Screen readers are assistive software applications used mainly by people with visual impairments. Their primary purpose is to read out the text content on a screen to the user who may not be able to read it clearly themselves. This content can be text that is in a document or on a website or can be content that the computer user is typing themselves. As well as being able to read the text on a screen and read out the text that someone is typing into a device they can also be used to read out and navigate online menu systems and navigate through documents such as Microsoft Word or PDF documents.
Screen readers, as you will see as you go through this course, are one of the most useful assistive technologies for people with a wide range of disabilities.
Screen readers are built into Windows computers (Narrator) or macs (Voiceover) or more powerful and configurable screen readers can be downloaded from the internet. The two most popular downloadable screen readers are NVDA which is the one I used in the video below and Jaws which is regarded as being the best and most configurable screen reader. There will be links to both software packages at the end of this training if you would like to try them yourself (NVDA is free and JAWS is around 1000 dollars but does have a free trial version)
Screen readers are also built into modern phones. The iPhone screen reader is called VoiceOver and can be activated by going to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver. The Android phone screen reader is called TalkBack and is activated through Settings > accessibility > TalkBack
The video below will show the NVDA Screen Reader installed on a Windows Computer reading out a page from a Microsoft Word document.