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Support products

Many people with disabilities need to use support products or technology that act as intermediaries between them and ICT. These support methods and tools enable users with special needs to carry out certain tasks that would otherwise be impossible or extremely difficult for them in a number of situations. This means that people with some kind of disability can do the same things as someone with no kind of impairment at all. You can also find the terms technical aids and assistance technology to describe support products, although the latter is more appropriate.

The most common support products can be arranged into three broad groups: screen readers, screen magnifiers and voice recognition.

Screen readers

Screen readers are support products used by people with significant visual disabilities (blind people or people with severely impaired vision). They are software programs that work with various types of equipment (loudspeakers, synthesisers, etc.) to read the text and the images in textual alternatives or other visual elements displayed on the screen and convert them into voice.

All voice readers, no matter the model or operating system they are installed on, work in a similar way: they enable users to navigate their way through the operating system and various applications using voice synthesis tools as an output device (they sometimes use Braille too) and the keyboard for input, as people with visual impairments do not use the mouse. 

NVDA:
A free and open source screen reader for Windows. Gives access to software applications and the internet. Also provides support for Braille devices. Has its own voice synthesiser. Can also be executed using a USB device that does not require installation.
JAWS:
A screen reader for Windows. One of the most popular nowadays. Gives access to software applications and the internet. Also provides support for Braille devices. Has its own voice synthesiser. 
Orca:
Free open source screen reader and screen magnifier that enables blind and visually impaired users to efficiently use GNOME (Linux Gnome) platform applications.
SuperNova Screen Reader:
Screen reader compatible with Windows Office applications. Not only reads text but also recognises window dialogues, icons, etc. Can be used with most Braille devices.
VoiceOver:
Screen reader included in Apple, OS X for Mac operating systems and iOS for mobile devices. Gives access to desktop applications and the internet. Compatible with gestures made using Trackpad Multi-Touch, quick navigation, support for Braille models, possibility of labelling visual controls on accessibility attributes, etc. 
Windows-Eyes:
An advanced screen-reader program. Able to read all kinds of applications from web pages and can read documents in PDF format. Adaptable to any kind of external synthesiser.

Screen magnifiers

Software tools that enable the screen to be read in much larger magnification, making it easier for visually impaired people to see screen content. These programs not only magnify what is on the screen, they also adjust contrast and font type and size.

SuperNova Reader Magnifier:
Screen magnifier equipped with a voice synthesiser for Windows.
Magic:
A screen magnifier for Windows. Includes an optional screen reader. Enables screen content to be magnified up to 16 times its original size. Also comes with a voice synthesiser that enables any text displayed on the screen to be read.
Screen Magnification:
A screen magnifier included in the OS operating system for Apple Mac computers.
Zoomtext:
Screen magnifier for Windows that can be used in two ways, for magnification (Level 1) or magnification plus voice synthesis (Level 2). The voice synthesis is used as support for reading documents, menus and dialogue boxes. Enables compatibility with other tiflo-technical software such as the 4.51 version of JAWS.

Voice recognition

Voice recognition is used by people who have difficulty handling the keyboard or mouse (motor impairment) as devices for inputting information into the computer. The software converts the user's voice into commands sent to the operating system, using a microphone, which results in mouse movements or key strokes.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking:
: Voice-recognition software for Windows that has a high accuracy rate in converting voice into text. Enables complex tasks to be performed (link activation, completing forms, etc.) with one simple word of phrase.
Dragon Dictate for Mac 3:
Voice-recognition software with the same characteristics as Dragon for Mac.