As a blind person who is not able to read print one of the difficulties which I face is being able to access printed material without calling on the assistance of sighted friends or work colleagues. While I can use my computer with the help of Jaws (software which converts what is on screen into print or braille), Jaws can not read hard copy material (E.G. letters which pop through my letter box.
There are a number of programmes which allow blind people to read hard copy material by installing specialist software onto a computer which then permits the user to scan the data using a conventional scanner and have it read back to them via the screen reader of their choice (in my case Jaws). However much of this software is rather expensive (Kurzweill costs about £700), consequently I was pleased to come across Scan2Text, software which allows the user to scan hard copy material and have it read back to them, which retails at £49 (excluding VAT).
I downloaded the 15 day free trial version of Scan2Text and have been able to successfully read my mail using my HP combined printer/photocopier/scanner in conjunction with Scan2Text. Scan2Text is accessed from Microsoft Word (I am using Office 2007). There are four buttons: scan from paper, preview scan from paper, scan PDF and Settings. If the user clicks on scan from paper his scanner springs into action, scans the document and Scan2Text then turns the text into a format which can be interpreted by a screen reader such as Jaws.
Scan from PDF allows the user to scan an image file (such as Tif or PDF) and have it turned into speech. As fellow visually impaired people will know screen readers such as Jaws can not interpret scanned images, such as Tif files and see a blank page, however with Scan2Text the saved Tif or PDF file can be converted into text which is then read aloud by a screen reader.
Scan preview and settings do, basically what it says on the tin.
I had some difficulties in configuring Scan2Text. However I found the support staff at Clarosoftware (the company who sell the product) extremely helpful and with their assistance I was able to set up Scan2Text. It is, in my view a good idea to have sighted help when setting up Scan2Text, however, once configured there is no problem in using the software independently.
For more information on Scan2Text please visit http://www.clarosoftware.com/index.php?cPath=224