A screen reader is a software package that can covert text into speech. It allows a person who cannot see to access both web content and documents.
A screen reader can read the text from top to bottom, one line at a time.
But it can also navigate the content from
- link to link
- heading to heading (if the web content has structured headings).
This navigation feature enables a user to “scan the content”, so that they can skip to what they need without having to read everything on the page.
A screen reader in use
In this video, a blind lecturer is tutoring a class of sighted students. He is demonstrating how to access web content using a screen reader called JAWS. The sighted students seem pretty blown away!!
Common screen readers
There are 3 big players in the screen reader world:
- Jaws ( over $1,000, most common and established package – Windows only)
- NVDA (a free download onto your computer – Windows only)
- Voiceover (built into Apple Mac products)
A newer option is Webanywhere, which you can carry on a USB stick and can plug into any computer.
More information on screen readers
Screen reader video tutorials
- Jaws– on YouTube
- NVDA – on YouTube
- Voiceover – on Apple website (16 minutes long, but great overview)
- Webanywhere – on YouTube