What is a screen reader?

A screen reader is software designed to read out what is on your computer, laptop, smart phone or tablet screen in a synthetic or electronic voice. Including items like icons, dialogue boxes, file lists, emails, web pages and documents.

The software can be purchased but there are also free of charge versions like NVDA available to download or already built into the computer operating system.

When using a computer with a screen reader, keyboard shortcut commands are widely used and gestures on a track pad or touch screen change to meet the specifics of the particular screen reader software. Screen reader users learn these shortcuts and gestures so that they can navigate their way efficiently through their computer content.

Many aspects of the software can be adjusted to suit the user. The rate and pitch of the speech can be adjusted, the screen reader can be set to start when the device starts or it can be launched manually.

Screen reading software can be expensive to purchase and many professional users are able to get help with the cost through the government’s Access to Work scheme. Further information on the scheme can be found on RNIB's Access to Work scheme web pages.

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