This post was co-authored by Ashley Willcox and Olivia Rajit.

New to screen readers and keen to learn more? Join us for the upcoming Tooltime: Screen readers in action on 19 April, and learn why you need to make your content screen reader compatible, and accessible for all students. This session will focus on two of the most popular screen readers, Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) and Read and Write. Using these programs, we’ll show you how screen readers work and some accessibility simple steps to follow when creating content.  

What are screen readers? 

Screen readers are a type of assistive technology that convey visual content and navigation in a non-visual way, for example via text-to-speech. They are often used by students who are blind or have low-vision, but are beneficial for a wide range of learners who may have other disabilities or health conditions. There are many students and staff in the UTS community who use some form of screen reader – this is why it’s important for all of us to learn how our content can be made compatible with screen readers.  

Examples of screen readers 

Screen readers can be installed on a computer or mobile device. Both Macs and PCs have their own inbuilt operating systems too. These are some of the most commonly used screen readers:  

  • JAWS (Job Access with Speech) provides speech and Braille output.   
  • NVDA (Nonvisual Desktop Access) screen reader is compatible with the Windows operating system and many third-party applications.    
  • VoiceOver is an Apple Mac feature that describes content being viewed on the device.    
  • Spoken Content on Apple Mac helps convert text to speech. It also reads alternative text out for images.   
  • Read and Write has read aloud functionality and can be used on websites and Microsoft products. It’s available to all UTS students.   
  • Narrator is a screen-reading app that’s built into Windows 10 & 11. 
  • Immersive Reader has the Read Aloud tool that converts text to speech.   

Screen reader users are diverse 

Screen readers help students access learning material and complete tasks. They reduce the cognitive load and enable increased students to be more independent in their studies.   

And while screen readers are very important for many people who are blind or have low vision, they are also used by people who have conditions that affect concentration and cognitive processing, including people who are neurodiverse, have dyslexia, ADHD and people who have long COVID. Text to speech functions can also be helpful for people who are not studying in their native language. Ultimately, screen readers are an incredibly important resource for many students when it comes to reading and understanding digital content – which is why you should come join our next Tooltime.  

Register for Tooltime

Want to know how a screen reader reads an online page or document?  Join us in person or online to discover more about how NVDA and Read & Write interact with your teaching materials. You can register using the link below.

Feature image by rawpixel.

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