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Assistive Technology

When required as an accommodation, AccessibleNU provides access to assistive technology to registered students. When possible, AccessibleNU works to make assistive technology available to the wider campus community through site licenses such Read&Write Gold and Snap & Read. 

Please AccessibleNU to schedule an appointment with the Director of Assistive Technology if you have further questions.

Examples of software and equipment available to eligible students include:

  • Text-to-speech software (Read & Write Gold, Snap & Read)
  • Note taking tools (Echo Smartpen, Aegir Smartpen, Sonocent Audio Notetaker)
  • Speech-to-text software (Dragon Naturally Speaking, Dragon Dictate)
  • Screen-enlarging software (ZoomText)
  • Screen-reading software (Jaws)
  • Accessible textbooks
  • FM assistive hearing devices
  • Braille translation software and embossers
  • CART and other captioning

This is not an exhaustive list and AccessibleNU will work to obtain needed technology that would not be considered a personal device.

Read&Write Gold

Northwestern has purchased a site license of the software Read&Write Gold so that anyone with a Northwestern NetID can download and have full use of the program. Most use this to help read digital text aloud. 

Texthelp's Read&Write Gold - Desktop

To obtain Read&Write Gold, please complete the following steps:

  1. Download the 30 Day free trial from Texthelp. Make sure to choose the proper operating system.
  2. Follow the prompts to load the trial on your computer
  3. To gain access through our site license, when prompted to sign in choose the appropriate method (Google = Students, Microsoft = Faculty and Staff) and enter your Northwestern email and password.
Read&Write Gold Help
Texthelp produces several videos that can help users understand how the different tools work. 

Texthelp also offers free courses on specific aspects of the Read&Write Gold tools for those wanting more in depth training.


Texthelp's OrbitNote is the PDF reader accessed via your browser. This cloud based PDF reader offers more annotation options than Read&Write. PDFs can also be downloaded with your annotations. This is also included as part of our site license. To use OrbitNote:

  1. Visit the OrbitNote site
  2. When prompted, to sign in choose the appropriate method (Google = Students, Microsoft = Faculty and Staff) and enter your Northwestern email and password.
OrbitNote Help

Texthelp provides a series of videos on using OrbitNote and its features.


If you have any questions, please contact Jim Stachowiak at or 847-491-2960.


Northwestern has purchased a site license of the Snap&Read extension for use by anyone with a Northwestern NetID. Snap&Read works with both the Chrome Browser as well as via an iPad app. This tool provides users the ability to:

  • Select text to be read aloud on websites and PDFs (including inaccessible PDFs)
  • Highlight and annotate PDFs
  • Remove distractions from web pages
  • Adjust readability of text by replacing difficult words with easier to understand
To launch the extension, go to, click SIGN IN, Click Sign in with Google, and enter your Northwestern credentials.
Snap&Read Help
Here is brief webinar (21 minutes) on how to use Snap&Read