If you want to read on your smartphone, there’s good news—it’s now easier than ever. Accessible reading for blind and visually impaired people is a reality. I’ve been doing a lot of reading using apps on my mobile phone, whether I’m at home or traveling, to stay on top of my reading.
Initially, I found it challenging to access books and documents quickly when needed. ‘Where do I get accessible books from?’ was a common question. I started researching available apps and began using them one by one to figure out which ones would be useful and help people like me who are blind or visually impaired to read.
I’ve compiled a list of the best reading apps for blind and visually impaired people. These apps not only make it easier to access a vast collection of accessible books but are built with accessibility in mind to cater to all readers. Whether you’re using Android or iOS devices, these apps enable you to read websites, articles, PDFs, audiobooks, and more. I highly recommend trying all of them.
Best Reading Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired
Voice Dream Reader
There is a famous quote by Jim Rohn that states, ‘Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.’ I am a firm believer in this idea, and to keep up with my reading, I use Voice Dream Reader for most of my reading.
This app is available only on iOS and can be used with iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
Whether you are a student, an adult, or a senior with vision impairments, dyslexia, or other print disabilities, you can use the Voice Dream Reader app for your daily reading.
Here are some of the features and benefits that convinced me to use this app:
- Listen to a wide range of documents, including plain text, rich text, Microsoft Word (DOC and DOCX) files, web articles, various e-book formats, and PDFs.
- Scan and read documents.
- Add files from Dropbox, Google Drive, Pocket, Instapaper, and Evernote.
- Integration with libraries like Bookshare and Gutenberg for easy access to downloadable books.
- Accessible with VoiceOver.
- Control reading speed, forward, rewind, and jump to specific pages.
- Features bookmarks for saving your place in documents.
- Allows editing and sharing of documents.
- Customizable voice and text settings
I discovered Voice Dream Reader for iOS, an excellent app for reading on Apple devices. But what about Android? That’s where Legere Reader comes in.
Legere Reader is the Android version of Voice Dream Reader, and it performs admirably. This application caters to your needs with a simple, minimalist interface. Notably, Legere Reader is fully accessible with Talkback.
You can use it to read various document formats, including Microsoft Word, plain text, rich text, and eBooks like EPUB, DAISY, and PDF. Additionally, it allows you to load files from internal storage, Google Drive, OneDrive, and the web browser.
With Legere Reader, you can conveniently access books and articles from content sources like Bookshare, Pocket, and Instapaper. A simple login enables you to load your desired books.
The app provides flexibility by allowing you to manage voices. You can listen to books using your preferred voices, whether it’s Google TTS or Acapela voices.
Legere Reader offers advanced navigation options, allowing you to move by sentence, paragraph, page, chapter, highlights, or set time intervals of 15, 30, and 60 seconds. You can also export full text, highlights, and notes. The app includes advanced audio and visual controls for an enhanced reading experience.
I was looking for an app that could read scanned handwritten PDFs or images, and I found that feature in InstaReader. It made my experience so much easier, as I was able to read scanned notes from my colleagues during training sessions at my workplace.
InstaReader is an app available in Android that converts various file types such as PDFs, DOCX, Excel, PowerPoint (PPT), TXT, and webpages into audiobooks, reading them aloud for you.
One standout feature of InstaReader is its ability to read handwritten text and scanned PDFs in over 60 languages, making it simple to transform regional content into audiobooks.
You can also translate, edit, copy, download, and share audiobooks. While using InstaReader, you have the convenience of taking notes, bookmarking pages, searching for specific text, tracking your reading time, and customizing your reading experience by adjusting audio speed, pitch, and voice settings.
InstaReader is fully compatible with Talkback, and its interface is designed to be accessible for individuals with low vision, ensuring that they can easily follow along as the text is read aloud.
The Spotlight Text App, designed for those with low vision, is an ebook reader tailored to read Bookshare books.
It’s accessible with VoiceOver and exclusively available on iPad, providing a user-friendly solution for individuals with visual impairments.
With features such as maximum legibility, various reading modes, an autoplay function with customizable speeds, and the option to adjust font sizes to your liking, this app ensures a comfortable reading experience. Plus, it grants access to an extensive library of 350,000+ books, including best sellers and new releases. While there’s a minimal fee for adults, students can enjoy the app for free.
The BARD Mobile
BARD Mobile is available on Android and iOS. It’s a service provided by NLS that offers free audio and braille reading materials to people in the US and American citizens living abroad who can’t read regular print. If you have a visual impairment or have low vision, you can enroll yourself in NLS. The library has thousands of books, including bestsellers, classics, magazines, and music materials in audio and electronic braille formats, and new selections are added every day.
Learning Ally has a great collection of human-narrated audiobooks available as apps on both Android and iOS.
These books are narrated exceptionally well, making it easy to listen and learn.
Additionally, the app offers some cool features, such as text highlighting that synchronizes with the narration, the ability to control playback speed, and the option to bookmark important sections or make notes and highlights.
To access the audiobooks and obtain a Learning Ally membership, please contact them.
Amazon Audible and Kindle App
Both Amazon Audible and Kindle are accessible apps for Android and iPhone, making them easy to use for individuals who are visually impaired.
Audible is a treasure trove of professionally narrated audiobooks with a vast library of over 200,000 titles, perfect for listening while on the move or at home with your Amazon Echo.
Kindle isn’t limited to Kindle devices; you can also access Amazon ebooks on their mobile app. It’s user-friendly and works with VoiceOver and TalkBack screen readers. Plus, you can even have Alexa read the books to you for added convenience.
Libby by OverDrive
The Libby reading app by OverDrive allows you to freely borrow ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more from your local library. Available on both Android and iOS platforms, the Libby app seamlessly syncs your reading progress across all your devices, giving you the flexibility to read on the go.
You can also download audiobooks and ebooks for offline reading and send books to your Kindle for reading using the Kindle app.
But that’s not all; Libby offers a range of features to enhance your reading experience. You can easily skip backward or forward in your books, increase playback speed up to 3x for audiobooks, and set a sleep timer for those late-night reading sessions.
Most importantly, Libby is designed with accessibility in mind. It’s compatible with screen reader support, including Talkback and VoiceOver, and offers a variety of accessibility settings.
You can adjust text size and contrast, utilize keyboard shortcuts for Libby’s ebook reader and audiobook player, enable a night mode for comfortable reading in the dark, and even select a dyslexic font. Furthermore, if you prefer a closer look at your books and magazines, you can zoom in.
With Libby, your local library is always at your fingertips, offering a wealth of reading materials and a user-friendly experience.
Scribd can be your go-to online library with millions of books and audiobooks. With a monthly subscription, you gain access to audiobooks, ebooks, and articles all in one app.
The app is user-friendly, but sometimes it can be tricky for screen reader users. If you can’t read an ebook well, there might be an audiobook of the same title that you can listen to with your subscription. So, this app is still a good option.
Scribd has come a long way in improving accessibility. You can customize your reading experience by adjusting reading speed, setting timers, and taking notes. You can also download content to read offline. Scribd works on both Android and iOS.
EasyReader, a free app by Dolphin, helps you read text, listen to audiobooks, or do both at the same time, making it useful for those who are visually impaired, dyslexic, or have other print impairments. You can also customize features such as text size and colors to make reading more comfortable for you.
EasyReader is available for iOS, Android, and Kindles and is compatible with Apple VoiceOver and Google TalkBack.
With the EasyReader app, you gain access to various ebook and audiobook libraries online, with over 40 accessible libraries and talking newspaper stands such as Bookshare, RNIB, and Calibre Audio. It provides you with a vast collection of ebooks and audiobooks in your pocket.
EasyReader also offers a premium feature, which helps you synchronize settings across your devices for seamless reading.
In this digital age, technology has opened new possibilities for visually impaired individuals to enjoy the pleasures of reading. As you explore these apps, you’ll find that the right one can make a world of difference in your reading experience. Try some of these apps today and discover how they can enhance your reading journey. Share your experiences and recommendations with these apps to help others on their reading journey too.