What Are Screen Readers?

Screen readers are software programs that convert digital text into speech (via a software-based voice synthesizer) or Braille output (to a refreshable Braille device). Screen readers have changed computer accessibility for people with disabilities, especially those who are blind and deaf blind, though other people use screen readers too. Screen readers help blind people to use computers independently. That sounds so basic, but it’s actually a big deal, because it means that a blind person can get education, get jobs that require computer use, send emails, read about current events on the internet, play games, and do pretty much anything that anybody else can do on a computer.

 

  • Audio Output

Most users listen to the audio output of screen readers. The voice is synthesized, so it can sound robotic. The quality of the voice can vary drastically and depends largely on the underlying speech engine. Most screen readers allow users to switch between different voices, which may sound like female or male voices. There are even voices that sound like children or elderly individuals.

 

  • Braille Output

Major screen readers can also output to refreshable Braille devices. The Braille can be in addition to the audio output, or it can be the only form of output, depending on the user’s choices. A refreshable Braille device has a long series of small holes in the hardware that allow small plastic pins to come up through the holes to form the Braille characters that the person can feel using the fingertips. For people who are both deaf and blind, a Braille device like this is pretty much the only way they can access digital content.

 

Who Uses Screen Readers?

 

  1. Blind
  2. Deaf Blind
  3. Low vision
  4. Reading disabilities
  5. Cognitive disabilities

 

  • *Most of the screen reader users are blind, which includes people who cannot see at all, as well as people who may have some vision, but not enough to read a computer screen. Blind users normally listen to the audio output of screen readers.

 

  • Deaf Blind
  • People who have both visual and hearing disabilities may use a screen reader with a refreshable Braille output device, to allow them to feel the Braille characters with their fingers.

 

Low vision

Low vision users normally use screen magnification software to make it easier to read. For some people, the magnification is not enough, so they use magnification with a screen reader. This allows them to both see and hear the web content.

 

  • Reading disabilities
  • People with reading disabilities may find it easier to listen to content read out loud to them, rather than read it with their eyes.

 

  • Cognitive disabilities
  • People with different kinds of cognitive disabilities may also find it easier to understand spoken words, rather than written words.

 

Author: admin

Freelance Certified Web Accessibility Specialists