Top screen readers for Windows

Post date: 
Tuesday, 14 November 2017
  Photo of someone wearing a headset in front of a computer

Alex Lee from Tech Advisor reviews some of the best screen-reading software for blind and partially sighted Windows users.

Screen-reading software for people with sight loss has been around since 1986, when Jim Thatcher developed the first screen reader for use by employees with low vision.
 
By using either a voice synthesiser or a braille display, screen readers are able to read any text that’s displayed on the screen to the user.
 
With so many screen reading solutions available on the market today, it’s difficult to decide which one to go for. From the extortionately expensive to the bargain bucket, here’s a round-up of the best screen readers currently out there for Windows.
 

JAWS Home

Cost: £838.80 (available from Sight and Sound)
 
Not to be mistaken with the film, JAWS is the best known screen-reading software and has a large community of users. However, with that title comes the high price tag. It’s the most expensive screen reader on the market and a big investment.
 
Updates to the program require you to buy a new version of JAWS each time, but each comes with lengthy documentation and training. Despite having a somewhat steep learning curve, JAWS has a strong technical support team.
 
JAWS 18 works seamlessly with ZoomText’s magnifier and it also gives the user the ability to read text under the cursor. However, with cheaper options on the market now able to do just as much, it’s no longer the assumed first choice when selecting screen-reading software – especially as the software seems to be evolving at a very slow rate compared to the competition.
 

NVDA

Cost: Free (available from NV Access)
 
Once a last resort for many, NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) is a free option that’s now able to compete with the likes of JAWS in power and usability. First created to combat the market of costly screen-reading software, it has now become a viable option for the everyday user.
 
With a list boasting just as many features as JAWS, it’s the first Windows-based screen reader that can be used with a touchscreen. Although having a much smaller and more limited help centre, it’s still worth investigating.
 
Consider NVDA if cost is your biggest concern.
 

Dolphin SuperNova Magnifier and Screen Reader

Cost: £995 (available from Dolphin)
 
Not quite as powerful as NVDA or JAWS, Dolphin’s Supernova would be best for those who have some useful vision, as it has an integrated magnifier bundled with the program.
 
However, the screen reader's commands are rather simplistic and it can’t perform as many functions as NVDA or JAWS, but it does allow for scripting to make it more usable.
 

Serotek System Access

Cost: £270 (available from Serotek)
 
System Access has the basic functionality of a screen reader and is one of cheaper screen-reading options. It lets you browse the internet, access your emails, edit spreadsheets and make PowerPoint presentations, but if you’re looking to perform more advanced tasks using software that’s not built-in, try a different screen reader.
 
System Access does its job and is simple to use without the added hassle of having to spend hours learning to use JAWS.
 
Source: This article originally appeared on the Tech Advisor website and it has been republished with permission of the editor.
 

Further information

  • Tech Advisor attracts buyers of all experience levels across the whole range of consumer technology. With strong ties to all the major manufacturers, as well as product knowledge built from years covering the consumer tech industry, Tech Advisor tells users what to buy and how to get more from their purchases.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of RNIB.

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