Screen Readers

AssistiveWare recently announced the release of its latest Mac OS X application, Wrise. It will be formally introduced this week at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in Orlando, Florida. Wrise is AssistiveWare’s newest addition to its portfolio of assistive technology solutions. The word processor for Mac makes reading and writing accessible for everyone.

Wrise is designed to support reading comprehension and facilitate text composition, which can also be beneficial to people who have dyslexia. Key features include:

  • Text to Speech
  • Word and sentence highlighting
  • Zoom and EasyReading mode
  • Speak as you Type
  • Word prediction and speech tags

Wrise can be used to read selected text out loud in any Mac application. Additionally, it can import several document types, which include:

  • PDF
  • Word (doc/docx)
  • Plain texts
  • RTF

Wrise works with Text to Speech voices in a variety of languages. However, the user interface is currently only available in English. The word processor is available at the Mac App Store. Currently it is offered at an introductory price of $29.99, which will go up to $59.99 on February 15th

Read more about Wrise and download the free trial.

A new version of Ai Squared’s popular screen reader used by people who are blind or have low vision, Window-Eyes 9, was just released.

Window-Eyes 9 has many advancement over its previous version. Key enhancement include:

  • All new web-reading improvements that make browsing easier, more descriptive and more accurate including better support for Internet Explorer, Firefox, dynamic web pages, ARIA and HTML 5 for first-class access to websites.
  • New smart algorithms ensure accurate screen reading. Some examples include new, best-in-class web-table reading capability, including column-formatted web pages and math equations in Microsoft Word.
  • Improved ease-of-use and convenience features, including an auto-recovery tool, WYSIWYH (what-you see-is-what-you-hear) capability, and new tools for text selection, copying, and formatting.
  • Wider support of third party software programs such as Microsoft Office Online, Office 365 ProPlus and Outlook, QuickBooks for Windows, Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Charts. Window-Eyes 9 even has preliminary support for Windows 10.

More information or to order

Several new accessibility improvements to Microsoft’s Office Online have been rolled out. The improvements give users who are blind or have low vision a better experience. Microsoft has improved the way screen readers interact with Office Online through the use of the WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative – Accessible Rich Internet Applications) web accessibility standard.

Microsoft has made other improvements over the past year as well. The following OfficeGarage videos demonstrate some of the improvements:

Capti Narrator v1.0 for Mac and Window was recently released and now works with the Firefox browser. Capti is a tool for listening to digital content such as:

  • News
  • Blogs
  • DRM-free e-books
  • Web documents
  • Bookshare
  • Gutenberg Books
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • OneDrive
  •  Pocket
  • Instapaper

“Capti is a productivity tool for people who want to do more with their time. It is useful for professionals who need to keep up with their reading and for students who have tons of reading assignments.” – said Dr. Borodin. Capti for Desktop enables students to relax their eyes and listen to their homework reading assignments, or improve their comprehension by listening and reading along with Capti, as it highlights the text it reads. While Capti itself is free, it offers a premium subscription service for only $1.99 per month that enables illustrations in books, as well as a full text search in the Playlist. What is more, Capti has an option of synchronizing Playlist, enabling users to switch seamlessly from one device to another and continue listening from where they left off.

Currently Capti can be downloaded for free but they will soon offer organizational licensed, bundling premium features at a deep discount for school and disability support centers, which will open up opportunities for resellers.


GoodReader, the world's top-selling PDF reader and file management app for iPhone and iPad, has added VoiceOver compatibility in its just-released version. VoiceOver is part of Apple's accessibility features, a gesture-based way to have an iPhone or iPad speak what is written on the screen. Combined with GoodReader's recently released "Text-to-Speech" feature, GoodReader now better enables iPhone and iPad users with visual or reading disabilities to access PDFs and other documents.

With VoiceOver support and GoodReader's new "Speak" text-to-speech feature, any PDF or TXT document on an iPhone or iPad can be read audibly for busy professionals or those unable to read small text on their iOS devices. GoodReader users may now listen to full documents or sections of documents in their preferred language, and with absolute control over the speed of how fast the text is read aloud and the language it's read in.

The difference between VoiceOver and the "Speak" option in GoodReader is a text-to-speech feature simply reads out highlighted text, while VoiceOver is specifically designed for visually impaired users and reads aloud anything they need, including window names and menu details. With VoiceOver, a user can move their finger across the screen and the app will audibly read what is supposed to be seen there - the names of the buttons, the items in the menus, and the names of the files and folders. Using "Speak," users press on a blank section of a document and are presented with options for reading the document to them - including volume, language and speed controls.

"We are excited to be able to provide better access to documents on iPads and iPhones to those with visual or reading disabilities," said Yuri Selukoff, president of Good.iWare. "Our aim is for GoodReader to be the best reader for all iPad and iPhone users, including those with difficulty reading documents on the screens of their devices. We want to help as many people as possible to take advantage of our advanced product, which is why we are improving accessibility for those who have trouble reading small text or seeing small button icons on an iPhone or iPad screen."

Download Good Reader from iTunes.

Yesterday Google announced improvements to Google Drive and all their editors: Docs, Sheet, Slides, Drawings, and Forms. Many of the changes are targeted specifically toward blind and low-vision users.

Among the changes are:

  • Improved screen reader support for Drive and Docs
    • Improved keyboard access
    • Support for zoom & high-contrast mode
    • Improved usability with the screen readers.
  • Improved screen reader support for Docs, Sheets, Slides Drawings and Forms
    • Support for alt text on images in Docs
    • Improved support for keyboard when editing charts & pivot tables in Sheets
    • Screen reader improvement including spelling suggestion, comments and revision history
    • Quick search of menus and ability to perform actions in Docs, Slide and Drawings.
  • Refreshable Braille display support
  • Step-by-step guides for screen readers and Braille display

Read more on the accessibility improvements. And see the Google Accessibility site.

At the National Federation of the Blind National Convention on July 1-6 Vital Source Technologies, an Ingram Content Group’s leading e-textbook solutions, showcased new features to its already comprehensive accessibility support for the VitalSource Bookshelf platform.

Vital Source Technologies works to continually support industry standards for accessibility through conformance testing on all bookshelf platforms.  They test offline on Windows and Macs, online on Windows and Macs using standard browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari), and on mobile devices for iOS and Android. All Bookshelf platforms are evaluated using screen readers such as JAWS and NVDA for Windows, VoiceOver for Mac and IOS, and TalkBack for Android.

Vital Source collaborates with accessibility consultants, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to insure the platform is tested in conformance with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

In addition to the client updates being released, Vital Source will provide an updated and independently-reviewed Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) for each of the platforms. The Android, iOS, Browser, Macintosh and Windows VPAT’s are available for download.

Read more on VPAT’s and Accessibility Certification.

IAP Logo

Aaron Leventhal from AI Squared joins us on the IAP for a great discussion about the assistive technology that is place right on the website - sitecues. Discover the innovation that went into this revolutionary approach.

Show Notes & Links

GW Micro, the maker of Window-Eyes and the ZoomText and Sitecues creator Ai Squared have come together, combining their talents to better assist computer users who are blind.

Window-Eyes is a screen reader which translates visual information into speech or Braille and recently struck a deal with Microsoft to offer its licenses for free to MS Office users. ZoomText is the number one screen magnifier and text-to-speech software package in the world. It allows people with visual impairments to easily use their computers.  

The need for assistive technology continues to grow. According to the World Health Organization, over 285 million people in the world are considered visually impaired; 39 million of those are blind, and 246 million have moderate to severe visual impairments. "The merger of Ai Squared and GW Micro brings together two companies that offer great solutions for the millions of Microsoft customers around the world who are blind or visually impaired," said Rob Sinclair, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft.

"We are also delighted that Ai Squared will continue to develop and support the Window-Eyes for Office Offer as many of our customers rely on this screen reading solution to enable access to Windows, Office and other Microsoft products," Sinclair said.

Dan Weirich, Co-founder of GW Micro and now Vice President at Ai Squared, said he is thrilled to incorporate Window-Eyes into the Ai Squared product family.

"It's a natural fit," Weirich said. "Combining our companies will strengthen Ai Squared's global presence in the assistive technology industry, allowing us to serve even more customers."

Weirich noted that many customers using web and computer accessibility tools inevitably progress further along the visual impairment spectrum during their lifetime. As a result, they will require more advanced assistive technology as their needs change. With the merger, Ai Squared will be in a better position to assist those customers, developing products that provide a seamless transition and user experience as customers adapt to their changing vision.

Ai Squared will continue to offer Window-Eyes and its related products as they were previously offered by GW Micro. In addition, a free and fully featured version of Window-Eyes will continue to be available via the Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office as part of the recently announced partnership with Microsoft and GW Micro. The GW Micro team will remain in Indiana as part of the Ai Squared team, which is headquartered in Vermont.

As part of the new Windows 8.1 operating system, Microsoft has unveiled Cortanan – a voice assistant that competes with Apple’s Siri and Google Now. Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice-President and Manager of the Window Phone Program Management for Microsoft explained, “Powered by Bing, Cortana is the only digital assistant that gets to know the user”

According to Mr. Belfiore the voice assistant was inspired by the popular assistant in the Microsoft video game Halo, who was a smart AI and deeply personal digital assistant and, therefore, name Cortana after that character.

Windows Phone 8.1 will begin rollout to current Windows Phone 8 users over the next few months and will come pre-installed on new phones this month. 


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