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Screen Readers and How They Work with Section 508 E-Learning

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Screen Readers and How They Work with Section 508 E-Learning

Organizations need to comply with Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act and make their online training material accessible to even employees with disabilities. Screen readers play an important role in meeting this requirement, by rendering content to visually-challenged learners.

What is a screen reader?

A screen reader is a software application that identifies and interprets what is being displayed on a computer screen. They present this information to learners by converting text-to-speech and using sound icons or a Braille output device. In simple words, screen readers “read out” the content on the computer screen such as headings, paragraphs, alternative text of images, and so on. They are very useful for people who are visually impaired.

Screen readers can switch languages if a part of the content is in a different language. For example, if a Russian phrase appears in an English course, the screen reader can switch from English to Russian. Also, the users of screen readers can pause reading if they didn’t understand a word. They can listen again and make the screen reader read out each individual letter.

How do screen readers help in e-learning?

These software applications can read not only the onscreen content, but also the audio descriptions of a video to provide additional information about the visuals being presented. And, to explain what the images represent, they rely on the alternative text of the images.

Some of the widely used screen readers are:

  • JAWS (Job Access With Speech)
  • NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access)
  • Mac VoiceOver
  • Window-Eyes
  • Dolphin Supernova
  • System Access
  • ZoomText Magnifier/Reader

So, a screen reader is a software application that reads out the content on a computer screen and is usually used by people with visual impairments. They help organizations create e-learning courses that are accessible by all employees. Hope you find this post informative. Please share your views in the Comments section.

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