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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Text Reader Software

What is text reader software?

Text reader software "reads" the screen using computerized speech. Some text readers highlight the text word by word as it is read. Many software programs also offer a variety of study tools including electronic notes, highlighters, dictionaries and more.

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What is digital text?

For text reader software to read, it needs to be provided with some reading material in a digital format. This means that it is text that is presented on the screen and that you can highlight the text with your mouse. Digital text is one of the four formats of AIM (Accessible Instructional Materials). Schools are required by law to provide print instructional materials in accessbile formats to students who need them. Learn more about digital text from the AIM Center.

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How do you know who needs it?

As with all tools, students benefit when the tool is matched to their educational needs. While not all tools are needed for all students, no student will benefit from software if it is not used in conjunction with real-life learning needs. The team is the only group that can answer the question of whether a student will benefit through examining the needs of the student and the tasks required.

The Protocol for Accommodations in Reading (PAR) (free download) provides a systematic method for data collection to determine how students perform using reading accommodations such as a text reader.

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How much do text readers cost?

Advanced packages cost between $300 and $1500 for a single license. MCPS has a minimum of 5-10 licenses of Kurzweil 3000 by Kurzweil Educational Systems ($395-$1495) in every school. Some schools have more licenses.  Other examples of high-end text readers are Read & Write Gold by TextHelp ($364-$645) and Read:OutLoud by Don Johnston ($249). Read:OutLoud is also included in Bookshare membership.  These full-featured text readers also have the capability of scanning paper documents for reading. The less expensive versions provide the reading and study tools only.  CAST publishes a list of text readers available for purchase.

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I would like to use text reader software at home. Are there more affordable options?

Text readers with fewer features are available as well, some are even available as a free download from the Internet.

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How do I find electronic text?

There are many internet sites that provide informational text. Text from these sites can easily be imported into text reader software. Here is a list of good sites for teachers.

You can also subscribe to membership websites that provide the full text of current and popular books for download. These sites are only for use with students who have a reading disability as defined by the Chafee Amendment.

  • Bookshare – offers thousands of titles for children and adults. Accuracy varies by book, but the books are rated for quality so you know if there might be errors before you download it. Pictures are not included in the downloads. Picture books are generally not available. Membership is free in the US. Learn more 
  • Accessible Book Collection – offers over 1000 books for all grade levels including easy readers and picture books. The books are proof-read for accuracy and include pictures. Subscriptions are $50/year for a school or for an individual. Learn More 

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How do I have the electronic text read aloud by the computer?

You need two things: something to read (electronic text) and something that will read it (a text reader). Once you have a file of electronic text, you open it in your text reader software which will read it aloud. You'll need to be aware of the file formats (61K pdf) that your text reader can open.

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What text reader software is available on MCPS computers?

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My school uses Read:OutLoud. Where can I find out more about it?

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I have a talking word processor for writing. Do I need to buy a different program for reading?

Not necessarily. Talking word processors can also be used to provide text-to-speech. If you already have a talking word processor, such as Clicker, Write:OutLoud or IntelliTalk (part of Classroom Suite) you can paste text into it and use the "read" function to have text read to a student.

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