Screen readers and magnifiers | Assistive Technology Advice From Vital Tech

Screen readers and magnifiers

Last modified: 20th May 2019

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Under Computer and Laptops we described what specialist software can achieve.  Here we discuss some of the more popular screen readers and magnifiers.

Specialist products

JAWS is the most popular screen reader by market share. Their software works on both touchscreens and standard screens. It offers speech or braille output as well as allowing braille input. It can be customised to work with many, otherwise inaccessible applications.  Extensive free training resources are available. The software can be purchased on professional or home user licenses. Costs for home use are lower, but still expensive.

The NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) screen-reader is open-source software. It was developed by a cooperation of online volunteers, so is available to download free of charge. It is able to do most of the things that purchased screen readers can do. The leading paid for software probably still has advantages over NVDA, but the functionality gap seems to be closing steadily. NVDA is lightweight, so can be run from a memory stick plugged into any PC.

ZoomText is the most popular screen magnifier by market share. The software is extremely configurable with a wide range of options and features for enlarging, enhancing, contrasting and modifying images as required. The basic editions are non-speech, but there are many options for packages that include integrated screen readers as well. Recently ZoomText magnifier has merged with JAWS screen reader to offer a ZoomText Fusion software combination.

Dolphin Computer Access offer different versions of their Supernova software, so customers can tailor make a package that is suitable for them. At the highest level, they offer a combination of screen reader, screen magnifier, video-magnifier, Braille support and reading machine programs. The video magnifier software includes a document scanning feature to read aloud printed materials captured by the camera.

Talking guidance software has been developed to assist blind and partially sighted people who are inexperienced in using computers. Dolphin Guide Connect organises the functions of the computer into a hierarchy of spoken menus, with options that users can select from. The system can assist people with reading books and newspapers, writing letters, browsing the web, managing emails, and much more besides.

 

Handy hints

You can get demo versions of the software so speak to the supplier to try before you buy.

 

Useful links

NVDA

Sight and Sound

Dolphin