Screen reader software

A screen reading program sends screen text displayed on the screen to be spoken by a speech synthesizer. Common features include the ability to speak the full screen, a user defined area of the screen, a line, a word, individual letters or the phonetic equivalent of a letter and punctuation. A screen reader allows menus, dialog boxes, tool tips and system messages to be read back. A screen reader is designed to give a blind person access to the computer.

Examples of screen reader software


NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free and open source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows operating system. Providing feedback via synthetic speech and braille, it enables blind or vision impaired people to access computers running Windows for no more cost than a sighted person. Major features include support for over 20 languages and the ability to run entirely from a USB drive with no installation. NVDA is available to download for free from the projects website.


Thunder has been created by which is a not for profit registered Community Interest Company in the UK. Thunder is available to download for free from the website.

Hal screenreader

Developed for blind computer users, Hal is a software screen reader that works by reading the screen interactively and communicating through a speech synthesiser or a refreshable Braille display. Available from Dolphin Computer Access and prices start from £575.00. A free demo CD is available on request.

JAWS for windows

JAWS works with your PC to provide access to software applications and the internet by using a speech synthesiser and a sound card. The audio output of the screen information provides easier access to a wide variety of information. JAWS supports all standard Windows applications including Microsoft Office, WordPerfect and Lotus Notes and can be adapted with the built in customisation tools. The interactive talking installation makes it easy to get started without sighted assistance. JAWS is available from RNIB or you can download a trail version from Freedom Scientific. Priced from £659.00.