5. Study hacks

Productivity = flexibility

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.

video Disability-led innovations for the masses (YouTube, 18m 35s) 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.

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 account available Features
NaturalReader Browser based
Yes - free and paid plans

  • online tool with option to download software version to Windows or Mac
  • allows for import of different document formats
SelectionReader Google Chrome

  • browser extension for Chrome which reads highlighted text aloud
  • will read out large amounts of text
Select to Speak Android

  • accessibility feature on Android devices that speaks text selected by highlighting
  • also reads aloud text scanned to OCR using the device's camera


Many smart assistants such as the Google Home and Amazon Echo use 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 version available Features
Dictation 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
  • uses speech recognition to type into a Google document
  • great for collaborative work and when on the go
Dragon Windows, Mac, iOS and Android paid tool
  • 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 version available How to use it
Copyfish 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.
Google Drive Works in the online version
  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
  4. The text from the image will appear in the document.
OneNote Requires the desktop version and OneDrive
Yes - available via Microsoft 365 with your UQ account.
  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.

Find more study tools in the Choose the right tool module.


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