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?
Screen reading program that allows a blind person using a refreshable braille display to access the Linux/Unix console (when in text mode). Drives the braille display and provides complete screen review functionality. Incorporates some speech capability.
Software that provides a set of customized configurations for the JAWS for Windows screen reader that allows blind musicians to use both basic and advanced features of Cakewalk SONAR, a music editing and recording program. Includes extensive tutorials in the form of Word documents written for the JAWS user.
Screen reader and magnification software program that can be installed on a computer for blind, low-vision, and seniors to allow users to access to the most-used functions of their computers.
Screen reading software program that provides access to information on a computer for people who are blind or visually impaired and converts important information from the computer screen into speech, braille or magnified form. Available in three versions: COBRA Zoom, which provides large print magnification and speech output; COBRA Braille, which provides speech output and support for more than 70 braille displays; and COBRA Pro, which includes everything.
All-in-one software suite with built-in large print and speech access. Designed to be easy-to-use and easy-to-learn.
Portable battery-operated and braille-compatible screen reader and scanner with a built-in screen for displaying photos, magnifying small objects and enlarging texts for individuals who have difficulty reading printed text.
Eye-Pal® Ace Plus
Portable scanner, reader, and video magnifier in one lightweight, battery-operated device. Has a simple one-button, spam-free, email system. Has a built-in WiFi that allows user to connect to Bookshare and NFB Newsline and download books and access publications.
Eye-Pal® ROL (Read Out Loud)
Lightweight, battery-operated, portable scanner and reader that comes with a pair of headphones that easily plugs into the front of the device for privacy. The ergonomic thumbwheels and tactile controls are intuitively located for ease of use. Braille-display compatible for reading a book or a menu at a restaurant or filling out a form at the doctor's office. Incorporates the AudioMinder technology, allowing the user to set an alarm and record appointment reminders.
Fast, accurate, and easy-to-use scanning and reading appliance that connects to a monitor or TV to display text in a high-contrast, large font so user can read along as the content is spoken. May be used for scanning a printed page, pill bottle, recipe card, or newspaper. Motion detector automatically senses when a new page is placed under the camera.
iMax for Mac
Screen magnification and screen reading software for Mac users. Provides magnification, contour enhancement and pointer settings as well as screen reading with high-quality speech output. In addition to text to speech voices, such as Infovox iVox by Acapela, it comes with automatic language identification in the screen reader mode and GhostReader, an application for reading documents. GhostReader contains shortkeys for fast and easy access to the text and the user can listen to documents including file types such as Text, Word, HTML, PDF, ODT or RTF. Also allows user to save texts as Mp3-files to be played in iTunes, be uploaded to an iPod, iPad or burned onto a CD.
JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows (Professional)
Screen reader that provides speech and braille output for the most popular computer applications. Works with Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and much more. Features two multilingual synthesizers: Eloquence and Vocalizer Expressive; talking installation; built-in free DAISY and Player and full set of DAISY-formatted basic training books. Supports Windows® 8.1 and Windows 10, including touch screens and gestures, and includes support for MathML content presented in Internet Explorer that is rendered with MathJax and fast information look-up with Research It. Convenient OCR feature provides access to the text of PDF documents. Fully compatible with MAGic screen magnification software, and OpenBook, scanning and reading program.
JAWS (Job Access with Speech) for Windows (Standard)
Screen reader that provides speech and braille output for the most popular computer applications. Works with Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and much more. Features two multilingual synthesizers: Eloquence and Vocalizer Expressive; talking installation; built-in free DAISY and Player and full set of DAISY-formatted basic training books. Supports Windows® 8.1 and Windows 10, including touch screens and gestures, and includes support for MathML content presented in Internet Explorer.
NVDA (Nonvisual Desktop Access)
An open-source Windows screen reader. Uses the eSpeak speech synthesizer and SAPI 4 and SAPI 5 synthesizers.
Free, open source screen reader for the GNOME desktop. Works with OpenOffice, Firefox, the Java platform and other applications.
Screen reader for the Linux operating system. Allows users to interact with applications and the GNU/Linux operating system with audible feedback from the console using a speech synthesizer and to navigate around the screen using typical screen review functions such as “say word,” “say line,” “announce cursor position,” and more. Licensed under the GPL, the GNU General Public License.
Provides screen access to Windows, as well as applications, including Microsoft Word, Outlook, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Adobe Reader, and Skype. It can be installed on two computers.
System Access Stand-alone Mobile
Provides screen access to Windows, as well as applications, including Microsoft Word, Outlook, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Adobe Reader, and Skype. It can be installed on two computers. Also includes a smart drive so users can create a key to install System Access on other computers.
Thunder Free Free screen reader for Microsoft Windows Windows XP Service Pack 3 or later, including Windows 7 and 8. It is not open-source, but it is free for individuals and organizations. Distributed with the WebbIE set of programs, which provides a text web-browser, a podcatcher, an RSS news reader and other tools.
Screen reader built into Apple computer operating systems (Mac OS X 10.4 and later). Provides a comprehensive audible description and complete keyboard-based navigation and access to a variety of applications, such as web browsing, e-mail, word processing, iTunes, chat, PDF reader, media player, and chess. Also includes support for many braille displays.
Screen magnification and screen reading software that provides the features and benefits of ZoomText Magnifier/Reader, plus a complete screen reader.