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Assistive Technology: Kurzweil Firefly FAQ

What is it?

Kurzweil Firefly is an online version of the popular text-to-speech software that allows you to have your textbooks read out loud. Once your textbooks are loaded into the system, you can use the web browser on any computer (or a free iPad app) to log in and read your books. There are also features like a dictionary and language translator.

How will it help me?

The main benefit that Kurzweil Firefly provides is for students who have difficulty reading, but it provides other benefits, too. Here are some of the ways Kurzweil can help you:

1. Textbooks for auditory learners
While some students are visual learners and would prefer to read texts, some students retain more information through auditory learning. Kurzweil will allow you to take any textbook or scanned material and will let you listen to the content so you can better understand it.

2. Increase reading comprehension
There are many ways that you can have text read aloud, but one of the main benefits of Kurzweil is that it will highlight each word as it is being read. This allows you to be able to follow along more easily without losing your place.

3. Stay organized
Instead of having a stack of books, you are able to keep all of your books in one place on the Firefly website. You can easily switch from one subject to another without having to go find your other textbooks.

4. Use integrated study tools
If you come across a word that you don’t know in your textbook, there is a built in dictionary that lets you look up the definition in the touch of a button. There is also language translation software that could be helpful if you are an ESL student. You can also highlight important sentences, and those highlights will be saved even if you log into a different computer.

5. No need to carry books
A physical disability may make it difficult for you from carrying books across campus. By using the online Firefly service, all you need is an iPad or a laptop to get access to all of your books. If you are using a computer in a lab, you don’t even need to worry about bringing your computer.

How do I use it?

1. Get an account
Kurzweil Firefly requires a login and password in order to use it. SDS can make you an account upon request.
Once you have an account, you can download the iPad app or go to the Kurzweil Firefly website.

2. Request your books
In order to get your readings on Firefly, you will need to request the books you want from our office. This is done using a form provided by our office. After you provide us with proof that you have purchased the books, we will reach out to publishers to get us digital copies. If we cannot get a digital copy, we will scan the hard copy of your book. This can take some time, so please allow two weeks from the date of request for your books to show up in your Firefly account.

3. Open your reading
After you log-in, you will find a folder on the left hand side that has your name on it. Click on your name and open the “private” folder. This is where you will find the readings for your course, usually separated by chapters. Click on the reading you want to view to open it.

4. Use the features
Now you are able to click anywhere in the text and then press the green play button in the top-center of the screen to have the computer read the text aloud.
The study tools (highlighting, dictionary, translation) are all located along the top of the window. You will also find an “Options” button, which will allow you to change the voice and playback speed of speech.