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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Screen Readers

Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display. A screen reader is the interface between the computer's operating system, its applications, and the user. The user sends commands by pressing different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard or braille display to instruct the speech synthesizer what to say and to speak automatically when changes occur on the computer screen. A command can instruct the synthesizer to read or spell a word, read a line or full screen of text, find a string of text on the screen, announce the location of the computer's cursor or focused item, and so on. In addition, it allows users to perform more advanced functions, such as locating text displayed in a certain color, reading pre-designated parts of the screen on demand, reading highlighted text, and identifying the active choice in a menu. Users may also use the spell checker in a word processor or read the cells of a spreadsheet with a screen reader.


   Screen readers are currently available for use with personal computers running Linux, Windows, and mac, IOS, Android, and more.
Each screen reader incorporates a different command structure, and most support a variety of speech synthesizers. Prices range from free to $1,200.
Screen readers are used mainly by people who do not have useful vision to read text on the screen. A screen reader can also be the product of choice for someone with vision that is useful for travel, but not for reading. In the long run, learning to listen to speech output will prove more productive for such individuals than struggling to read text while leaning close to the computer screen.
   Here are some questions to ask when purchasing screen readers:

  • Is the screen reader compatible with your computer's operating system?
  • Does it work with the applications you plan to use?
  • Does it work with your braille display?
  • What keystrokes or gestures are used for the program's basic and advanced functions? Are the keystrokes easy to remember? Is it possible to change the key combinations if they conflict with those used by application programs?


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There are 17 Products in the Category

Product Table

Product NameProduct DescriptionDistributor ContactImage/Multimedia Available?
BRLTTYScreen reading program that allows a blind person using a re... dave@mielke.cc
CakeTalking Software that provides a set of customized configurations fo...
CDesk Compass
COBRA 10COBRA is a screen reading software program that provides acc... The BAUM USA sales department can be reached on our toll-free number.
Dolphin PenUSB memory device that allows users to run Dolphin screen re...
Hal (Professional)Provides screen access for visually impaired computer users ...
Hal (Standard)Provides screen access for visually impaired computer users ...
JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows (Professional)Converts text and components of the Windows operating system... Order JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows (Professional) from The Chicago Lighthouse Store
JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows (Standard)Converts text and components of the Windows operating system... Order JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows (Standard) from The Chicago Lighthouse Store
NVDA (Nonvisual Desktop Access)An open-source Windows screen reader. Uses the eSpeak speech... developers@nvda-project.org web site: http://www.nvda-project.org
OrcaFree, open source screen reader for the GNOME desktop. Works...
SpeakupScreen reader for the Linux operating system. Allows users t... www.linux-speakup.org/speakup.html
System Access Provides screen access to Windows, as well as applications, ...
System Access Stand-alone Mobile Provides screen access to Windows, as well as applications, ...
ThunderThunder is a free screen reader. It provides feedback via sy...
VoiceOverProvides a comprehensive audible description and complete ...
Window-Eyes ProfessionalConverts components of the Windows operating system into syn...

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