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7 Ways Using a Screen Reader Can Affect Your Life as a Blind Person

dude blindfolded behind a monitor with code on it

These are some strange things which can happen to you as a user of screen reader.

Ever since I have learned to use a computer, a voice has been guiding me. That is naturally, the voice of a screen reader. a screen reader is a program which accesses the UI of an application, and reads the text out loud through a text-to-speech voice. On a side note, it is hilarious to me when sighted people go all gaga over text-to-speech, since blind people have been using them since the 90s.

Getting back to the point, this is the way I use a computer. And sometimes, it can manifest some side effects. And today, we’re going to talk about them.

Let’s get first thing out of the way:

Aside from braille, blind people don’t have access to writing. Most of the time, we spell the words as we hear them or pronounce them. often, though, this can have some bad results.

The voice on the computer pronounces the word correctly. But the blind user misspells it, because they did not read the spelling. Of course, it is easier to read words than constantly reading the spellings of them. It Doesn’t matter how much you may wish to learn a language. If a screen reader just only speaks the spellings, no one is going to use it.

You get use to a voice, and then you don’t want to use any other voice.

Screen readers allow you to use different voices for reading the text out loud. Some of them are quite good; some of them are grading on the ear, to say the least. While a few of them make me sleepy. (Looking at you here, Microsoft David!)

And once you get used to a voice, it is hard to let go of it, and use another.

Mispronounced words.

Let’s get the first thing out of the way. You should trust your screen readers pronunciation
Most of the time. Because it pronounces the words with high accuracy, and with better consistency than humans.

But sometimes, it mispronounces words. For example, “Uno” the famous card game, is actually pronounced as “Oono.” But the screen reader which I use, pronounces it as “Yuno.” This generally pops up with foreign words.

It changes your speaking style.

My screen reader voice is American, so over the years I have acquired a sort of American accent while speaking, which is baffling to the people here since they use British pronunciations and spellings. Basically pronouncing “Ask” as “Aask.”

That is of course, if they can speak proper English in the first place. India might have the reputation of a large English-speaking country, but the reality on the ground… let’s talk about it some other day. Shall we?

You reflexively correct people.

Some people just love butchering certain words. For example, if you encounter an Indian in the wild, you are likely to hear “Pleasant” turned into “Pleesant.” The latter is not a misspelling; that’s just how they pronounce it.

This leads me to my next point.

Human speech becomes undecipherable.

Yeah, that happened to me. In fact, it still happens to me. You get used to the monotone voice of the computer, and it becomes hard to spot the tonal shifts of the humans. You get used to hearing speech at a constant unchanging volume, so it becomes hard to talk loud or quietly.

You get used to hearing one accent, and dealing with humans with different accents becomes hard. This can be remedied by actually getting more human contact, and talking to people. Naturally, watching anime (or anything with real human speech) can also work.

You get used to the speed.

Want to know why I don’t use audiobooks? The speed. My screen reader allows me to adjust the speed of reading the text; let’s me pause in the middle and see the spellings, and need be, let me go line-by-line, or word-by-word. An audiobook doesn’t offer any of those things. You have to get used to the human voice and the slow reading, and forget about checking the spellings of the words or going through the text line-by-line or word-by-word.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. let me know what you thought of it in the comments below. Follow me on Twitter. If you like to support my writing, consider buying me a coffee.

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Published by Tanish Shrivastava

I'm a guy who likes programming, chess, and writing.

10 thoughts on “7 Ways Using a Screen Reader Can Affect Your Life as a Blind Person

    1. Let me try to explain. Screen reader is a software which reads the text out loud to me, and let’s me use the computer. It has text-to-speech voices, which all have different accents and style of speaking, and even male and female versions.

      Using these screen readers for a long periods of time can affect you, and I have tried to describe those effects through this article. Clearly, I have failed to communicate that properly.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I was wondering how good the voices were and I’m glad to hear you’re satisfied with them. Yay for American accent! LOL. I love me a Brit accent too though. It’s all good. Anyways, I can definitely see how the spelling issues occur. I hope you don’t mind when I tell you. I figure you’d rather know than walk around spelling the other way. Many English words are very hard to spell by ear: enough, cough, though, plough. It’s crazy. I said it on my blog once before, but please do let me know if something comes out really weird from the screen reader. I try to be conscious of it when I type something and not use weird punctuation or spelling effects.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The first thing that came to mind when seeing the title was speed, and you certainly did address that. Maybe they don’t design enough accessible apps, but the usual apps I use for audiobooks do allow different playback speeds. I can definitely relate to not being able to listen in 1x speed, so I can only imagine what it’s like for you when you do other tasks—besides consume—through audio as well. Anyway, thanks for another enlightening post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes, speed is an issue always. Also, I don’t think it is a good idea to read audiobooks of programming. It is a disaster in making I think. Probably why we don’t see any programming books in audiobooks. It is always philosophy, fiction, or nonfiction.

      Like

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