Optical character recognition (OCR) systems provide persons who are blind or visually impaired with the capacity to scan printed text and then have it spoken in synthetic speech or saved to a computer file. There are three essential elements to OCR technology—scanning, recognition, and reading text.

Initially, a printed document is scanned by a camera. OCR software then converts the images into recognized characters and words and creates temporary files containing the text’s characters and page layout. The recognition process takes account of the logical structure of the language. An OCR system will deduce that the word “tke” at the beginning of a sentence is a mistake and should be read as the word “the.” OCR systems also use a lexicon and apply spell-checking techniques similar to those found in many word processors. The synthesizer in the OCR system then speaks the recognized text. Finally, the information is stored in an electronic form. In some OCRs these temporary files can be converted into formats retrievable by commonly used computer software such as word processors, spreadsheets, and databases. A person who is blind or visually impaired can access the scanned text by using adaptive technology devices that magnify the computer screen or provide speech or braille output.

Current generation OCR systems provide very good accuracy and formatting capabilities at prices that are up to ten times lower than a few years ago. The price for the most popular PC-based OCR systems is about $1,000. This does not include the personal computer and screen access equipment. Prices of self-contained OCR systems and those that come bundled with a PC range from $3,500 to $5,500.

Here are some questions to ask when purchasing optical character recognition systems:

  • Do you prefer a stand-alone OCR product or a software-based product?
  • Is the software-based OCR system compatible with your computer’s operating system?
  • Do you require screen-reading capabilities in addition to the OCR?
  • Do you require braille output?

ClearReader+ Advanced
Portable text-to-speech and OCR reading and scanning device. Allows user to scan and read aloud magazines, books, or receipts. Easy to operate with distinctively shaped buttons. Provides option to save or post interesting articles for later reference or archive single and multiple page documents and access them when needed.

Device that combines text-to-speech and OCR reading/scanning with screen magnification. Allows user to scan and read aloud magazines, books, or receipts while magnifying them on a monitor. User may change the appearance of any printed text to his or her preference with a press of a button. Provides option to save or post interesting articles for later reference or archive single and multiple page documents and access them when needed.

ClearReader+ Basic
Text-to-speech and OCR reading and scanning device. Allows user to scan and read aloud magazines, books, or receipts. Easy to operate with distinctively shaped buttons. Provides option to save or post interesting articles for later reference or archive single and multiple page documents and access them when needed. Does not include batteries.

DaVinci HD/OCR
High-performance desktop video magnifier, featuring full high-definition color and contrast, crystal clear images, and vibrant colors; selective text-to-speech optical character recognition system (OCR); and a 3-in-1 camera.

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® Reader
Foldable and lightweight scanning and reading appliance that instantly and accurately converts printed text into speech.

Eye-Pal® Vision
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.

iReader Reading Device
Compact and portable lightweight reading device that scans and reads text documents such as books, newspapers or bills with a push of a button. May be connected to an external monitor via VGA and HDMI connectors and has 8 zoom settings. Offers fully readable letter size with an option for column recognition and allows documents to be stored for later use. Has a standard audio jack for headphones or external speakers. Internal battery available for portability.

KNFB Reader
App that turns text to speech or publishes it in braille with a refreshable display on iOS, Android and Windows 10 devices. With the touch of a single button, it can read virtually any type of printed text, including mail, receipts, class handouts, memos and many other documents and can recognize and read printed materials in a variety of languages including English, French, German, Dutch (Belgium), Dutch (Netherlands), Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Turkish, Polish, and Norwegian.

Additional features include reading modes for single and multicolumn formats; synchronized text highlighting with braille and high-quality speech output; text navigation by line, sentence, word and character; viewfinder for live field of view; tilt guidance and report to assist with aligning the camera relative to the document; automatic text detection to enable hands-free operation or touch-free operation; ability to import, OCR and read image-based PDFs and JPGs and export HTML and TXT files to cloud storage including Dropbox and Google Drive; and capture and read documents, brochures, pamphlets, and books.

Kurzweil 1000
Converts print into speech. Scans books, articles and bills, and reads the information out loud. Scanned text can be saved for future reference and modification. Can be used to open and read a variety of electronic text formats and search, download, and read electronic books and magazines directly from sites such as Bookshare.org, Web-Braille and other electronic repositories.

Kurzweil 3000
Displays printed or electronic text on the computer screen. Text can be spoken by a speech synthesizer or read by the user on the computer screen. Available for both Windows and Macintosh platforms.

Scans and converts printed documents or graphics-based text into an electronic text format. Provides two text-to-speech software synthesizers—RealSpeak, which features a natural human-sounding voice, and ViaVoice, which provides practical and efficient speech for editing or skimming documents. Supports most hardware speech synthesizers. Other features include a fax utility, copy function, and online book search.

Poet Compact 2
All-in-one reading machine that can read any kind of printed matter with just the press of a button. Features just two control buttons—the first button scans and recognizes text quickly, simultaneously converting text into high-quality speech output, and the second button is for pausing and stopping. The buttons and adjustable dials for volume and reading speed are located on the front panel.

Poet Compact 2+
All-in-one reading machine that can read virtually any kind of printed matter with just the press of a button. Has a front panel that offers more controls and possibilities, such as access to menu functions, speech settings, plug-ins, CD-drive for listening to DAISY-books, MP3 files, connecting USB-sticks, a BAUM Pronto! organizer, etc. For braille literate and deaf and blind users, a BAUM braille display can also be connected to the Poet Compact2+. It is possible to specify another language in addition to English.

SARA Scanning and Reading Appliance
Stand-alone reading machine that allows users to scan and read books, bills, magazines and other documents. Reads in 29 human-sounding voices, 19 language dialects and 12 languages. An optional display screen or a television screen may be used to magnify text and customize background color schemes. The majority of the buttons are big and colorful with tactile shapes that differentiate one from another.

Simon Reading Machine
New version of the Pronto stand-alone reading machine with a flatbed scanner. Has two commands (start and stop), three voice settings (volume, speed and pitch), and easy-to-remember text navigation cursor controls.

Smart Reader
Lightweight, portable full-page OCR system. May be connected to a portable 13.3” portable battery-operated monitor or TV to enlarge captured image to follow along as it reads. ideal for reading magazines, books, newspapers, recipes and any other printed material.

Text Cloner Pro
Scanning software designed to work with a user’s existing screen reader. Has two different scanning methods: high-speed and high-detailed.

ZoomText ImageReader 1.2
Software and camera solution that makes printed text accessible to people who are visually impaired or blind, including books, magazines, business documents and more. Printed item is placed underneath the included document camera, and a picture is snapped and a few seconds later the text appears in large, high-contrast fonts and is read aloud in natural-sounding voices. Available in an English-Only Edition and a Multilingual Edition. The Multilingual Edition can capture and read printed materials in over 150 languages and have the captured text read aloud by a choice of over 70 premium-quality “ZoomText Voices.” In addition to printed text, ImageReader can also capture and read text from image files, the Windows Clipboard or right off of a computer screen; perfect for reading graphical text from electronic documents and webpages.