5 ways assistive tech can help you study

“Disability is a mismatched interaction between the features of a person’s body and the features of the environment in which they live”

— World Health Organization, World report on disability, 2011

Assistive technologies are tools to bridge this mismatch. Users unable to view information on a computer screen can use a screen reader to hear the content. Users with hearing impairment can read subtitles instead of relying on audio content in a video.

Assistive technologies like these have been made possible by significant advances in technology over the last century and have been instrumental in increasing equitability of inclusion, independence and access to information for people with disability. Consider that 70 years ago, the only way to access news was in a newspaper. A person unable to read the paper because of a vision impairment would be reliant on other people for this information.

Today, news can be accessed via a multitude of platforms using different tools to convey the information audibly, visually or even through touch, using assistive technology. Furthermore, these technological advances to support individuals with disability also improve accessibility across the board – offering more flexibility for everyone to access information and perform tasks in a variety of ways that suit their needs, abilities and preferences.

Person speaking to laptop with text on screen

Have a lot to write? Try dictation

You can use dictation to write without a keyboard – particularly useful for people with a motor impairment or injury who find it hard to use a keyboard. Just say out loud what you need written down and your computer or phone can transcribe it for you. 
Learn more about dictation on Microsoft Word

Laptop with smiling face and speech bubble

Tired of looking at screens? Try a screen reader

You can use a screen reader to listen to written digital content – it’s like an audiobook for your phone or computer. Screen readers are developed for people with a vision impairment or blindness to navigate and access digital information. They can also be really useful if you’ve got a lot to read or you’re just tired of looking at a screen (especially now we’re all spending a lot more time online).
Learn more about VoiceOver on Mac
Learn more about Narrator on Windows

Television with subtitles

Can’t find your headphones? Try subtitles

You can use subtitles to watch a video without sound. Though subtitles were developed for people with a hearing impairment, they’re also great if there’s too much background noise or you’re viewing TV late at night. Watching videos with subtitles as well as audio is also a good way to improve your English language skills and better remember the content you’re watching (Fletcher & Tobias, 2005).
Learn more about subtitles on Netflix
Learn more about subtitles on YouTube

Want to be more efficient? Try keyboard shortcuts

Anything that can be done on your computer with a mouse can also be done with a keyboard. This isn’t just useful for people with a motor impairment who are unable to use a mouse; keyboard shortcuts can help everyone use a computer more efficiently. For example, tapping Ctrl/Cmd+C is much quicker than moving your mouse to the Edit menu, clicking Edit and then Copy. Copy and paste is just the beginning of the keyboard shortcuts that can save you time!
Learn more about keyboard shortcuts on Google Chrome
Learn more about keyboard shortcuts on Microsoft Office

Phone in the sun with screen glare

Sun glare on your screen? Try high contrast mode or larger text

You can use high contrast mode or enlarge the text on your phone to be more visible when you’re out in the sun. These options were developed to enable people with low vision to read. High contrast mode changes the colour of text to suit the user, for example black text on a white background can be changed to yellow text on a black background.
Learn more about text display setting on iPhone
Learn more about text display setting on Android 

Disability Inclusion Week at Sydney is 21–25 September 2020
Find out more about Disability Services at Sydney

Fletcher, J., & Tobias, S. (2005). The Multimedia Principle. In R. Mayer (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology, pp. 117-134). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511816819.008

World report on disability. (2011). World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report/en/

Jump Into Semester 2 With Our Online Study Tips Sessions 

desk with laptop

Calling all students keen on making a strong start to Semester 2, and who want to get motivated for online study, now! Calling all students who want to tackle stress, improve their personal organisation skills, and build a strong social network at uni! 

And…calling all academics and university staff who want to help their students start the semester on the front-foot: with healthy online study habits, a firm foundation of personal resilience, and the skills and confidence to tackle stress, and thoughtfully organise their time and their study routine! 

Your University Library is teaming up with the University’s Student Life portfolio, and Student Support Services, to present a series of Online Study Tips workshops. This innovative, cross-university collaboration will strengthen the virtual (and on-campus) student experience of new, returning and International Students.

Each session will be full of hints and tips to ensure participants get the most out of online study, and will be delivered twice weekly in a casual, conversational online environment. And best of all, they’re hosted by our experienced team of student peers, who – as currently enrolled University of Sydney students- have a wealth of practical knowledge about healthy study routines, and navigating the often-challenging world of university.

These sessions will also give students with English as a second or other language a perfect opportunity to practice their English in a casual, non-judgmental environment. 

 Topics covered include:  

  • Getting your study space ready for online study   
  • Managing stress and motivation   
  • Understanding Canvas   
  • Navigating your online classroom   
  • Organising your digital life

We know the last 6 months have radically changed the way we all study, learn and work, so these sessions are for all students, including new and returning students, International students, or anyone wanting a bit of support developing healthy study-from-home/online learning skills.   

To book, simply go to this page, scroll down and find the next Online Study Tips session (or sessions – you can attend more than one!) and register online. Academics and University staff – please pass this notice on to any students you think could benefit from it. 

We can’t wait to see you – or your students – there!  

desk with laptop

Some Library spaces will reopen on Monday 15 June

reopen announcement image Fisher Library

For the most up to date information and what you need to know before you visit the Library, please see our COVID-19 page.  

The University of Sydney Library is happy to announce that five library spaces will be reopening for University staff and students from Monday 15 June 2020.

At this time access to Library spaces is limited to University staff and students via swipe with valid University ID only. 

  • Fisher and Law libraries will be open from 8am – 6pm every day.
  • Bosch Commons, Camden Commons and The Quarter will be open 24/7.  

As we open Library spaces and re-introduce services, the health and safety of students and staff are essential. Restrictions will be in place to ensure hygiene and 1.5m physical distancing at all times. Be considerate of the people around you and the spaces you occupy.

Fisher and Law libraries, Bosch and Camden Commons and the Quarter will open with access to study spaces, meeting rooms, books, journals and DVDs.

Online and modified services will continue to replace face-to-face services at this time.

  • Chat Now – live online chat service with Library staff
  • Research Consultations – online meetings with Academic Liaison Librarians 
  • PeerConnect – 1:1 video chat with a Peer Learning Advisor
  • Virtual Information Desk – face-to-face virtual help in the Fisher foyer

For a full list of available services, please see the COVID-19 page.

New to Uni? Learn Essential Information & Digital Literacy Skills in LIBR1000

LIBR1000 is an online course available through Canvas aimed to equip first year students with the essential information literacy skills needed to excel during their time at Uni. The course has been developed specifically for Arts and Social Sciences students however, it will benefit all First Years Students especially those with information & digital literacy course requirements.

Almost 70% of students that responded to the course survey in 2019 said that LIBR1000 would be useful for their future studies. Here are some of the things they said:

“One of the best things about this course is I actually applied what I have learned here to my actual study and assessments.”  

“The topics were very useful in helping me learn proper citations and how to use Library Search.”  

“It allowed me to evaluate my knowledge of referencing and citation as well as what sources to use and when.”

“It provided a good introduction on how to use information literacy most effectively in our studies, and how the library resources facilitate this.”

Coordinators can enrol their unit by contacting Rosemary O’Donnell: rosemary.odonnell@sydney.edu.au


‘Peerpod’ is your go-to podcast for all the insider knowledge on how to navigate uni life.

Hosted by our very own Peer Learning Advisors, the podcast is all about increasing a deeper sense of connectivity and belonging at Uni via a bi-monthly topical podcast.

We’ll be sharing stories, providing advice, and answering all the questions you have about Uni.

Listen to the podcast today!

The Peer Learning Advisors aka PLAs are all experienced students with their fingers on the pulse of student needs in real time and are best places to represent, speak to and share space with the student body. They have been trained in being a point of referral to students, offering tips on everything from where to find the best coffee on campus, to overcoming feeling isolated to using tech to support student initiatives and goals. 

Drop in for a chat with our PLAs at ThinkSpace, Bosch Commons, the Quarter, Dentistry Library, or Camden Commons.

Enhance Your Research and Teaching with the Library’s New Text and Data Mining Support Service


Do you need to analyse large volumes of text in your research? Would you like your class to learn about text and data mining research methods? The Library can assist with our new text and data mining support service.


Text mining is the process of applying computational methods to large scale text datasets to discover new insights that may not be revealed through reading and analysis at a human scale. This approach can open-up new areas of scholarly enquiry, enhance your research practise or provide your students with new research methods.

The Library is currently trialling a text and data mining support service for Higher Degree Research Students and Academic Staff.

Some of the support services include:

  • Access to online information & subscribed tools
  • Advice on resources for text and data mining
  • Consultation on text and data mining concepts
  • Consultation for forming a search strategy for corpora creation
  • Delivery of lectures and hands on training sessions for undergraduate classes
  • Negotiation for expansion of Library subscribed collections & digitised cultural collections for mining


See the support available to you, or visit the text and data mining page for more information.