It’s easy to get distracted while reading text. Weird text formatting, random images, difficult-to-read font, and confusing words can all impact the reader’s experience, keeping them from fully understanding the text. Today, I will be sharing five tools that can simplify the reading experience, and that can be used in the classroom or with assistive technologies.
Microsoft Office Lens is an app that acts as a portable scanner and makes digital copies of whiteboards, documents, business cards, and so much more. One of the awesome features is that printed text is automatically recognized using OCR technology, and can be read out loud, added to a OneNote notebook, or read in Immersive Reader (more on that in a second). Another great benefit is that VoiceOver will help the user position the document until it is perfectly aligned. Read my full review of Microsoft Office Lens here.
Microsoft Office Lens is available as a free app download on several platforms.
Immersive Reader is a tool built into several Microsoft products, including Microsoft Word (mobile), Microsoft OneNote (mobile and desktop), and Microsoft Office Lens (mobile). Immersive Reader strips away background images, confusing formatting, and other distractions and displays large, simple-to-read text that can be accessed with a variety of assistive technologies. If a user has any of the mobile apps installed, they can open documents and webpages in Immersive Reader, which I have used for PDF files on my iPad.
Immersive Reader is a free function of the mobile apps for Microsoft Word, Microsoft OneNote, and Microsoft Office Lens, and is installed automatically with these programs. Immersive Reader will be expanding to other Microsoft products in the near future as well, including desktop applications.
Mercury Reader by Postlight is a Google Chrome extension that alters the display of a webpage. Features like dark backgrounds, large text, and typefaces can be changed with the push of a button. A unique feature of the app is that it can also send text to a paired Amazon Kindle device, and it will use the Kindle’s built in readability settings. I really liked being able to send a Wikipedia article to my Kindle Fire so I could read it more easily- read my review of the Kindle Fire here.
Mercury Reader is free and part of the Google Chrome store. The app requires permission to change webpages so that the program can read the text of the webpage. Download Mercury Reader on the Google Chrome store here.
Like the Microsoft Office Lens app, the Scanmarker Air scans in text using an OCR scanner. However, the Scanmarker Air is a physical, wireless device that can connect to a computer, phone, or tablet. Text is scanned in, and then can be copied and pasted into another app. The Scanmarker Air is also reportedly approved for standardized testing. My favorite way to use it is scanning in text from books or magazines that may be difficult to photograph. Read my full post on the Scanmarker Air here.
The Scanmarker Air device can be purchased for $99 on Amazon. Buy it here.
Unlike the other apps, Rewordify formats text and web pages and simplifies difficult English, which can then be copied into other programs. I found that only 1 of the 75 words that the program changed in a sample article I tested was incorrect- the other 74 words flowed naturally in the article and made it easier to understand. If there is no need for the comprehension function, I highly recommend copying the text into Microsoft Word and creating an accessible document- learn more about how to make accessible Word documents here.
Rewordify is accessed through the web browser, with no downloads or accounts needed to use the basic functions of the program. I like that it is also kid-friendly and easy to navigate, making it great for use in an elementary school classroom. Visit the Rewordify website here.
These five tools can do a lot to improve the readability of text, but there are still other factors that need to be considered, such as screen glare, whether a website is accessible, among others. Read more about how to reduce eyestrain with technology here and how to create websites accessible for users with low vision here.
With these tips, you will be able to read text and websites more easily and for longer periods of time. I wish you the best of luck!