Guest blog - Gizmos galore

In my last post, I wrote about some of the equipment and software I had received through my Disabled Students Allowance.  Now I thought I'd explain how I use it during a normal day at university. After breakfast, I rush off to lectures with my PDA and Dictaphone in my pocket. I also have my laptop with me. Once in the lecture, I wake my laptop from hibernation and some mornings it's worse at waking up than I am! I open a Word document and open ClaroRead, which is the software primarily designed for reading text, whether it be from a Word document or on the web browser. It also has a very handy predictive tracking tool, very much like predictive text on a mobile phone. My normal method of working is speech recognition but as this would be an annoyance to everyone in a lecture, using predictive typing is a good way to help me keep up with what the lecturer is saying. Although, I do have to be careful to make sure the sound is off on the laptop to prevent the text reader from yelling out various words during the lecture. In some lectures, I use my Dictaphone to record the lecturer. I then use software called Audio Note Taker to organise and listen to my recorded lectures. After a lecture, I might go to the library to get some books for my essays. The library is a bewildering  maze of books, I will tell you about this in another post, but let's assume for now I was able to find  the book I needed. I take it back to my room and find the relevant chapter. I then plug my scanner into my laptop and scan the chapter into my computer, using a utility in ClaroRead. It converts the image from the scanner into text in a Word document. I can then use ClaroRead to read it back to me. Without this there is no way I would be able to keep up with the reading I need to do. If the books are in high demand, you can usually only borrow them from the library for six hours and I would not be able to do the reading in that time. With the scanner, I can simply scan the parts I need and return the book in less than an hour. My final, and possibly the most useful gizmo of all, is my PDA. On this I have useful things such as my timetable. I hate carrying around these sorts of things in paper as they just get crumpled up in my pocket and then put in the washing machine. Before my PDA arrived, I actually had to get my laptop out to look at my timetable. As I am unable to handwrite, the PDA has been very liberating. There are so many instances in the past where it would have been very useful to be able to make a quick note of something, for example, if someone tells you the room of your seminar has changed or you need to remember the title of a book to find in a library. Overall the PDA has helped me to stay organised. It also means I do not waste quite so much time being lost while trying to remember where my seminar is.

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