Accessibility and study hacks

Aims and objectives

This module will:

  • introduce you to the concepts of accessibility and universal design
  • show you how to create accessible content
  • give you examples of study hacks which can help to make your digital life easier.

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the importance of accessibility online
  • create accessible content
  • find and use productivity tools as study hacks.

4. Study hacks

Many of the tools specifically designed to improve the accessibility of online content have been widely adopted by many types of users and marketed by companies as general productivity tools. Using these tools can be a great way to hack your studies.

Disability-led innovations for the masses (YouTube, 18m35s) demonstrates how accessible technologies have been at the forefront of digital innovation for decades, and how current assistive technologies can help us predict the future of computers.

Productivity = flexibility

If you enter 'productivity tools' into a search engine, you'll find lists of apps and programs with all sorts of different features to help with all aspects of your life. As individuals, we all have different preferences for how we work. Technologies originally designed to be assistive can have major benefits for all of us. They can assist us with everyday tasks, such as reading and taking notes, to provide a flexible approach to how we work and study. Why not try out some of these tools to see if they might help you?

Tools for all

A lot of operating systems, both for computers and mobile devices, come with a host of inbuilt features designed for accessibility which can also be used as productivity tools. For more about these in-built features see the Apple accessibility and Windows accessibility pages.

Most browsers also have a number of accessibility options that users can change to suit their needs. There are also lots of different browser extensions available to improve web accessibility. ATbar is an example of this kind of extension which has a host of accessibility features for different users. It allows you to magnify text, change the colour contrast of a web page, and even read passages aloud all from one place, without having to change settings for individual web pages.


Some people find it easier to take in information when it's read aloud, so many programs now offer text-to-speech tools. These tools are different to screen readers because they are used to read specific text rather than everything on the screen. This means that they don't require the same level of expertise to use. These have different features in terms of how much text will be read at a time and whether they will read only from documents or from other sources of information.

Tool Platform Free? Features
Balabolka Windows Yes
  • freeware using in-built Windows voices
  • allows for conversion of text into audio files
  • plays audio synchronously with display of text
NaturalReader Browser based


  • online tool with option to download software version to Windows or Mac
  • allows for import of different document formats
  • premium version available in Library assistive technology rooms
SelectionReader Google Chrome


  • browser extension for Chrome which reads highlighted text aloud
  • will read out large amounts of text
Select to Speak Android Yes
  • accessibility feature on Android devices that speaks text selected by highlighting
  • also reads aloud text scanned to OCR using the device's camera
Speech Mac Yes
  • in-built option turned on in accessibility settings
  • speaks highlighted text when key combination is pressed
  • choice of different voices


Voice recognition still seems like a futuristic tool to some, but it's a growing industry, with many smart assistants such as the Google Home and Amazon Echo now using voice recognition functions to identify users and personalise their experiences. It's also one of the key ways that certain groups of people interact with their digital devices.

Tool Platform Free? Features
Mac (also available for iOS)


  • in-built tool in Apple products that translates speech to written text
  • works for text messages and documents
Dictation Windows


  • in-built tool in Windows PCs that translates speech to written text
  • works for documents and Windows programs
Voice Typing Google Docs Yes
  • uses speech recognition to type into a Google document
  • great for collaborative work and when on the go
Dragon Windows, Mac, iOS and Android No
  • expensive tool with lots of premium features
  • allows for workflows completely controlled by voice

Extract text from an image

Sometimes text is contained in an image. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software can extract the text from an image and convert it into editable text that you can copy or read aloud.

Tool Platform Free? How to use it

Browser extensions:

  1. Open the image or page in Chrome or Firefox
  2. Click the Copyfish button next to the URL address bar
  3. Select any region of the image in the browser screen and extract the text.

Watch or listen to Using Copyfish (YouTube, 4m47s)

Google Drive Works in the online version Yes
  1. Upload the image file to Google Drive
  2. Right-click on the image file (or hold down SHIFT and press F10)
  3. Select Open With then Google Docs

The text from the image will appear in the document.

OneNote Requires the desktop version and OneDrive


  1. Save the image
  2. Open a OneNote page (in the desktop version)
  3. Click Insert then Picture to insert the image
  4. Select the image file
  5. Right-click (or use a keyboard shortcut) to select Copy Text from Picture
  6. Paste the text onto the page or wherever you want it.


Taking notes is a big part of studying and work for many people, so here are a few tools to help make it easier.

Tool Platform Free? Features

Browser extensions:

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • provides OCR for online material, including image based text
  • good for copying and pasting information to avoid mistakes when retyping
Evernote Many available


(premium options)

  • cloud based notes app for making and storing notes
  • can be accessed from many different devices
  • has a web clipping tool which helps connect your notes with their sources
Freemind Mac and Windows Yes
  • available on UQ PCs via the managed software centre
  • mindmapping software to allow more visual note taking
Learning Tools

Microsoft Office

  • plug-in for Word, OneNote and Outlook to make note taking and reading more comfortable
  • includes tools to change font sizes and read content aloud


The huge amount of information that we create means it can be difficult to keep ourselves organised. Luckily, plenty of help is available to organise notes, files, tasks and processes.

Tool Platform Free? Features
Dropbox Many available


(premium options)

  • online cloud storage for personal files
  • allows for sharing with others so great for collaborating
  • subscriptions available to increase storage space
IFTTT Android and iOS Yes
  • app which allows you to automate certain actions on your phone or tablet, like saving news articles to a list
  • also interacts with smart devices, allowing you to turn lights on automatically when you get home
Password manager Many available


(premium options)

Microsoft To Do Android, Windows and iOS Yes
  • available as a free app or through your Microsoft account
  • share lists and set tasks and reminders


We live in a very busy and distracting world, so taking time out can be a challenge but is essential for maintaining your health and wellbeing. The apps suggested below are all aimed at looking after your mental and physical wellness.

Tool Platform Free? Features
iOS, Android and web browser
  • developed by psychologists
  • free mindfulness meditations for different situations
  • different lengths to fit your day
Sanvello iOS, Android and web browser
(in-app purchases)
  • mood tracking diary
  • guided meditations
Screentime iOS Yes
  • tracks how much time you spend on your phone
  • allows you to set daily limits for your usage
SafeZone iOS and Android Yes
  • allows emergency calls to security from anywhere on campus
  • safety bus tracking

Learn more:

Duration:   Approximately 20 minutes

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