Scanning and Reading Software


A Scanning and reading software begins with using a scanner to scan paper documents into a computer. Software will then translate it into digital format so it can be read and edited. This process of converting an image of text, such as a scanned paper document or electronic PDF file, into computer-editable text is referred to as optical character recognition (OCR). 

The benefits for using an OCR software is that it saves the user time and effort in creating and editing documents. It will allow one to export the converted text and use it with a variety of word-processing, page layout and spreadsheet applications.

Individuals who have print disabilities such as those who have difficulty reading paper based information due to dyslexia, visual impairment, learning difficulties or those whose physical impairments prevent them from handling and reading the printed word can benefit from having material scanned into the computer. This can help with reading books, mail, journals, reports and other publications.

Individuals with low vision or blindness may benefit from an OCR software that includes the following features:

  • Built in text-to-speech capabilities
  • Ability to change font size, type and colour
  • Ability to change background and highlighting colour
  • Provide additional spacing between characters, words or lines
  • For Braille users, ability to send files to note taking devices or to use in conjunction a refreshable Braille display


Some OCR software for the low vision/blind user have built the software into hardware (e.g., cameras, phones, pens) to allow for portability or to allow individuals with little or no computer experience to use with ease.

For those with learning difficulties, the following features are important to consider when purchasing an OCR software:

  • Built in text-to-speech capabilities
  • Highlighting a word, sentence, or paragraph at a time using contrasting colors.
  • Have only one word at a time appear on the screen to improve ones grasp of the material.
  • Dictionary, Thesaurus, Homophones and Syllabification
  • Spell checker, Prediction
  • Study tools such as Highlighting, Bookmarking, Footnotes, Text notes and Voice notes


Want to learn more about scanning and reading software? Ottawa Network for Education created videos for students who are interested in learning about or starting to use technologies for reading, writing and other school work. To learn more about scanning and reading software, visit Ottawa Network for Education's webiste to watch a video titled ‘Hearing is Believing.  AT to Support Reading’ and 'Tools for Reading.'


Points to Ponder

Questions to ask when considering a scanning and reading software

  • Are there any supports available for scanning in printed documents?
  • Are large volumes of reading required? Consider a high-speed scanning services or approach publishers to provide an e-copy of the book or textbook.
  • What is the accuracy of the software when converting larger volumes of text?
  • Does it support different languages?
  • Is the software compatible with your computer's operating system?
  • Is the scanner compatible with the scanning/reading software?
  • Does the user have basic computer skills? Consider a scanner with a built in OCR software for individuals with little or no computer experience.
  • Consider whether the software can manage multi columned text?
  • Is portability a concern? Consider pre-scanning materials or using hardware with built in OCR software.



Manufacturers of OCR Software without screen reading capabilities

SNOW does not endorse any of the following software/hardware. These links are provided for information purposes only.

ABBYY – ABBYY Fine Reader (Windows and Mac)
Expervision – TypeReader (Windows)
I.R.I.S. – ReadIRIS (Windows and Mac) 
Nuance – TextBridge (Windows)
Prime Recognition – PrimeOCR (Windows)
Vividata – OCR Shop (Linux and UNIX)
Manufacturers of OCR Software with text-to-speech capabilities

Claro Software – Claro Read Plus (Windows and Mac)
Freedom Scientific – Open Book (Windows), WYNN Wizard (Windows)
Kurzweil Educational Systems – Kurzweil 1000 (Windows), Kurzweil 3000 (Windows and Mac)
Nuance – Omni Page Standard (Windows), Omni Page Professional (Windows), Omni Page Pro X (Mac), Omni Page Enterprise (Windows)
Premiere Assistive Technology – Scan and Read Pro and Universal Reader Plus are available alone or within the following bundles: Accessibility Suite (Windows), Literacy Productivity Pack (Windows and Mac), Premier To Go (Windows)
Text Help Systems Ltd. - Read and Write (Windows), Read and Write GOLD (Windows and Mac), Read and Write GOLD Mobile (Windows)

Manufacturers of OCR Software with alternative scanning devices
C Technologies – C Pen (Windows)
Freedom Scientific – SARA (Scanning and Reading Appliance)
ITEX SiSytem – SiRecognizer Simple (Windows), SiRecognizer Complete (Windows), SiRecognizer Always (Windows)
kfnbReading Technology Inc. – kfnb Reader Mobile, kReader Mobile
Low Vision International – Magni Link S OCR (Windows)
WizCom Technologies – ReadingPen, Quicktionary, InfoScan (Windows)

Manufacturers of Non-Roman Language OCR Software  

ABBYY – ABBYY FineReader Professional, Corporate, Recognition Server, OCR XIX (Windows)
I.R.I.S. – ReadIRIS Pro Asian (Windows), Middle East (Windows), Asian & Hebrew (Mac)
NewSoft – Presto! DanChing (Windows)

Free/Open Source OCR Software/Projects
Ocrad is an open source OCR engine that works with the scanning program Kooka and KDE  (GNU/Linux and UNIX) 
GOCR by GNU Public License (Linux / Mac / Windows)
SimpleOCR by Simple Software (Windows)
WebOCR by Expervision (Windows)
FreeOCR by Tesseract (Windows)
Microsoft Office Document Imaging (Windows)

Helping you meet Ontario's AODA
How It Relates to the AODA legislation: 

Scanning and Reading Software relates to the following sections of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Integrated Accessibility Regulation
Accessible Formats and Communication Supports  

Producers of Educational Training Material


AODA Significance: 

1.  Scanning and Reading Software enables users to scan a printed document that can be converted into one or more file formats, such as electronic text, Braille or audio,  providing an alternative means to access information and educational resources. 
2.  People interact, learn and communicate in diverse ways. Learning opportunities are increased when flexible ways of engaging with learning materials are provided. Considering how people communicate is important for knowledge to be exchanged. Alternative formats take into account diverse ways of exchanging information.
3. The AODA legislates that educational institutions and its employees know how to produce accessible or conversion ready versions of textbooks and printed material and be knowledgeable at interacting and communicating with people with disabilities who may use alternate formats and devices. 

Additional Resources: 

To learn of ways to innovate, develop & design for accessibility, visit OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre website.                                                                      
To learn how this section relates to the core principles of the AODA Customer Service regulation, visit the AODA page on SNOW.