If you have talked to me about assistive technology in the last few months, there’s a high chance that I have mention Microsoft Immersive Reader and how it can help students with vision impairments and print disabilities. I have been using this tool a lot this semester, so today I’m excited to share my review of Immersive Reader and how I use it in the classroom.
Microsoft’s Immersive Reader is a free tool that provides a full-screen reading experience. It is designed to increase readability of text in Microsoft applications through the use of assistive technology accommodations for people with print disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, vision impairment, and more. Immersive Reader can be used alongside the Accessibility Checker to improve the layout of documents, or can be used to make a document more accessible without editing the document further- read more about the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Word here.
Immersive Reader can be found in the following applications on these operating systems. No additional downloads are needed.
Users can access Immersive Reader inside Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook by doing the following:
Users can access Immersive Reader inside Microsoft Outlook by doing the following:
Users can access Immersive Reader inside Microsoft Edge by doing the following:
Users can access Immersive Reader inside Microsoft Office Lens by doing the following:
Immersive Reader supports the following file types:
Read more about accessible file types for vision impairment here.
When a user opens a document with Immersive Reader, they don’t have to worry about messing with their previous settings. Instead, the user-enabled settings are applied to the document immediately. Users can use the scroll wheel of their mouse, swipe across a touchscreen, or use the arrow keys on their keyboard to read the document. I appreciate that I can immediately focus on reading a document and not having to manipulate settings every time. It’s worth noting that Immersive Reader settings don’t synchronize across apps, so users will have to configure Immersive Reader on each individual app listed.
Users can change the background color of Immersive Reader by selecting the “page color” option within Immersive Reader in Microsoft Word. For Microsoft Edge and Microsoft OneNote, users can select the “Text Preferences” option or use the keyboard combination ctrl+shift+O in Immersive Reader. My favorite option is the dark/inverted theme as it is not harsh on my eyes- read more about reducing eye strain here.
To adjust the font size and font type in Immersive Reader, use the same Text Preferences menu to adjust the slider and increase the size of the text. Users can also choose a display font- Calibri, Sitka, or Comic Sans. Read more about choosing a font for print disabilities here.
For users that prefer to read one to five lines at a time, users can go into Reading Preferences in Microsoft Word or Microsoft OneNote and select how many lines they want to display at a time. This is helpful for people who only want to focus on a few lines at a time when reading.
For users with low vision or that benefit from having text out loud, the Read Aloud feature acts as a built-in screen reader so that information can be read out loud. This can be activated by pushing the “read aloud” button, which looks like a speaker. In addition, Microsoft Edge users can have any webpage read out loud with this function, which can be enabled by clicking the “more options” tab and selecting “read aloud.”
For people that have trouble identifying parts of speech, Immersive Reader can highlight different parts of speech in customizable colors so that they can easily be identified. Syllables can also be separated by pressing the “syllables” button.
Having trouble figuring out the meaning of a word? Select a word by clicking or tapping on it, and a picture illustrating the word will pop up. This service is powered by BoardMaker, so frequent users of assistive technology may recognize a lot of the illustrations.
Here are some of the many ways I have used Immersive Reader:
All of my professors have been fascinated with Immersive Reader and frequently ask me questions about how to use it. One of my professors even uses Immersive Reader to share information on the board- read more about making things on the board easier to see here.
Immersive Reader is a free tool that has truly revolutionized reading for students with print disabilities, primarily because it is so widely accessible. Many schools utilize Microsoft products such as Microsoft Office and Windows operating systems, so Immersive Reader can easily be located and used to read a document. I highly recommend trying Immersive Reader and seeing how it can help you!