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Screen readers

Screen readers (or speech output systems) allow the user to hear via a speech synthesizer or touch via a braille display the information on the screen. They are designed to give blind people and people with visual impairment access to standard computers and software, such as word processors, spreadsheets, email and internet browsers. A standard keyboard and keyboard shortcuts are used to control the computer instead of a mouse.

Screen reader, for use with a computer will consist of two components:

  • A speech synthesizer which ā€˜speaksā€™ the text sent to it from the screen reading program installed on the computer. The speech synthesizer is usually a software program that works with a sound card.

  • A screen-reading program sends text displayed on the screen to be spoken by a speech synthesizer.

There are many different screen readers, but they do have some common features:

We can mute with one keystroke, adjust the speech, pitch and volume of the voice and repeat what was last said. As text is entered it can be spoken as each word or letter is completed. There is also optional speaking of capital letters, punctuation and symbols. Menus, dialogue boxes, tool tips, system messages and other text and graphical information can be read back.

Graphical user interface screen readers

  • JAWS by Freedom Scientific

  • Window-Eyes by GW Micro

  • LookOUT from Choice Technology

  • Hal and Supernova from Dolphin

  • Web browser screen readers, for example Opera.