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Screen Readers

Screen readers are applications which enable blind and low-vision individuals to use computers and mobile devices. Screen readers provide voice (text-to-speech) and braille output for events displayed on the computer screen. With a screen reader, a blind person is able to use many popular and professional applications available on the market including but not limited to Microsoft Office, browsers, mail clients, cloud storage, and shared documents.

All screen readers are delivered with multilingual speech synthesis and support various languages. Features of current screen readers are similar to each other but may differ in detailed functions, the number of supported apps and the degree to which these apps are supported. A screen reader is an indispensable tool for a modern blind student.

JAWS

JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a computer screen-reading program for Windows. Besides its standard screen-reader features, it is fully compatible with Magic and Zoom magnification software. JAWS is sold as two licenses: JAWS Home, which is a paid software intended for individuals for personal, non-commercial use; and JAWS Professional, which is a paid software intended for use by organizations, and professional or commercial use. JAWS is also available with combination with Zoom magnification software as a Fusion package.

NVDA

NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) is a computer screen-reader program for Windows, developed by NV Access Limited. It is a free, open-source program. NVDA is available in two versions: an app which is installed on a computer, and a mobile version which can be kept on a USB drive and used on any Windows computer. Like other screen readers, NVDA is delivered with multilingual voices, but due to a limited quality of Espeak speech, third-party voices may be needed.

Microsoft Narrator

Microsoft Narrator is a screen-reading software provided as a part of the Windows operating system. Narrator’s features are more limited than features of JAWS and NVDA and, so far, it has a very limited number of users. Narrator, however, has one important feature: it allows blind users to install Windows operating system independent of sighted assistance.

VoiceOver

VoiceOver is a computer and mobile screen-reader program for macOS and iOS. VoiceOver functions on Mac, iPhones, and iPads, and supports gestures, keyboards, and braille displays. It supports more than 35 languages, including multiple voice options. VoiceOver is built into Apple products, so there are no additional costs or downloads. VoiceOver supports Safari and Opera, email, PDFs, and all built-in Mac apps.

TalkBack

Google’s TalkBack is delivered as a part of Accessibility Features of the Android operating system. TalkBack allows users to perform main actions on Android devices and use many popular applications, but its functionality is not as advanced as other screen readers, though with each TalkBack and Android version the number of available features increases.

Due to a large number of Android devices which do not run a pure-Android operating system, the functionality of TalkBack and other accessibility features available on any specific device may be very different when compared to the latest pure-Android version.