Microsoft Word for accessible scanning? You bet!

I like Microsoft Word.  I have used it since the days of DOS, so have kind of grown up with it, along side one another, it’s an old friend.  

Not to say I am totally thrilled with some of the changes in the more recent version – but I am trying hard not to be one of those “Oh, in my day Microsoft Word so much better, before all this new fan dangled stuff…”  That’s not to say I don’t ‘stray’ – I do and fairly guilt free, but I know it will always be there for me if I need it.

I am fortunate I know how to manouver around Word pretty well.  I know lots of tricks and ways to manipulate it.  For years I could get by without a Desktop Publisher program because there was very little I couldn’t manage in Word.

So it was a natural step to create files on Mac’s (the kid not the operating system) computer using MS Word for him to access the curriculum.

Part of the reason I was keen to do it was that MOST people these days are familiar with Word, if only at a very basic level.  I decided I was more likely to have someone ’embrace’ Word than the thought of having to learn Clicker or Boardmaker.  Both of which can, of course, do way more than what we are doing – but we wanted something  quick, simple and capable of being modded on the fly.

We designed a file with a simple table format to use and then fill the the information as required.

Mac uses a Crick USB interface even with his Dynavox as it gives us way more control over switch settings than the Dynavox ports.  MS Office is loaded on the Dynavox V open device too and he has buttons within the Dynavox software to take him to the appropriate files in Microsoft Word.

It works by having one switch set to the [tab] and the second set to a [macro] and assigned to the [F11] key that turns the cell he chooses bright yellow. He can use it for editing, find-a-word, graphing, footy tipping, choice making, brainstorming etc.

It is visual scanning.  Something we never thought Mac would be able to do, but it seems his vision is much better than we originally thought – so we try to offer him plenty of visual scanning opportunities.

Mac’s aide this year has embraced this method and it is being used daily.  It’s so simple – we have a few extra macros set to menu buttons to clear a cell, or clear the shading to make life easier.  

And, if Mac is going to type his editing changes we can quickly change to either the Dynavox keyboard page (if he is using auditory scanning) or a quick tweak of the switch setup to allow him to type in Morse Code in Word (but that’s another blog post…)

Some screenshots showing examples of how you could use it should make it clearer…






I am more than happy to send you a copy of the file if you want.  You might need to create your own macros but it will help as a starting point – just put a request in the comments.




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4 responses to “Microsoft Word for accessible scanning? You bet!

  1. Jerry


    Howdy from Texas! I was foutune enough to find your blog by reading an article about morse code on the art of manliness blog. I have a friend whom suffered a stroke 15 years ago and I am looking for a way to help him communicate. He is a fellow mason and i would like him to be able to participate in lodge and conversation. He is in his 50s and I am 31. He tries to write things out and spell words with his fingers but it is very difficult to guess at what he is saying. Is there any sort of technology that he can use that is portable? Such as an iphone or iPad? Something that if typed out can speak a word or sentences so that he can participate in conversation? Perhaps a text to speech type of machine?

    Thank you so very much.

  2. Gina @

    Jerry, lots of options, and becoming affordable particularly with the iPad and iPhone. Would he be able to use the touch screen do you think? or do you think he would need something a bit more accessible with big buttons. Happy to chat with you via email contact me at SandGBurns [at] bigpond [dot] com.
    The things you want to search for when looking at apps is AAC which stands for Augmentative and Assistive Communication and there are a number of good programs out there that might be more than suitable Proloquo2Go is one Predictable is another and one I have yet to have a play with called SonoFlex plus many more coming onto the Market. You will find good videos of all of these on YouTube I am sure.
    Cheers, glad to hear he’s got someone in his corner keen to help with his communication.
    Drop me a line and I can send you some extra links and documents that I have kicking around.

  3. Hi Gina, I didn’t realise you were a fellow Word enthusiast too! I still do most of my quick and dirty e-updates in Word because the stuff has to get done and out there fast, have enough white space and chunked copy for people to read easily, and not need a program download to open the doc. I know I can get prettier pics and sharper looking work with more professional programs – but does that make people read and understand the information better? That’s the only question that counts for me.

  4. Gina @

    Fiona, I actually use Pages (iWork on the Mac) more these days at home and for design stuff and Word for work and school stuff. I love that I can manipulate it to do what I want – I don’t always agree that other programs produce slicker work – all depends on the driver 😉

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