Collaboration Benefits Student Success: Bringing text-to-speech software to the broader student body

Handouts Media

Presented at 11:30am in Penrose 2 on Wednesday, November 8, 2023.



  • Jennifer McDowell, Assistant Director, Alternative Formats, Salem State University
  • Lisa Bibeau, Assistant Dean, Student Success and Disability Services, Salem State University

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 1-hr
  • Format: Lecture
  • Expertise Level: All Levels
  • Type of session: General Conference


Supporting students with dyslexia has long been the cornerstone of disability services offices. We want to share how we took that practice of ensuring student access to written materials and expanded it to help support our university’s student success initiatives. This initiative was accomplished using technology tools and collaboration to bring this resource to the student body.


As student success is a focus of many in higher educational institutions, it is vital we, as disability services providers, see ourselves playing an essential role in this goal. We want to share how we took the practice of ensuring student access to written materials and expanded it to help support our university’s student success initiatives. Bringing print access to the university happened slowly and resulted from many initiatives and concerns around student success.

Our office received a donor gift in 2016, allowing our office to secure a universal site license for Read&Write, a text-to-speech program. We purchased the site license, which would support our belief that what we use in the office can benefit all students. We have continued this practice and added Equatio and OrbitNote, TextHelp’s new PDF reader.

The 2023-2024 school year will bring a new project, furthering community exposure to these programs. The office is embarking on an initiative to hire and train undergraduate students who promote, schedule, and present the benefits and uses of OrbitNote and Read&Write. We are hiring up to 5 students that will be student workers under the title of UDL Fellows. As we try to push out accessible technology to the greater community, it will be important that we use a student-to-student model. This project has gotten the attention of the Vice Provost for faculty engagement. They hope this project will enhance student support as our institution works toward achieving Minority Serving Institution/Hispanic Serving Institution designation.

You often do not need to have a new idea or spend a lot of money to support student success at your institution. Often all it takes is looking at what programs or practices are effective in your office and beginning to meet with university partners. We hope you leave with a blueprint for implementing a university-wide initiative based on practices utilized in your offices.


  1. All students at your university could benefit from training on text-to-speech programs
  2. Not enough staff and lack of follow through is often the reason this is not happening
  3. Hiring students and using them to reach out and train other students helps these intitatives progress

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Accessible Educational Materials, Assistive Technology, Uncategorized, Universal Design for Learning

Speaker Bio(s)

Jennifer McDowell

Jenny has been at Salem State University since 2007, first working with an alternative admission program and then since 2011 in the Disability Services office. She started as an office manager and has worked her way up as an Alternative Text Specialist and now as Assistant Director overseeing Alternative Format Production. Jenny has a B.S. in Business Administration from Central Washington University and an M.Ed. in Library Media Studies from Salem State University. She loves her job, especially researching and thinking through solutions for inaccessible courses and course materials. When she isn't working, she is doing her best to keep up with her husband and four (!) kids while also staying on top of the ever-growing list of audiobooks or podcasts she wants to get through.

Lisa Bibeau

Lisa Bibeau is the Assistant Dean for Access at Salem State University. Lisa began her career at the University of Massachusetts in their Learning Disabilities Center before moving to the Office of Disability Services at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Lisa has been leading the Disability Services Office at Salem State University since 2002. Currently, she oversees the support of students and the public who may need accommodations while visiting the university. Lisa has taught graduate and undergraduate courses at multiple universities. She is currently an adjunct professor in the Health Care Studies department teaching Health and Disability Across the Lifespan, which she designed at SSU.