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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Scanner/Reading Machines

Photo of user placing page on flat-bed scanner connected to computer

Photo of user placing page on flat-bed scanner connected to computer

Reading machines provide auditory access to many printed documents. To work, these machines typically combine a flatbed scanner and optical character recognition or OCR software. OCR is the process of converting an image of text, such as a scanned paper document or electronic fax file, into computer-editable text.

To view a short video about scanning and specialized OCR systems choose one of the following links:

Video on scanning and specialized OCR systems in Windows Media format
Video on scanning and specialized OCR systems in Real Player format
Transcript of scanning and specialized OCR systems video

Some specialized OCR systems are self-contained or stand-alone units that do not need to be connected to a personal computer. Assistive technology tools of this nature are often referred to as "reading machines." In most cases these devices are used to access printed information as opposed to electronic information.

Scanned documents can be saved and reviewed on the machine at a later date, but the user cannot manipulate the text as they can with a computer-based scanning system and a word processing program. Stand-alone reading machines have recognition accuracy comparable to computer based systems.

To view a short video about stand-alone reading machines choose one of the following links:

Video on stand-alone reading machines in Windows Media format
Video on stand-alone reading machines in Real Player format
Transcript of stand-alone reading machines video

For more information on where to purchase different types of optical character recognition systems, visit AFB's Product Database.

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