Narrator: Stand-alone reading machines enable people who are blind or visually impaired to read printed material easily and independently.

They consist of a scanner with optical character recognition software and a speech synthesizer, amalgamated into one easy-to-use device.

Sample of synthesized speech: “The scan key, press this key to begin scanning…preparing the page”

These machines are operated in a similar fashion to a normal scanner. The user places printed material in the scanner, which is then scanned and read aloud in crisp, clear synthetic speech.

Sample of synthesized speech: “Scanning…(machine noise)…valuable tool for teaching or ESL…”

The software can read any print that is produced by a machine, such as a typewriter or computer printer. The machine has a 95 to 98 percent accuracy rate, depending on the print quality of the original document. The machine’s keypad has large, colorful keys with tactile markings and keys that have been carefully placed for intuitive use.

Users can read a page continuously, line-by-line, or word-by-word, and save documents, or even entire books, in the machine’s simple file system.

Sample of synthesized speech: “This is the BEGIN class. We have six children in our class. Today we are dying eggs.”

Users with low vision can also view the printed material on a computer or television monitor in large font.

The smart technology in these machines can detect when a paper is placed upside down or sideways. When this happens, the machine automatically adjusts the image.

Once the document is in place on the scanning surface, the user simply presses the scan button and the machine scans in a picture of the page. That picture is then converted into text that is spoken by the speech synthesizer.

Users can listen to the entire page or use the reading keypad to read certain sections of the document. While listening to the document, users can adjust the rate and volume of the synthesized voice. The machine will save documents automatically when switched off.

There are several brands of stand-alone readers available. They are generally larger than a typical scanner, measuring approximately 12″ x 15″ x 5.” They vary in price, but most cost around $3,000.