Screen readers

Built-in speech-to-text features – such as Windows Narrator – come with most computer operating systems (Windows, Mac or Linux). However, with the exception of Mac OS X’s VoiceOver, these are limited speech-output programmes and do not offer a complete solution for, for example, those with low vision. There are also various speech packages whose sole function is to make your web browser ‘talk’.

To have a single application that does all of these things, and provides effective access to Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer and other programmes, someone who is blind or partially sighted may want to use a full screenreader.

You can turn on screen reading on your operating system. Here are details of how to reach accessibility settings.

Examples of full screenreaders include Jaws and Window-Eyes. There are also freeware screenreaders such as NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access), Thunder and NaturalReader. Some commercial packages, such as SuperNova and ZoomText, offer magnification and speech.

There are different ways you can make your web browser ‘talk’. Some of these are embedded in the web pages themselves, so you only need to click on a ‘listen’ button, for instance. Other third-party software applications need to be installed on your computer, and may work only with websites that have registered with the maker of the talking browser.

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