Exploring Screen Reader Apps

You may have read my previous post Ode to a Field, about locally endangered Skylarks. Once I had started to settle down emotionally I was able to look at the ongoing situation here in a more proactive way. But it hasn’t been and isn’t easy. To the point of my local Council asking me to stop tweeting them pictures, in real time, of habitat destruction!

Well, I guess that’s preferable to no response at all.

Doodle of waves. Pinnacle with post title.

Grateful for Support

I have been extremely fortunate to have been joined in the endeavour of requesting answers and explanation, by a local journalist. I had felt that I was simply shouting into a void. It is good not feeling you are challenging alone. Especially in the world of MEcfs. I am extremely grateful.

Seeking Answers

I have sent countless emails over the past few weeks. With images and proof that what is happening shouldn’t be. But yet, I still await explanation. Patience. But not at the expense of a native ground nesting bird, listed as RED by the RSPB. Meaning, they are at risk. Time still is of the essence.

The lack of information forced me to address an excavator at my garden fence in my pyjamas and dressing gown, with unbrushed hair! Yes, a mechanical digger and surveyor. I did get some answers in a friendly way. My palms now sweat, over the fate of a Badger set I was also told about. Where is the wildlife trust? Where are they?

Becoming Involved

During my process of enquiries it has been mooted that I may be interested in being considered for co-option on to our local Parish Council. I understand why many people prefer someone to be elected. The opportunity is not straightforward for me due to the limitations that MEcfs presents, but it is certainly worth thinking about, and discovering if it can be made accessible, and if my brain could honestly cope.

On the subject of accessibility. I keep looking at powered wheelchairs online. The iGo folding looks promising. But how often would I be able to use it? But is that actually important? I digress!

Exploring Screen Readers

As a result, I am currently exploring screen readers. As I need to take the pressure off my cognitive capacity where possible. And in this process I am learning if my blog is well presented for a person who relies solely on accessible technology. I have the luxury of reading conventionally (although limited) and using a screen reader. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert, but I am glad to continue to learn. One thing I have learned is, don’t use repetitive punctuation marks as a line break. It really is awful on a screen reader.

I recently listened to the word asterix about fifteen times continuously on a post I was screen reading, where a line of asterix had been used as a page break. Aaaaah, make it stop!

Being Informed

I am attaching a link to a very informative blog post I came across during my exploration. Food for thought for all of us trying to be accessible and inclusive. And interestingly it explains that some text I had removed from my blog, that I thought clunky, transpires is useful for accessibility. So what if it adds 0.1 of a second to page loading times. I will be adding the text back in.

Helpful Links

This blog post by Thinking Out Loud. How to make your blog website and social media more accessible, is very informative.

Many of the points I can now actively implement on my blog to help improve it.

This article from Microsoft is also helpful. How to create Accessible Links.

Finding Screen Reader Apps

So now, onto the screen readers (as opposed to e readers) I have tried out so far. I use the free versions. And as you may know, it takes me a while to learn about new avenues of tech. But hey, I get there in the end. Well mostly at 3am, with my doggo shuffling about on her bed peering at me, and thus reminding me that I should actually be asleep!

Natural Reader

The first screen reader App I tried was Natural Reader. It started off so well, I could hardly believe it. I have a large document to listen to in stages, and reading is not going to be possible. Natural Reader has a good selection of voices from different regions of the world. And there are no limits to time you can listen for free to pdfs and word documents.

Quoted from the App – Natural Reader Online is a text to speech web application that converts any written text into spoken words.
Use Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or iCloud from your mobile to upload and instantly listen to documents on the go.
Premium users can even take a picture of printed books to listen to using OCR.

But for OCR you need to sign up for the premium version. The free version worked brilliantly for a couple of days. Then oh! All the free voices have turned literally to android robotic voices. I reset, uninstalled, reinstalled and updated to no avail. So far anyway. I have submitted my feedback and will see if it can be fixed. I do hope so, as there are no ads. Their Web version does seem to be working. But the voice choices are fewer.

Talk Free

The next App I tried is Talk Free. Yes, I know. I discovered that it is not a screen reader at all. But a text to speech App. Handy if you want to send an audio file that you have typed out. The only problem being, that I can’t find where my phone has stored the files. Ah well, another job for Ace Venturer App Detective in the future!


Moving on to the third App T2S -Text to Speech Reader. The clue really is in the name. This is a pretty usable App. It will read PDFs and Web pages. Which means I can listen to blog posts. Eureka! Again with no time limit. You can keep a directory of files you have and wish to listen to. There is only one voice option available. I amazingly managed to update the Samsung voice App so that I can listen to a female voice. Which I prefer.

Voice Aloud Reader

The next App is Voice Aloud Reader. This is another good App and seems to offer a bit more flexibility. There are a few options on background and button colours. Web pages do seem to load a little easier on this App. It also offers a directory option. The control panel is clearer and I think functionality is generally better. It also reads OCR without needing to invest in a paid version. But voice options are limited and a bit monotone, as with T2S.

Both T2S and Read Aloud have ads. Which are not too intrusive, but I think it depends on how much you use the Apps. Read Aloud loads Web pages far easier. There seem to be some blocks on loading onto T2S.

Read Aloud

Having finished this post, I had another look on the App store. And found Read Aloud. This App is very usable. It prompts you to choose the voice. I have gone for the Samsung UK voice set up on my android phone. It’s definitely easier to listen to. I have also noticed that this isn’t a storage heavy App which can be useful on any device. And unlike the other screenreaders I have sampled. It shows the text being read per paragraph, rather than all the text, as a speech bubble. Which is very helpful, as it ensures you rest your eyes. So all in all a good find I think.

Otter ai

Otter ai is next. Not a screen reader, but worth mentioning as a good voice to text App. It was recommended by a friend when I was trying to transcribe podcast episodes. Yes, they are on ice at the moment. As I really struggle to keep up with the transcription, along with finding speaking exhausting at the moment.

Microsoft Word – Read Aloud

And finally. Word – Read Aloud. Yes, you’ve probably been yelling at the screen. And yes, I finally discovered the read aloud option, which is great. The voice very natural and reading not stop start or jittery. Very easy to listen to. Along with helping identify where punctuation needs to be adjusted for screen reading fluidity. I’m not a Word whizz, but documents can be converted into Word enabling access to the read aloud option.

Exploring Screen Reader Apps

Other Options

So between all of those. I most likely be using some of them for various needs. The amount available for someone in my situation is great. But I have to say that the Word Read Aloud voice is my favourite. It’s incredibly natural. There are more on offer on the Google App Store. But it really depends on how much cognitive energy you have to try them all out, depending on the information provided and reviews.

I am going to stick with Read Aloud, Voice Aloud Reader and Word – Read Aloud. I will use the Natural Reader web version. But I think Word can cover what is offered in the free version. I will also continue to use Otter ai and possibly Talk Free.

There are bound to be far more options for screen readers on a conventional tower computer. Natural Reader does have a Web version and the option to create a plug in for your own website. Which is a pretty cool idea. But you would need to be self hosted to install it.

Closing Thoughts

And there you have it. I access all my tech via an android smartphone. Oh my goodness how they have progressed. Large screens and the amount of cognitive capacity needed for more conventional computers does not suit me or the MEcfs at all. Well certainly not at the moment. I even struggle with a tablet.

I do need to find one that would read my blog drafts in WordPress. That would help tremendously.

I hope this piece is of help. If you have suggestions of other Screen Reader Apps, I’d love to hear about them.

As ever, all interactions and shares are greatly appreciated. I’m now off to continue the fight for the Skylarks. But I need to shower first. Groan!

Bye for Now

Have a blessed day
Love to all

Penny signing off
Doodle of yellow flower in a mint green flower pot.

While you’re here, why not check out more posts in the MEcfs Life category below.

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