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What is a screen reader and what does it do?
In simplest terms a “screen reader” is a program that reads (speaks) electronic content out loud to users. It helps them understand and interact with content on their computer—web pages, digital documents, eBooks, etc. The following is a short video showing how a screen reader works:
There are a large number of available screen readers on the market, ranging from cost-based to opensource, and individual user preferences vary. According to the most recent WebAim screen reader user survey this also includes numerous, unique combinations of screen readers and browsers.
With all this variation it’s important to keep in mind that the function of a screen reader is dependent on the platform and the content it interacts with. By following best practices for universal accessibility when creating electronic materials, your content can be accessible to screen reader users. Guidance for best practice can be found within the Accessibility Network and from the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
More Screen Reader Information
If you would like to see someone demonstrate a screen reader, here are a few videos you might like to view:
Some of the most common screen readers in use as reported by WebAim are:
- JAWS (VFO – Freedom Scientific)
- ZoomText (VFO – Ai Squared)
- Windows-Eyes (VF0 – Ai Squared - discontinued US and Canada)
- NVDA (open source)
- VoiceOver (Apple)
Written for the Accessibility Network by an Accessibility Resources Assistive Technology Specialist.