Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer. A screen reader is the interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. The user sends commands by pressing different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard to instruct the speech synthesizer what to say and to speak automatically when changes occur on the computer screen.
Automation Tools for Accessibility Testing
|Screen reader||Creator||Supported platforms||License||Notes|
|95Reader||SSCT||Windows||Commercial||Japanese screen reader|
|BRLTTY||The BRLTTY Team||*nix and Windows console||Free and open source (GPL2)||Available to download; part of most Linux distributions|
|BrowseAloud||Texthelp Systems Inc||Windows and Mac||Free for Users, Commercial|
|Capture Assistant||Renovation Software||Windows||Commercial||Multilanguage screen reader|
|ChromeVox||ChromeOS or, with a speech processor, Linux, Mac, Windows||Free||ChromeVox is a screen reader for Chrome and Chrome OS.|
|Microsurf||Microsurf||Mac, Windows||Free||Microsurf is a screen reader for Chrome.|
|Claro ScreenRuler Suite||Claro Software||Windows||Commercial||Provides a “strip” or “ruler” across the screen.|
|ClickHear||gh LLC||Windows and Mac||Commercial||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|
|ClickHear Mobile||gh LLC||Windows and Mac||Commercial||No 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 update: 2009)||Daniel Innala Ahlmark||Windows||Freeware||A lightweight text-to-speech tool with a minimal user interface that speaks text copied to the clipboard.|
|COBRA||BAUM Retec||Windows||Commercial||Supports Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) and the Java Access Bridge.|
|Emacspeak||T. V. Raman||Emacs (on *nix)||Free and open source||Turns Emacs into a “complete audio desktop”.|
|Fire Vox||Charles L. Chen||Unix, Linux, Windows, OS X||Free and open source||For browsing with Firefox only (plugin)|
|HAL||Dolphin Computer Access||Windows||Commercial||Supports MSAA, the Java Access Bridge, and PDF. 30 day Free Trial available for download.|
|HT Reader||HT Visual||Windows||Commercial||Includes support for MSAA and PDF.|
|iZoom||Issist||Windows||Commercial||Screen magnifier with low-vision speech capabilities. Includes support for Mozilla Firefox.|
|JAWS||Freedom Scientific||Windows and DOS||Commercial for Windows; freeware for DOS||Includes support for MSAA, the Java Access Bridge, and PDF.|
|Kurzweil 3000-firefly and Kurzweil 1000||Cambium Learning Group Inc.||Windows and Mac OS, iPad||Commercial||Text to speech which incorporates easy note taking and writing tools to support outline to editing. Supports Daisy, NIMAS, PDF, MathML, HTML and TXT.|
|Leitor de Telas||MC / CPqD||Windows||Free||Brazilian Portuguese screen reader. MSAA support.|
|Lingspeak||Lingit||Windows||Commercial||A 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.|
|LookOUT||Choice Technology||Windows||Commercial||Also available integrated with a screen magnifier.|
|MAGic||Freedom Scientific||Windows||Commercial||Speech magnifier with low-vision speech capabilities. It can be used together with JAWS.|
|Microsoft Narrator||Microsoft||Windows||Commercial||Bundled with recent versions of Windows, this basic screen reader makes use of MSAA.|
|Mobile Speak||Code Factory||Symbian OS, Windows Mobile||Commercial||Full-fledged screen readers and Braille interfaces that let you access your mobile phone. One-month trial version available.|
|Model T Reader||Dolphin Computer Access||DOS||Freeware|
|Orca||GNOME||*nix||Free and open source ( LGPL 2.1)||The 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.|
|PC-Talker||Kochi System Development||Windows||Commercial||Japanese screen reader. Supports MSAA and Flash|
|PCVoz||EzHermatic||Windows||Commercial||Available to buy or download trial. Supports MSAA.|
|Project metalmouth||Alistair Garrison||ChromeOS, or via Chrome Browser, Linux, Mac, Windows||Free 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.|
|Proloquo||AssistiveWare||Mac OS X||Commercial||Includes a license for Infovox iVox. 15 days trials.|
|ReadHear||gh LLC||Windows and Mac||Commercial||Support 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:Outloud||Don Johnston Inc.||Windows and Mac OS||Commercial||Incorporates reading guide for easy note taking and outline construction. Supports Daisy, NIMAS, PDF, RTF, HTML and TXT.|
|ReadSpeaker||ReadSpeaker Holding B.V.||Web-based||Free for Users, Commercial||Available in 35 languages and 90 voices. Device-independent and no downloads required by end-user. Synchronized highlighting of the text being read.|
|Read & Write||Texthelp Systems||Windows and Mac OS||Commercial||Support toolbar designed to assist users who require extra assistance when reading or composing text.|
|Recite Me||Recite Me Ltd||Web-based||Commercial||Recite is an online software as a service system that acts as a translation layer between the user and the website.|
|Simply Talker||EcoNet International||Windows||Commercial||Trial download available.|
|SodelsCot||Sodels Factory||Windows||Commercial||Spanish 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.|
|SpeakEasy Media System||NDU||Windows||Commercial||Specialized suite of vocalized programs designed for ease of use|
|Spoken Web||Eyal Shalom||All Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, iPods, Windows, Andoid etc..||Free||Spoken-Web is a web portal, managing a wide range of online articles and content like Wikipedia articles, news updates, weather, travel and business articles.|
|SUSE-Blinux||Novell||Linux||Free and open source|
|Supernova||Dolphin Computer Access||Windows||Commercial||Includes a screen magnifier and output to Braille devices. 30 day Free Trial available for download. Supports MSAA, the Java Access Bridge, and PDF.|
|System Access||Serotek||Windows||Commercial||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.|
|TalkBack||Android 1.6+||Opensource||Use with SoundBack and kickback|
|TalkButton||Upward Spiral Software||Mac||Commercial||TalkButton 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.|
|Talks||Nuance Communications||Symbian OS Series 60 or 80||Commercial||Presentation and free Trial Version to be found on the site.|
|Text to Speech||SpeakComputers.com||Windows||Freeware||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 ScreenReader||Sensory Software||Windows||Freeware||Supports MSAA.|
|Virtual Vision||MicroPower||Windows||Commercial||Brazilian screen reader. Supports MSAA.|
|VoiceOver||Apple Inc.||Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, iPods, and Apple TV||Free, Commercial||Free and included with any Apple product. No installation or setup required. Available in over 30 language voices, which are also included for free. See Apple Accessibility  for more information.|
|WebAnywhere||University of Washington||Web||Free 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.|
|WinZoom||Clarity||Windows||Commercial||Screen reader with magnifier. USB version does not require any installation and can be used on any public computer.|
|Window-Eyes||GW Micro||Windows||Commercial||Available to buy or download 30-minutes per Windows session demo. Supports MSAA.|
|Screen Access for All||National Association for the Blind, New Delhi||Windows||Open source||Last update: 2004|
|ZoomText||Ai Squared||Windows||Commercial||Includes a screen magnifier. Trial download available.|
|Screen reader||Creator||Supported platforms||License||Notes|
Forums and Mailing lists
The following forums and mailing lists deal exclusively with accessibility and usability issues.
- Accessify Forum: This forum is open to peruse and to find answers to your accessibility questions, and it’s part of the Accessify site listed previously under “Accessibility Sites” above. You must register if you want to join in on the discussions or to ask a question.
- Assistive Technology and Accessibility Discussions: This thread on the Ubuntu forums focuses on software that enables or helps people with various disabilities or impairments (mobility, visual, hearing, cognitive, etc.) to use the computer. You must register to join in on the discussions.
- Game Accessibility Forum: This forum tackles issues that surround various disabilities and gaming on the Internet. You must register to participate. This forum is part of the Game Accessibility project, a research project that focuses on the accessibility of electronic games for gamers with disabilities.
- Usability and Accessibility: Cre8asiteForums provides a new thread about usability and accessibility that seems very active. Register to participate in this thread and many others at this site.
- Viewable with Any Browser Forums: This forum is dedicated to Web site design and accessibility, two issues that are inseparable for this group (site listed above in “Accessibility Sites”). While the forum doesn’t seem large, click on a link to view the dozens of threads about Web development issues.
- WAI IG Mailing List: This list is connected to the WAI site listed under “Accessibility Sites” above. Participation in WAI IG is by self-subscription. Searchable archives are open to public viewing.
- Web Accessibility E-mail Discussion List: This list is connected to the WebAim site listed under “Accessibility Sites” above. This mailing list is for anyone interested in discussing Web accessibility issues. Individuals from all organizations and specialties are encouraged to join. Use the form provided on that linked page to join. This list also maintains searchable archives that are open to public view.