It’s hard to imagine being without computers, laptops, and mobile devices these days. This is especially true for people who require the use of assistive technology to utilize these modern technologies, due to living with a sight-related disability or being blind. Assistive technology, or AT, is defined as anything that assists a person with a disability in accessing a device or printed material.
Screen readers are designed to communicate information from a computer, laptop, or mobile device by reading the text using a synthetic voice in place of a user reading it with their eyes. A screen reader enables a user to navigate around their computer using the screen reader software program such as JAWS (Job Access with Speech). For example, a screen reader can provide the following information to a user:
- Which web page or file is currently open,
- Whether a link has already been clicked on/visited, and
- Whether text is underlined or bolded.
Screen readers can also be used by those who are both deaf and blind. In this case, the text on the screen can be converted into Braille characters as it is displayed on a refreshable Braille display device.
View a video on how screen readers work.
A screen magnifier is designed for people with low vision. It magnifies everything on a computer, laptop, or mobile device screen. This results in only part of the original screen image being visible. Screen magnifiers can follow a mouse pointer or cursor on a computer or a finger on a touch screen device. A screen magnifier can also be used as an addition or alternative to a larger screen monitor or enlarged font. Screen magnifiers commonly include the following features:
- Ability to change screen colors,
- Option to enhance mouse pointers or cursors, and
- Basic screen reading functions.
Screen Magnification Software
For people requiring a more comprehensive screen magnifier, there are full-featured software programs that come with many options and can reach high levels of magnification. Screen magnification programs are designed to work like a magnifying glass moving over a page. Programs can automatically follow the cursor, magnifying the area around it. It is common to be able to automatically move across and down a magnified page at a preset speed. Full-featured screen magnification software such as ZoomText can magnify all screen items, including the mouse pointer, text cursor, icons, buttons, and title bars.
Braille displays communicate what is on a computer screen to users who put their hand on a strip and feel with their fingers as mechanical pins pop up and down. Today’s Braille displays have advanced in that they allow users to do word processing, get on the internet wirelessly or through Bluetooth, and connect to a smart phone to get texts.
View WeCo staff demonstrate using braille display and screen reader magnification.
Want to learn more about accessibility? WeCo has a variety of free public and paid single-seat trainings available. Some examples of the training we offer:
- Getting Started in Accessibility
- Make Your Business Case for Accessibility (Webinar)
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Jump Start
For a complete list of WeCo’s training events, visit our Events & Training page.
Further reading from WeCo’s Accessibility Blog about sight-related disabilities:
“Access for All” ADA Visit: My Screen Reader Assistive Technology Demonstration
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