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Athabasca University

AT Reading Support Software

Screen Readers

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. Many people find it useful to learn keyboard shortcuts to control this software rather than use the mouse.

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.

They differ from Text to Speech software that is typically mouse driven or is used to read a section of text.

FREE For Windows computers:

  • Window-Eyes – Ai Squared & Microsoft partnered to offer customers who have a licensed version of Office 2010 or later the ability to download Window-Eyes free of charge ($900 value).
  • Narrator is built into Microsoft Windows and provides screen reading to popular software and most of the Windows interface.
  • 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.
  • 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.

FREE for Apple Computers & Devices:

  • VoiceOver is built into OS/X 10.6 and higher. Most text on the screen is read aloud and keyboard navigation keys are preferred for controlling VO over mouse use. 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)
  • Speak Selected Text built into Apple’s Mac OSX and iOS mobile devices, the text you select can be read aloud. (wikiiHow article: iOS Speak Selected Text & Speak Screen)

Add speech synthesizers with higher quality voices to your computer (Apple, Windows, Linux):

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.
  • Opera a talking web browser

Text to Speech

Many of these products 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

Balabolka a FREE program that can read the clipboard contents. You can view the text from multiple file formats (AZW, AZW3, CHM, DjVu, DOC, EPUB, FB2, HTML, LIT, MOBI, ODT, PRC, PDF and RTF), Also, customize the font and background colour of viewed text, control reading from the system tray or by the global hotkeys. The on-screen text can be saved as a WAV, MP3, MP4, OGG or WMA file. Power packed FREE product that can take patience to learn.

ClaroRead Software  for Windows, Apple and iOS facilitate reading and writing of your computer’s information. Its floating toolbar can be used in many programs. A trial can be obtained from the website ClaroRead Software Feature videos

E-Text Reader from Premier Assistive can be a portable reading solution as it can be carried on a USB key. Check its FAQ to learn which programs it works in.

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.

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.

Read & Write Gold by TextHELP has a variety of software offerings to allow you to hear web pages and documents read aloud to improve reading comprehension, support for writing, and study tools. Their products are on various platforms including Windows, Apple OSX, Chrome plug ins, iPad or Android typing/word prediction apps. Visit the above website for more information and product trial versions. Here are the Read & Write Gold PC Feature Videos on YouTube. Athabasca University has a site license of this product and a future announcement will be made on how you can use our licenses when you sign into your MyAU.

TextAloud  is a floating toolbar which reds text. It has a trial version for download.

Word Talk – a FREE Microsoft Word plug in (2007-2016) that speaks the entire document, paragraph or word; highlights the text as it goes; talking dictionary; adjust the word highlight colours; change the voice or the speed and convert text to speech (wav or mp3).

Text to Audio File Conversion

In addition to some of the above products that convert text to audio files for listening convenience, you can create your own audio files by using these services. Spoken Text is a web subscription service where you upload your text files and they provide you a download of the audio using synthesized speech, minutes later. You should ensure a fairly clean text. There is a free trial period.
On Apple computers you can activate the service to “Add to iTunes as SpokenText”. This allows you to select any text and initiate the service to convert it to an audio file. Then you can listen or download the file from the SpokenText playlist in iTunes. Add to iTunes as SpokenText Video and Add to iTunes as SpokenText text Instructions

Screen Masking

Sometimes dimming parts of the screen helps to maintain focus and reading place, much like a ruler on a print book.

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

Magnification Features

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 the text on your screen larger on Windows computers

Screen Magnification Software

Use Microsoft Windows built in Magnifier to see everything on the screen magnified.

Pay For Magnification Software (Windows):

  • ZoomText (has text to speech feature)
  • MAGic (has text to speech feature)
  • iZoom (magnification only)

Activate the Apple OSX built in Zoom feature

Pay For Magnification Software (Apple):

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 Reading & Taking Notes

Mobile apps are installed on your phone or tablet, are free or paid for and can assist you to read eText by:

  • reading aloud
  • text reflow (line spacing)
  • font and document colour contrast
  • work with various document formats (pdf, doc, rtf, epub)

The ASD Mobile App Selection Tool (MAST) was created to assist you to select apps by category of learning skill (reading, writing, memory, etc.) that may enhance your learning on a mobile device.

More information about various mobile device apps, features for learning, and research can be found on the Types of Assistive Technology, Mobile Page.

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

Updated December 16 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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