For a long time computers can have been able to read aloud text on web pages, documents, PDFs and even scanned images. The computer voices have got better but you’ve always needed additional software to access the most useful features. This is now changing as standard software such as Microsoft Word begin to focus on improving their accessibility features.
Microsoft Word Reading Mode now supports individual word highlighting when reading aloud
For some time Microsoft Word has supported a Read Mode in the View ribbon. This allows you to adjust for large font sizes while keeping all the text on the screen. You can also choose background colours. With the latest version of Microsoft Word 2016 you can also listen to the text read aloud, in a realistic voice, while each word is highlighted.
Highlighting each word is very useful for people with visual impairments and for those with dyslexia. It is especially useful when proofreading your work as errors are more easily found and corrected (without leaving Read Mode). There is even some evidence that suggests that highlighted word reading in this way can help improve word recognition and reading fluency overall.
Read Mode will even add extra space to emphasise each syllable to make text easier to read.
Microsoft Word Spellcheck reads aloud suggestions with similar words.
This is a very useful addition for people with dyslexia or those learning English. For as long as anyone can remember Microsoft Word will highlight a misspelled word with a red squiggly line. Right-click on that word and a list of suggestions will appear. But which of these list is the correct replacement? Now users are able to listen to each suggestion and a list of similar words which help with their identification, giving users the confidence they need to fix their errors.
Microsoft has more accessibility improvements coming to Windows 10 in the free Creators Update.