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List of Computer Screen Readers for Visually Impaired

Synopsis:

2014-08-06 (Rev. 2015-12-07) - A list of both commercial and free mobile and computer screen readers for the blind and visually impaired.

Author: Ian Langtree - Contact: Disabled World

Quote: "The most popular screen reader worldwide, JAWS for Windows works with your PC to provide access to today's software applications and the Internet."

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Screen Reader

A screen reader is defined as a software application that attempts to identify and interpret what is being displayed on a computer screen. This interpretation is then re-presented to the user with text-to-speech, sound icons, or a Braille output device. Screen readers are a form of assistive technology (AT) potentially useful to people who are blind, visually impaired, illiterate or learning disabled, often in combination with other AT, such as screen magnifiers. Computer screen readers read out loud the content that is on the computer screen. Screen readers enable access to a computer and all the things it does when magnification no longer helps or when you might experience visual fatigue if you have to read large amounts of on-screen text.

Main Document

A screen reader is a software application that attempts to identify and interpret what is being displayed on the computer screen.

This interpretation is then represented to the user with text-to-speech, sound icons, or a braille output. Screen readers are a form of assistive technology (AT) potentially useful to people who are blind, visually impaired, or learning disabled, often in combination with other AT such as screen magnifiers.

Some programs speak or make other sounds so that they can be used by blind people or people who cannot see the screen. These programs are termed self-voicing and can be a form of assistive technology if they are designed to remove the need to use a screen reader.

Not only do screen readers differ widely from each other, but most are highly configurable. For example, most screen readers allow the user to select whether most punctuation is announced or silently ignored. Some screen readers can be tailored to a particular application through scripting. One advantage of scripting is that it allows customizations to be shared among users, increasing accessibility for all. JAWS enjoys an active script-sharing community, for example.

Microsoft Windows operating systems have included the Microsoft Narrator light-duty screen reader since Windows 2000.

Apple Inc. Mac OS X includes VoiceOver, a feature-rich screen reader. (List of VoiceOver Apps)

The console-based Oralux Linux distribution ships with three console screen-reading environments:

  • Emacspeak
  • Yasr
  • Speakup

BlackBerry 10 devices such as the BlackBerry Z30 include a built-in screen reader. There is also a free screen reader application for older less powerful BlackBerry (BBOS7 & earlier) devices.

The most widely used screen readers are separate commercial products:

  • JAWS from Freedom Scientific
  • Window-Eyes from GW Micro
  • Dolphin Supernova by Dolphin
  • System Access from Serotek
  • ZoomText Magnifier/Reader from AiSquared
  • The opensource screen reader NVDA is gaining popularity.
Screen readers that are free and/or offer a free trial period and can be purchased online.
Screen readerCreatorPlatformLicenseInformation
95ReaderSSCTWindowsCommercialJapanese screen reader
BRLTTYThe BRLTTY Team*nix and Windows consoleFree and open source (GPL2)Available to download; part of most Linux distributions. (mielke.cc/brltty/) is a background process (daemon) which provides access to the Linux/Unix console (when in text mode) for a blind person using a refreshable braille display. It drives the braille display, and provides complete screen review functionality. Some speech capability has also been incorporated.
BrowseAloudTexthelp Systems IncWindows and MacFree for Users, Commercial
Capture AssistantRenovation SoftwareWindowsCommercialMultilanguage screen reader
ChromeVoxGoogleChromeOS or, with a speech processor, Linux, Mac, WindowsFreeChromeVox is a screen reader for Chrome and Chrome OS.
MicrosurfMicrosurfMac, WindowsFreeMicrosurf is a screen reader for Chrome.
ClaroRead & ScreenRuler SuiteClaro SoftwareWindows and Mac
CommercialClaroRead is a flexible software program that helps you read, write, and study. You can read any on-screen text out loud and also improve your writing in Microsoft Word. ClaroRead Plus and Pro also lets you read aloud scanned paper books and documents. ClaroRead 7 has now been released with 80 high-quality text-to-speech voices in 30 languages. ClaroRead 7 also has a version for Mac computers.
ClickHeargh LLCWindows and MacCommercialText-to-speech. Three voice options. Variable text and highlighting color options. Translates to several different languages: Spanish, French and German. Configuration settings saved per user
ClickHear Mobilegh LLCWindows and MacCommercialNo software installation required. Text-to-speech. Three voice options. Variable text and highlighting color options. Translates to several different languages: Spanish, French and German. Configuration settings saved per user
ClipSpeak (last updated: 2009)Daniel Innala AhlmarkWindowsFreewareA lightweight text-to-speech tool with a minimal user interface that speaks text copied to the clipboard.
COBRABAUM RetecWindowsCommercialSupports Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) and the Java Access Bridge.
Digital FutureDigital FutureWindowsCommercialDigital Future specializes in developing human voice computer synthesis software (text-to-speech software). Providing exceptional voice quality through their partners from AT&T and NeoSpeech (a VoiceWare subsidiary). TextSpeech Pro, has proven that the unique technological principals and wide features of the voice synthesis system provided are highly valued and unique.
EdbrowseKarl Dahlke*nix consoleFree and open sourceMakes a complete audio desktop, including web access with JavaScript support. (www.eklhad.net/linux/app/) Free and open source. Makes a complete audio desktop, including web access with JavaScript support. This program is a re-implementation of ed, with browse capabilities built in. You can edit a local file or a remote html document. If you have retrieved an html file, the new command `b' browses the document, rendering all the html tags in a blind-friendly manner. Since it is a combined editor browser, it is called edbrowse.
EmacspeakT. V. RamanEmacs (on *nix)Free and open sourceTurns Emacs into a "complete audio desktop". (code.google.com/p/emacspeak/) is a speech interface that allows visually impaired users to interact independently and efficiently with the computer. Emacspeak speech-enables local and remote information via a consistent and well-integrated user interface. Available free of cost, Emacspeak has dramatically changed how the author and hundreds of blind and visually impaired users around the world interact with the personal computer and the Internet by providing efficient speech-enabled access to the audio desktop. Emacspeak/Linux provides a reliable, stable speech-friendly solution that opens up the Internet to visually impaired users around the world.
Fire VoxCharles L. ChenUnix, Linux, Windows, OS XFree and open sourceFor browsing with Firefox only (plugin)
HALDolphin Computer AccessWindowsCommercialSupports MSAA, the Java Access Bridge, and PDF. (www.yourdolphin.com/productdetail.aspid=5) Hal has been developed for blind computer users, at home, at work and in education. Hal is a software screen reader that works by reading the screen interactively and communicating through a speech synthesiser or a refreshable Braille display. Hal talks as you type, announcing words or characters so you can check what you write. Read image labels, font styles, Windows menus and icons for easy navigation. 30 day Free Trial available for download.
HT ReaderHT VisualWindowsCommercialIncludes support for MSAA and PDF. (www.ht-visual.cz/cmsen/) is a screenreader for Windows XP. Using the speech synthesis or the Braille terminal, the application helps visually impaired user access the computer. Features include speech synthesis and Braille terminal support Optional reading of element attributes (type and order of attributes), Access to Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Word, Excel, Skype, Access to PDF files and two reading modes - normal mode, screen mode.
iZoomIssistWindowsCommercialScreen magnifier with low-vision speech capabilities. Includes support for Mozilla Firefox. (www.issist1.com) is the world's first truly mobile solution for visually impaired users. It works on any Windows 2000/XP/Vista based machine, regardless of administrative privileges. iZoom Web is the only magnifier in the world which works directly from a website.
JAWSFreedom ScientificWindows and DOSCommercial for Windows; freeware for DOSIncludes support for MSAA, the Java Access Bridge, and PDF. (www.freedomscientific.com/products/fs/jaws-product-page.asp) The most popular screen reader worldwide, JAWS for Windows works with your PC to provide access to today's software applications and the Internet. With its internal software speech synthesizer and the computer's sound card, information from the screen is read aloud, providing technology to access a wide variety of information, education and job related applications. JAWS also outputs to refreshable braille displays.
Kurzweil 3000-firefly and Kurzweil 1000Cambium Learning Group Inc.Windows and Mac OS, iPadCommercialText to speech which incorporates easy note taking and writing tools to support outline to editing. Supports Daisy, NIMAS, PDF, MathML, HTML and TXT. (www.kurzweiledu.com/default.html) Kurzweil is a text to speech reading, writing and learning software for special education students and adult learners with Learning Disabilities, Vision Impaired and English Language Learners (ELL). It is highly effective for the classroom, in a business environment or for individual use at home.
Leitor de TelasMC / CPqDWindowsFreeBrazilian Portuguese screen reader. MSAA support.
LingspeakLingitWindowsCommercialA visual screen reader, which highlights the object and text being read. Supports MSAA, Java Access Bridge (OpenOffice), per line reading from Win32 classes "Edit"(Notepad) and "RichEdit"(Wordpad), MS Word. UIA and IAccessible2 is being worked on. One-month trial version available.
LookOUTChoice TechnologyWindowsCommercialAlso available integrated with a screen magnifier. Will give a voice to your computer. You will hear what you type and listen to everything that appears on your screen. If you see a little, it will save you having to strain and look all the time. If you can't see at all, you can still enjoy the computer. You can also alter the way the voice behaves and sounds.
MAGicFreedom ScientificWindowsCommercialSpeech magnifier with low-vision speech capabilities. It can be used together with JAWS.
Microsoft NarratorMicrosoftWindowsCommercialBundled with recent versions of Windows, this basic screen reader makes use of MSAA. (www.microsoft.com/enable/training/windowsxp/usingnarrator.aspx) is a text-to-speech utility for people who are blind or have low vision. Narrator reads what is displayed on the screen" the contents of the active window, menu options, or text that has been typed. Narrator is designed to work with Notepad, WordPad, Control Panel programs, Internet Explorer, the Windows desktop, and some parts of Windows Setup. Narrator may not read words aloud correctly in other programs.
Mobile SpeakCode FactoryWindows MobileCommercialFull-fledged screen readers and Braille interfaces that let you access your mobile phone. One-month trial version available.
Model T ReaderDolphin Computer AccessDOSFreeware
Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA)NonVisual Desktop Access projectWindowsFree and open source (GPL2)Programmed and scriptable in Python. Supports Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Word, Excel and Outlook Express, and Mozilla Thunderbird. Supports web content using JavaScript. Supports Java Access Bridge. IAccessible2 is supported. (www.nvda-project.org) is a free and open source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows Operating System. This software can enable blind or vision impaired people to access computers running Windows.
OrcaGNOME*nixFree and open sourceThe development of Orca was started by Sun Microsystems as part of the GNOME project with contributions from many community members, but since Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010, Orca turned into a completely community-driven project. It supports AT-SPI, so it works with the GNOME desktop, Mozilla Firefox/Thunderbird, OpenOffice/LibreOffice and GTK+, KDE/Qt and Java Swing/SWT applications. Though it is developed by the GNOME project, it is the most popular screen reader for Unix like systems with graphical environments other than GNOME, like KDE or Unity. (live.gnome.org/Orca) is a free, open source, flexible, extensible, and powerful assistive technology for people with visual impairments. Using various combinations of speech synthesis, braille, and magnification, Orca helps provide access to applications and toolkits that support the AT-SPI (e.g., the GNOME desktop). The development of Orca has been led by the Accessibility Program Office of Sun Microsystems, Inc. with contributions from many community members.
PC-TalkerKochi System DevelopmentWindowsCommercialJapanese screen reader. Supports MSAA and Flash
PCVozEzHermaticWindowsCommercialAvailable to buy or download trial. Supports MSAA.
Project metalmouthAlistair GarrisonChromeOS, or via Chrome Browser, Linux, Mac, WindowsFree open source (Apache 2.0)Project metalmouth is developing a free fully functioned open source voice browser as an installable extension for Chrome. The ambition is to give Chrome users the best possible experience when interacting with a spoken web - by voice commands or using the keyboard.
ProloquoAssistiveWareMac OS XCommercialIncludes a license for Infovox iVox. 15 days trials.
ReadHeargh LLCWindows and MacCommercialSupport for NIMAS 1.1 and DAISY/NISO 2005. Support for MathML-enabled NIMAS and Digital Talking Books. Additional navigation for escapable and skippable text. Easier book import. New navigation pane. SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) support. Roaming activation for greater portability. Concurrent licensing for institutions. Optimized for large books. Page-by-page display. Improved support for books on CD. Revised keyboard shortcuts and support for multi-media keys. New AT hardware support. Continuous playback without focus. Automatic update checking. Save As DAISY compatibility.
Read OutloudDon Johnston Inc.Windows and Mac OSCommercialIncorporates reading guide for easy note taking and outline construction. Supports Daisy, NIMAS, PDF, RTF, HTML and TXT.
ReadSpeakerReadSpeaker Holding B.V.Web-basedFree for Users, CommercialAvailable in 35 languages and 90 voices. Device-independent and no downloads required by end-user. Synchronized highlighting of the text being read. The new version of ReadSpeaker docReader enables online content owners to provide their end users with a highly accessible, plugin-free document viewer that can display all types of documents. The web-based docReader offers highly scalable usage levels for content owners wishing to make their online documents available to users.
Read & WriteTexthelp SystemsWindows and Mac OSCommercialSupport toolbar designed to assist users who require extra assistance when reading or composing text.
Recite MeRecite Me LtdWeb-basedCommercialRecite is an online software as a service system that acts as a translation layer between the user and the website.
Screen Access for AllNational Association for the Blind, New DelhiWindowsOpen sourceLast update: 2004
Simply TalkerEcoNet InternationalWindowsCommercialAn inexpensive screen reader for Windows 95, Windows 98, WindowsMe Millennium, Windows NT4(SP6), Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Simply Talker 98/2000 provides ample support for Windows. It works with applications that comply with the Active Accessibility standard and has a built-in software based text to speech engine (you can also use your existing synthesizer if it supports the SSIL, SAM or SAPI interfaces). Trial download available.
SodelsCotSodels FactoryWindowsCommercialSpanish screen reader. Converts copied or typed text to speech in any Windows program. Includes voices in Spanish and can use others compatible with SAPI5. It can create wav and mp3 files.
Speak-Easy Media SystemNDUWindowsCommercialSpecialized suite of vocalized programs designed for ease of use
Spoken WebEyal ShalomAll Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, iPods, Windows, Andoid etc..FreeSpoken-Web is a web portal, managing a wide range of online articles and content like Wikipedia articles, news updates, weather, travel and business articles. (www.spoken-web.com ) Users of IE can take advantage of this helpful text to speech tool.
SUSE-BlinuxNovellLinuxFree and open source
SupernovaDolphin Computer AccessWindowsCommercialIncludes a screen magnifier and output to Braille devices. 30 day Free Trial available for download. Supports MSAA, the Java Access Bridge, and PDF.
System AccessSerotekWindowsCommercialSystem Access (serotek.com) delivers full access to any computer running the Windows XP or later operating system. You get all the functionality of traditional screen readers. SA is intuitive and easy to use. With just a few basic commands you can use popular applications such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook (including the calendar function), Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Adobe Reader (including forms filling), Skype, and many more - the tools you need for your job, your lifestyle, and for interactive social networking. The System Access license includes two computers. Trial download available. Supports Microsoft Internet Explorer (including DHTML/Ajax and Flash), Outlook Express, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Skype, and Adobe Reader. No support for Java yet.
TalkBackGoogleAndroid 1.6+OpensourceUse with SoundBack and kickback
TalkButtonUpward Spiral SoftwareMacCommercialTalkButton works together with Microsoft Word to create an extensive text-to-speech environment. Features include highlighting of spoken text and keyboard echo. Trial version available.
TalksNuance CommunicationsSymbian OS Series 60 or 80CommercialPresentation and free Trial Version to be found on the site.
TeleTenderTeleTender.orgAll Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, iPods, Windows, Andoid etc.FreeTeleTender is a voice communication platform for sight impaired people, embedded with a cloud based screen reader. Users can interact with any web pages on the internet by issuing voice commands over the phone. To use it, just dial one of its access numbers.
TextAloudTextAloudAll Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, iPods, Windows, Andoid etc.Free/commercial(www.nextup.com/TextAloud/index.html) reads text from email, web pages, reports and more, aloud on your PC. TextAloud can also save your daily reading to MP3 or Windows Media files ready for playback on your iPod, PocketPC, or even on your TV with Tivo's Home Media Option. You can download a free trial version of TextAloud. It does not include the optional premium voices, but is a fully functional version of TextAloud that you can evaluate for 15 days with no obligation.
Text to SpeechSpeakComputers.comWindowsFreeware
  • A free program that converts written text into spoken words or even written text into MP3 files.
  • Seven programs: Text to speech: Reader, Web browser, Mini Clipboard reader, Image Presentation, Appointment Reminder, Speaking Clock, Parental Controls
Thunder ScreenReaderSensory SoftwareWindowsFreewareSupports MSAA.
Virtual VisionMicroPowerWindowsCommercialBrazilian screen reader. Supports MSAA.
VoiceOverApple Inc.Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, iPods, and Apple TVFree, CommercialFree and included with any Apple product. No installation or setup required. Available in over 30 language voices, which are also included for free. An accessibility interface that offers you magnification options, keyboard control and spoken English descriptions of what's happening on screen. VoiceOver reads aloud the contents of files including web pages, Mail messages and word processing files, provides a comprehensive audible description of your workspace and includes a rich set of keyboard commands that allow you to navigate the Mac OS X interface and interact with application and system controls. See Apple Accessibility for more information.
WebAnywhereUniversity of WashingtonWebFree and Open Source (new BSD)Doesn't require any software installation to run so can be used at any public terminal that has sound available - works on any platform.
WinZoomClarityWindowsCommercialScreen reader with magnifier. USB version does not require any installation and can be used on any public computer.
Window-EyesGW MicroWindowsCommercialAvailable to buy or download 30-minutes per Windows session demo. Supports MSAA. (www.gwmicro.com/Window-Eyes/) gives total control over what you hear and how you hear it. Plus, with its enhanced Braille support that control is extended to what you feel as well. On top of all that, the power and stability of Window-Eyes means that most applications work right out of the box with no need for endless tinkering in order to get them to function properly.
ZoomTextAi SquaredWindowsCommercialIncludes a screen magnifier. (www.aisquared.com) seeing and hearing everything on your computer screen is clearer than ever. ZoomText's xFont magnification displays high-definition text that you'll recognize effortlessly. With NeoSpeech synthesizers, your applications and documents are read aloud by friendly, human-sounding voices - right through your computer's speakers. And with ZoomText's productivity tools, finding what you're looking for is quick and easy. Trial download available.
Historical interest
Screen readerCreatorPlatformLicenseInformation
ASAP (Automatic Screen Access Program)MicroTalkDosCommercial
ASAW (Automatic Screen Access for Windows)MicroTalkWindowsCommercial
BlindowsBAUM Retec (formerly Audiodata)WindowsCommercialSubstituted by COBRA
DRACULA familyEurobrailleWindowsCommercial
Enable Reader Professional Speech SystemEnable Talking SoftwareDOSUncertain
Enhanced PC Talking ProgramComputer ConversationsDOSUncertain
GnopernicusGNOME*nixFree and open source (LGPL 2)It was developed by BAUM Engineering, a partner company of Baum Retec AG. Used to be bundled with GNOME, but it was replaced by Orca in GNOME 2.16. Included a screen magnifier. It supported AT-SPI.
Linux Screen Reader (LSR)GNOME*nixFree and open source (New BSD License)It was an alternative screen reader to Orca lead by IBM started in 2006. However, it was ceased in 2007 when IBM focused their resources in other projects. It supported AT-SPI.
Pocket HalDolphin Computer AccessWindows Mobile PDA and PDA PhonesCommercial
PROVOXKansys, Inc.DOSUncertain
Screen ReaderResearch Center for the Education of the Visually Handicapped (RCEVH)BBC Micro and NEC portable
Screen Reader/2IBMOS/2Commercial
Smart HalDolphin Computer AccessWindows Mobile and WM SmartphoneCommercial
Soft VertTeleSensory SystemsDOSCommercial
TinytalkOMS DevelopmentDOS and perhaps WindowsShareware
VirgoBAUM Retec AGWindowsCommercialSubstituted by COBRA.
Window BridgeSyntha-voice Computers (now out of business)WindowsCommercial
WinVisionArtic TechnologiesWindowsCommercialNot officially discontinued, but there has been no further release since 1997.
Unfinished Screenreader Projects
Screen readerCreatorPlatformLicenseInformation
ScreenfulScreenful TeamWindowsOpen sourceConcept is done. Due to problems finding skilled developers, the project is idling
The Longhorn Screen Reader ProjectOSSRP TeamWindows VistaOpen sourceConcept ideas have been made. Latest news said that the project had not succeeded. Whether or not they will continue or let it die is not known at the moment.
Apple Pie ProjectSimnix SoftwareWindows Phone 7 & 8Open source https://applepie.codeplex.comTo help blind and partially sighted people to use a Windows Phone.

Facts: Online Document Accessibility

  • In Australia the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), takes the official position that posting a document online only as a PDF is inaccessible, hence a violation of the Disability Discrimination Act.
  • The WCAG sets the standards for web content to insure that it is accessible to people with disabilities. This set of guidelines is directed towards web content developers.
  • An accessible online document has an established reading order, as well as visual elements that are tagged with alternative text descriptions.
  • To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), documents posted online, including, but not limited to, Adobe PDF files, Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, and online flipbooks, must be screen-reader friendly.
  • A properly built web site is, by default, screen reader and, as such, also search engine friendly.

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Discussion & Questions:

To discuss this information with others Click Here. If you want to ask a specific question you can do so in our Disability Q&A Community.

Further Information:

Assistive Computer Devices & Software - Reviews of assistive computer devices including mobile handheld and PC software aids for persons with disability. For our full list of Computer Devices and Software fact sheets Click Here.

TextAloud Outperforms Traditional Screen Readers for Blind Welsh Educator - TextAloud - (2009-06-11)
http://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/visual/textaloud-screen-readers.php

WebbIE - A Web Browser for Blind and Visually-Impaired People - Thomas C. Weiss - (2009-10-02)
http://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/computer/webbie-browser.php

infovox3 Portable Talking Companion for Visually Impaired Users - Acapela Group - (2010-10-27)
http://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/computer/infovox3.php

Accessible ReadSpeaker docReader - Online Document Viewer of Choice - ReadSpeaker - (Apr 10, 2014)
http://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/computer/readspeaker.php

Accessible ReadSpeaker docReader - Online Document Viewer of Choice - ReadSpeaker - (2014-04-10)
http://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/computer/readspeaker.php

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