A screen reader is a software package designed to run on the most commonly used operating systems like Windows, Mac OS, Android and iOS.

Screen reading software can be purchased but some versions are available free of charge. It can be downloaded from specific websites or is built into an operating system.

A screen reader is designed for computer, laptop, smartphone and tablet users who have little or no useful vision. This means that content from monitors and screens cannot be discerned properly so speech output is required.

Screen reading software will announce content in speech using a synthesiser. In this way, items like icons, dialogue boxes, file lists, emails, webpages and documents are made accessible.

When using a device in conjunction with a screen reader, keyboard shortcut commands are widely used. Gestures on a track pad or touch screen also change to meet the specifics of the particular screen reader and suit the requirements of various applications.

Content from a device can also be output on to a refreshable braille display. This means that a user would get speech and braille simultaneously from the device being used.

Setup

A downloadable screen reader needs to be obtained from the relevant website. It then needs to be installed and configured to the personal preference of the user. This method mainly refers to the Windows platform although this also has a built in screen reading solution. Before purchasing a license, screen reading software can be trialled for a period of time.

A built in screen reader can also be found on an Apple Mac computer running OS and on tablets or smartphones running the Android or iOS platforms. When using a screen reader in this way, no download is necessary, although configuration of the software is required to suit the personal preference of the user. The rate, pitch and volume of the speech can be adjusted, the screen reader can be set to start when the device starts or it can be launched manually.

Use

Screen readers are used if someone does not have any useful vision to be able to view content from a screen. By using a screen reader, information from the device is announced in clear speech allowing a blind user to access devices on an equal footing with sighted counterparts. Screen reading software will make main stream applications and services completely accessible.

Information from various devices in conjunction with the screen reading software can also be accessed in braille via a refreshable braille display.

Verdict

A screen reading software package can be used at home, in the work place, in education and in public areas like libraries. It makes the content from the computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone accessible meaning that a blind technology user can access and enjoy their device without any barriers or obstacles. A screen reader makes day to day tasks like emailing, web browsing, accessing documents, shopping, banking and navigating the device completely accessible.

Screen readers can either be purchased, downloaded and used for free or are readily available from being built right into the operating system making the product accessible right out of the box.

Further resources