Frequently Asked Questions

Intelligent Access Microware (IAM)

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“What is the difference between scanning software designed for the visually disabled and that designed for the learning disabled? (eg. Kurzweil 1000 and Kurzweil 3000)”

Specialized scanning software is designed to aid those with certain disabilities gain access to print media.  People who are blind, face different restrictions than do people with learning disabilities.

Software that is designed specifically for those who can’t see the screen strips out anything that is not text, like pictures and diagrams.  Commands that control the program are available via the keyboard.

Programs designed specifically for those with learning disabilities add visual enhancements to clarify the text. Things such as colour coded commands and highlighting capabilities are incorporated into the program. This type of software also uses pictures and the mouse as the preferred, and sometimes the only, method of accessing some functions.

“Magnification software packages have speech. Can I use them if I can’t read the screen at all visually?”

Although it may be possible for someone very familiar with their magnification software to run it without any sight, it is not recommended.  Magnification software usually uses speech as reinforcement, not as the primary method of interacting with the computer.  Therefore, features such as a command to repeat the spoken message or to read outside the area currently in focus are often absent.  There may also be features that are only accessible through the use of the mouse.

“What does ‘a computer with speech’ or ‘a speech computer’ mean?”

There are two ways a computer can interact through speech. Either the computer speaks what is on the screen to the user or the user speaks to the computer as a method of controlling its functions or inputting information.

The first case, where the computer speaks to the user, is called screen review.  This is used by people who have difficulty reading the screen, whether because of a visual disability or a cognitive disability.  Most screen review software also contains components to enable the user to interact with the computer through the keyboard alone; without the use of the mouse.

The second case is called voice recognition. It allows the user to speak into a microphone to control the computer rather than using a keyboard or mouse. Voice recognition is used by people who have disabilities that prevent them from accessing the keyboard and mouse, or, by some people with cognitive disabilities.  It does require a large investment of time in training the software to understand each individual and is therefore limited in its efficiency for those without disabilities.

“We are setting up an accessible room in our library. What software & hardware should we include and what does it do?”

Not surprisingly, accommodating different disabilities requires different solutions.


Low-vision is as unique as the people it affects. Some descriptions include:

Accommodation:  In most cases, screen magnification software will allow a person with low vision access to a computer screen. These packages include features such as the ability to:

Ease of Use:  This software is relatively straightforward for anyone to use. Initially, it can be configured according to users’ general preferences in terms of magnification, colours, etc. There are then options to make temporary adjustments to options such as magnification, whether the speech is on or off, and to turn on the reformatting tool. The biggest initial obstacle for many people is the concept of only seeing portions of the screen at a time. This is usually adjusted to quite quickly.


For the purposes of this discussion, blindness is defined as a condition where the person does not have enough vision to be able to adequately use the software described above.

Accommodation:  Screen review software is designed to allow the blind operator to independently perform all functions on their computer through sound alone. The software speaks what is on the screen.

Ease of Use:  This is quite complex software. Given that a person who cannot see the screen cannot use the mouse, the user must be comfortable with the keyboard. If they wish to be able to navigate and control operations, they must learn a number of keystrokes to control the functionality of the computer. They should then be quite attentive to what the computer is saying in order to keep track of where they are in any given operation or understand the commands well enough to be able to review.

However, this software can be used by virtually anyone with help. At its simplest level, a sighted helper could use common methods (ie. the mouse and visual cues) to open a new document so that the blind user could type whatever they want. The helper could then assist the user to save, edit, print, e-mail, etc.

In general, most people fall somewhere between complete independence and typing only. With help from trainers, tutorial tapes and perseverance many people can use the software to create and modify documents or surf the internet.

Additional Options:

OCR (Reading) Software:

This software is designed to read documents aloud. It can work in conjunction with a scanner or on pre-existing documents or web-sites. At its most basic level, the software acts much like a tape recorder, reading aloud the contents of a document. It contains controls to start and stop reading and to navigate around the document. However, it also has features such as editing and study tools.

Intelligent Access Microware w P.O. Box 2387, 4 Margaret Court, St. Marys, Ontario, Canada, N4X 1A2 w Phone: (519) 284-0090 w Web: w Email:

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