Guide To Reading Machines For Visually Impaired | Vital Tech

Reading Machines

Last modified: 19th February 2020

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Reading machines use cameras or scanners to capture images of text, optical character recognition (OCR) technology to translate it into digital format, and then text to speech software to speak what they see. Once printed text has been transformed into digital format, there are a wide range of ways that it can be accessed. See the Computing theme for more information on this.


Specialist products

Standalone reading machines do not need to be connected to a computer, so can represent a good portable option. Examples include:

  • The Smart Reader offered by Enhanced Vision can operate independently or connect to a special, battery-powered monitor.
  • The Blaze EZ multi-media player with OCR is even more compact and portable the size of a mobile phone. The associated accessory pack includes an OCR capture support stand, to help the user accurately position text for image capture.

Software is also available to work with your computer.  Examples include:

  • Freedom Scientific’s OpenBook and Pearl which is available from Sight and Sound. OpenBook is self-voicing OCR software while Pearl is the compatible camera.
  • DocuScan Plus from Serotek offers self-voicing OCR functionality, although this software package requires a separate scanner or camera to work.
  • Readit Air from VisionAid is a portable auto-reader, handy for using with laptops.


Using your smartphone

See our Reading Apps section for information on apps that can read text.


Handy hints

Scanning stands, such as the Giraffe Reader, can be useful for people who find it difficult to line up the camera properly. These super-lightweight, portable stands replicate the usability advantages of traditional reading machines, holding smartphones so that printed material can be guided into position below.