AT Reading Support Software

AT Reading Tools

Screen Readers and Text to Speech

Screen Readers provide access to electronic information for people with vision loss or difficulty reading. With screen readers you can read text on the screen in most popular applications including productivity software (MS Office), web browsers, operating system interfaces, programming and a variety of languages.

Screen Readers read everything on the screen in a synthetic voice. They read the text in popular applications, menus, error messages, assisting users to navigate pages by headings, tables, lists, buttons, form controls, read by line, character, word or paragraph, and hear what you type. Many people find it useful to learn keyboard shortcuts to control this software rather than use the mouse.

Text to Speech software typically needs a mouse user to select text to be read aloud.

Read Text Aloud in MS-Office Documents (Windows)

If you just want to read text typed in MS Office documents there is a Speech feature you can activate. It reads aloud any text you select in the document. It can be activated by keyboard shortcut or a button in the Quick Access Toolbar at the top of the application. This feature is available in Microsoft Office 2013, 2016 and of course O365.

  1. Click the dropdown arrow button on the right Quick Launch tool bar.
  2. GO to More Commands in the submenu
  3. Choose Quick Access Toolbar
  4. Then under Commands select All Commands
  5. In addition, scroll down the alphabetic list to Speak or click in the box and type S to jump to commands that start with S.
  6. Then click Add and Speak moves over to the other box where common used Quick Access commands are.
  7. Then click OK.

Now when you select text you can click the Speak Selection icon in the QA toolbar and it will read aloud.

On Windows Computers:

  • NVDA is a free screen reader that supports refreshable braille displays too. Check its FAQ about which applications are supported. It has many reading features similar to high end screen readers that you pay hundreds of dollars for.
  • Narrator is built into Microsoft Windows and provides screen reading for popular programs and most of the Windows interface.
  • System Access To Go works in Internet Explorer (IE) and is a free product once launched from its website. Check its FAQ about which applications are supported.

On Apple Devices:

  • Speak Text Aloud on Your Mac another built-in Accessibility feature of OSX
  • Speak Text on your iOS Device Have your IOS device speak the screen, selected text, and typed text
  • VoiceOver is built into OS/X 10.6 and higher. Most text on the screen is read aloud and keyboard navigation keys are used for controlling VO instead of a mouse. The text to speech voice included on Apple devices is really quite nice. VO changes the way your track pad or touch screen gestures function so learn commands with VoiceOver to avoid frustration
  • VoiceOver on iOS Devices (iPads, iPhones, iPod Touch, AppleTV)

read&write for AU Students and Staff

read&write logo

read&write is a floating toolbar that operates on different platforms to provide tools for reading, studying and writing:

  • scan (TWAIN scanner not included)
  • e-highlight documents (MS-Word, PDF, web)
  • export highlights to MS-Word document
  • text to speech reading aloud
  • make audio files
  • decoding tools

Details about features can be found on the TextHELP website or video links found in the installation guide. You need your Athabasca University Office 365 email address to license read&write to your device.

If you require further information, contact the AT Team at or call the ASD office.

Other Reading and Annotating Technology

Reading Pens – there are a variety of hand held reading pens that can scan line by line and read text aloud to you, provide definitions, translate to a different language such as the ReaderPen or CPen.

LiveScribe Echo Pen & SmartPens provide siamtaneous audio recording which is synched to your hand written notes on special coded paper. Just tap on your notes and the audio recording at that time plays back.

Many of these software have the following features to assist in reading:

  • Dual modality highlighting by word, sentence, or paragraph
  • Read aloud in a synthetic but human sounding voice
  • Using the mouse select text and have it read aloud
  • Colored Highlighting and extraction of highlights to a word processor document
  • Mind mapping
  • Annotation of e-text – audio, column, bubble, or sticky notes
  • Convert text to audio file for listening on the go
  • Scan in your paper documents and convert them to e-text for reading

Natural Reader a FREE Windows & Apple floating toolbar to read selected text aloud. Or, copy and paste text into its text reader. The paid versions can also convert text to an mp3 audio file.

Kurzweil 3000 for Windows or Mac provide the most features you will find in one software product for reading, writing, organising ideas, and annotating documents. A trial version is available from their website.

Talking Web Browsers & Plug Ins

  • ATBar – a floating toolbar in Windows or a browser plug-in that has text-to-speech for reading aloud, screen colour and font customisation, as well as word prediction and spell check for writing when working in web browsers.
  • STEMReader – reads aloud basic math text when found in web browsers. The subscription version reads complex math. Hear equations read aloud and see the transcript on screen. Break down equations into simple chunks to make them easier to understand. Check the meaning of unfamiliar symbols.

Zoom Text on the Screen

Most applications have a zoom feature which allows you to enlarge the size of the print on the screen. This works in internet browsers, some word processors, Adobe and more applications. It does not enlarge error messages or menus. Try it and you will see!

  • Press the CONTROL key and the PLUS SIGN (+) on your numeric keypad to enlarge text. Press CONTROL and the MINUS SIGN (-) to decrease print size.
  • Similarly the CONTROL key pressed while scrolling the mouse scroll wheel up or down will also alter the size of the text larger or smaller depending on the direction the wheel is turned.
  • On an Apple computer hold down the Apple key and hit + or -. You can also double tap the track pad and a 2x zoom will be applied to that window.
  • Make Windows 10 easier to see
  • On a mobile device screen use a pinch open gesture with two fingers

Magnification Software

On Windows Computers

Use Microsoft Windows built in Magnifier to see everything on the screen magnified, adjust themes and filters to see your screen better.

Pay For Magnification Software (Windows):

On Apple Products:

Activate the Apple OSX Zoom feature

Zoom all text on your iOS device screen

Pay For Magnification Software (on mac):

Reduce Glare & Screen Masking

Dimming parts of the screen helps to maintain focus and reading place, much like a ruler or following your finger on a printed page. There are software tools to mask or dim parts of the screen when reading e-text.

  • f.lux a free electronic screen overlay adjusts screen brightness (warm or cool)
  • MyStudyBar has screen masking, magnifying glass, text reading, brainstorming and task list along with much more. Not bad for a free Windows program.

Reducing Internet Distractions

These tools are helpful for assisting you to concentrate on the content of a website by featuring that content in an easy-to-read, clutter-free, scrollable display.

  • Anti-Social allows you to block distracting social media apps like Facebook or Twitter, or YouTube. It costs $15 and has a money back guarantee. It works on Apple and Windows systems.
  • Evernote Clearly: available as an add-on for Firefox and Chrome browsers; articles can be synced to user's Evernote account.
  • Freedom allows you to disable your internet connection for up to 8 hours to avoid distractions when you just need to get down to work. If you need to get on-line you need to reboot your system. There are versions for Apple OSX, Windows and Android.
  • For both iReader for Firefox and iReader for Chrome browser add-ons; when you comes to a web page that is identified as an article, the iReader icon appears on the address bar.

E-text & Audio Books

Mobile Apps for Online Learning

The ASD Mobile App Selection Tool (MAST) was created to assist students to select apps by category of learning skill (reading, writing, memory, etc.) that may enhance your learning on a mobile device. These apps were chosen by AU peers with disabilities during a research project trying to determine effective apps. Sign up and provide comments and suggestions so we can keep MASTZ up to date.

If you have questions about these resources contact the ASD Assistive Technologist