Assistive technology in this modern time really helps the blind to perform his or her task everyday. For example, when checking his or her email, writing a document or simply in using social networks, a screen reader certainly makes it easier for the blind to accomplish things like these. However, let’s not forget that in the past, blind people once used Braille in school. But those who had the chance to use this system in their lives know there are some differences between a screen reader and Braille. Below I list some of the differences and if you have your own opinion or if you want to add something in the list, I encourage you to leave your comment.
What is a Screen Reader?
Play to hear a sample of a screen reader
A screen reader is a computer program that enables a blind computer user to know what’s on the screen through speech. But to make it clear,it can only read text but not images. In other words, there’s no way for it to describe an image at least (not yet possible). Using the keyboard, he navigates using arrow keys and and a screen reader interprets what’s being shown on the screen. And if he wants to interact with a specific icon or a link for example, he will press enter. Or if a blind is typing, a screen reader announces every character; and if he for instance heard that he typed a wrong character, he would press backspace to erase it. This is just one example of the benefits that blind computer users get from a screen reader.
Advantages, Benefits and Different Uses of a Screen Reader
- It allows a blind person to use the computer
- It allows a blind person to create a document using a word processor like MS Word
- A blind can now read any article on the internet
- Also in writing email
- In social networking
- In writing a computer program
- If they want to communicate through instant messaging software
- If they want to make a blog
- They can also play some computer games, audiogames.net has a collection of accessible games for the blind
- With the help of a screen reader, blind musicians now use an audio editing softwareto record, edit and save their songs for example
Disadvantages of a Screen Reader
- Because visually impaired people only listen to a screen reader reading the text displayed on the screen, they don’t usually have the chance to know the correct spelling of a certain word especially when it’s not that common like medical terms etc. Sure they can make a screen reader to read character by character after they hear a word that they don’t know the spelling but I find it very time consuming.
- Screen readers use a computer sounding voice and some people find this very boring. Some companies are doing their best to create speech synthesizers that can mimic how human read a sentence; like the proper intonation, but so far I would say that even we see some big improvements for the past years, they are still far from achieving their goals.
A screen reader is definitely a wonderful piece of software for blind Filipinos, but nobody can deny the fact that Braille is still alive. I think Braille is going to stay, no matter how many advantages there are in a screen reader.