range of fonts which can help improve readability for readers with dyslexia. Regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic styles are all available within the fonts.

To access this:

  • Open the application you require (Word, PowerPoint etc) and go to the font menu
  • Scroll down the font menu till you see OpenDyselxic and select one of the three OpenDyselxic fonts
  • The three names of the font are OpenDyselxic, OpenDyselxicAlta and OpenDyslexicMono
  • The font will now be selcted to use in the application uou have open.

ZoomText 10

Allows users to magnify digital text and change contrast (such as black on white instead of white on black).

It is especially helpful for people with a visual impairment and for materials which cannot easily be converted to audio, such as charts and diagrams.

Location: Available on all Accessible PCs.

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe design and multimedia creativity applications, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and many more. Photoshop can be used to edit documents and make them more readable.

Location: Available on all Accessible PCs.


JAWS is a software package that converts text to speech making it useful for blind and visually impaired users.

Location: JAWS can be found in accessible study room 1 in the Norren and Kenneth Murray Library, King's Buildings, and in accessible study room 2 in the Main Library, George Square.

Audio Notetaker

Audio Notetaker is software which makes writing notes from audio easier. The audio can be aligned with images or powerpoint slides. The use of keyboard shortcuts makes it easy to start and stop the audio while typing and a feature called “Pause mode” combined with variable speed enables the user to transcribe every word. It is also possible to import audio from videos. The software also includes a short video on how to use it and a tutorial file. If they are not visible when you open the program then you can find them in the Help menu if you click the drop-down arrow in the top left-hand corner. Please note that the keyboard shortcut to start and stop play has been changed on the University network and is Ctrl + Shift + Space. Hovering the mouse over the toolbar buttons will display these shortcuts if you forget them."

Location: All open access computers

Some useful resources on ways of using the software can be found on the Sonocent website. The following page is particularly useful:

External assistance with Audio Notetaker

Adobe Digital Editions

Adobe Digital Editions is a free eBook Reader which can be used to download digital content, making it available to read both online and offline.

Location: Available on all the Accessible PCs

Request an alternative format

To request this document in an alternative format, such as large print or on coloured paper, please contact Viki Galt, the Disability Information Officer.

Viki Galt

Disability Information Officer

  • Information Services

Contact details



Argyle House
Floor F West
3 Lady Lawson Street

Post Code