Alternative formats Productivity/assistive technology Reading effectively

Delivering words to eyes

Text to speech is great but not everyone gets on with it. What other ways can we deliver words to eyes more efficiently?  What about people who want to read with their eyes but have visual or other difficulties that make scanning normal pages tiring or inefficient? What about those who need bigger fonts but don’t want to navigate the longer pages they create? What about those of us who don’t want to get distracted by the clutter of videos, links and adverts that pollute many Internet pages. Or those of us who just want help skim reading faster?

Several tools can change the way you read, bringing the text to you in a variety of ways that reduce the physical need to scroll up and down the page or even reduce the need to scan along a line. These tools might be useful for people with dyslexia, people who require a large font or those with a limited field of vision. This blog post by Alistair McNaught explores some of these tools, categorising them by the way they bring text to your field of vision.

Text scrolling upwards with Adobe Reader

If you view PDF documents through Adobe reader you get the option to automatically scroll by clicking View > Page display > Automatically scroll or using the shortcut Shift + Control + H but automatically scrolling is only valuable when you reflow the text to fit the page and magnify it to a comfortable text size. So first we click View > Zoom > Reflow. Then we magnify to suitable amount. Then we automatically scroll using View> Page display> Automatically scroll. You can adjust the speed of scrolling with the up and down arrow keys on the keyboard. The video below shows how to get autoscroll working on a PDF document. Please note: if the document has poor accessibility then reflow will not work. If you can, contact the author and let them know their accessibility needs to improve!

Other text scrolling tools

The free AIReader for Android has a text scrolling option and is very well featured for a free app. Similarly, the paid for (but worth it) VoiceDream Reader is available for both android and Apple devices.

Who might this help?

This can potentially help anybody who wants to read a long document without having to continually click the Page Down button or scroll with the mouse. By magnifying the text to a suitable size you can be freed from the mouse and keyboard and sit back comfortably to read the content.

Text scrolling sideways with MD Reader app

People with Macular Disease sometimes benefit from “eccentric viewing” i.e. using peripheral vision to read text. The MD evReader is a free app that presents any documents, texts or books in EPUB format as a single long line of scrolling text. The scroll speed can be personalised and a focal “marker” is provided to aid eccentric viewing with peripheral vision. Although designed specifically for Macular Disease the app may be beneficial for anybody who prefers to read without having to scan left and right across columns of text.

The video below shows the MD evReader at work.

Text delivered one word at a time

The ultimate in text provided directly to eyes without the need to scan is provided by free tools like Spreed and Spritz. These breakup text into individual words that are delivered one at a time. The user can change the speed at which they appear. This can help improve speed reading and reduce eye strain. The text flow can be paused at any time for notetaking. The Spreed plug-in for Google Chrome has the advantage of working on web pages (‘Spreed current webpage’) or allowing text from other sources such as Word documents or PDFs to be copied and pasted into special panel (‘Paste text into Spreed’). Text size can also be adjusted and there are three colour options. The video clip below shows Spreed at work.

Spreeder offers a higher degree of customisation and the commercial version (Spreeder Cx) includes library facilities as well as a speed reading dashboard to monitor your progress.

Do you have a favourite way of reading? Or a favourite tool that actively delivers text to your eye? If so let us know in the comments section below.

And don’t forget our other guidance on free and open source assistive technology tools and our special blog post on reading support.



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