by Amy G. Dell

TECH-NJ: 2002, Vol 13., No. 1

Being able to read is absolutely critical for success in high school and college. High school and college students are required to complete extensive amounts of reading on a daily basis – textbooks, works of literature, journal articles, reference materials. Slow readers and students with learning disabilities often struggle to complete their reading assignments and fall behind in their work because they cannot "keep up with all the reading." This is not only frustrating and stressful, but interferes with students’ learning of the subject matter and leads to inferior performance on course assessments. Some students get through high school by having their parents or instructional aides read to them, and they enter college unable to complete their reading assignments on their own.

Therefore, students with reading difficulties stand to benefit significantly from a technology application called scan/read systems. Scan/read systems combine the use of a scanner, optical character recognition software, and speech output to read aloud any printed text while providing a visually-enhanced display on a computer monitor. Users of scan/read systems place the pages to be read on a flatbed scanner and click the "scan" button. The print is then converted into an electronic file, similar to a word processing file. Scan/read programs then speak the words on the screen while highlighting (and/or magnifying) the corresponding text. The colorful highlighting helps readers keep their eyes on a line of text, while the speech output provides ongoing auditory feedback.

There are two kinds of scan/read systems on the market today – one for use by people who are blind or visually impaired and another for use by people with learning disabilities. The Kurzweil 1000 (Kurzweil Educational Systems) and OPENBook (Freedom Scientific) are scan/read systems designed to meet the needs of people who cannot see printed text. These are used to read everything from the morning newspaper and monthly bills to medical reports and legal documents. The Kurzweil 3000 (Kurzweil Educational Systems) and WYNN (Freedom Scientific) have features designed to meet the special needs of people who can see but who struggle with comprehending reading material. These features include colorful icons for easy screen navigation, a talking dictionary, a study skills tool bar to assist users in taking notes, and yellow "sticky notes" for inserting hidden prompts and reminders. Both versions offer options to change the appearance of the visual display and to set the reading speed to match the user’s preference.

Scan/read systems offer a powerful option for students who have visual impairments or learning disabilities. This technology gives students independence in reading which is so essential to academic success. Many students with learning disabilities report that the technology significantly increases their reading comprehension and speed. One such student, Anthony Mercandetti, a recent TCNJ graduate, is a strong advocate for the use of scan/read systems by students with learning disabilities. (See related article on page 3.)

Scan/Read Systems Product Information

OPENBook (Freedom Scientific -

Read, edit and manage scanned images from books, magazines, manuals, mail and other printed documents. OPENBook turns a computer system into a scanning and reading machine, offering blind and vision-impaired individuals access to printed materials. Once scanned, OPENBook converts the material into electronic information to be read aloud by the speech synthesizer and displayed on the screen. OPENBook works with standard Windows® menus, dialogs and commands and comes with a full-function email program.


Cost:    OPENBook 5.0 95/98/NT/2000: $995.00


WYNN Wizard/WYNN Reader (Freedom Scientific -

WYNN Wizard provides optical character recognition (OCR), the ability to scan a printed page and convert it into electronic text. Speech synthesis enables this scanned text to be read aloud. WYNN Wizard can scan and read word processing, text files, and the Internet. WYNN Reader is a read-only station without the OCR scanning software.


Cost:    WYNN Wizard with Scanning: $995, WYNN Reader: $425 - single user.

            Educational and site license pricing is available.


Kurzweil 1000 (Kurzweil Educational Systems -

Kurzweil 1000 is a scanning, reading and writing software program for use by people

who are blind or visually impaired. This software works on a personal computer in conjunction with a flatbed scanner and synthetic speech. Scanned text is converted into speech.


Cost:    Kurzweil 1000 with L&H™ RealSpeak - $995

            Kurzweil 1000 with L&H™ RealSpeak and DECtalk™ - $1,195

            Site licenses available.


Kurzweil 3000 (Kurzweil Educational Systems -

Kurzweil 3000 is software that helps people with reading or learning difficulties increase their reading speed and comprehension. Kurzweil 3000 can read virtually any scanned document or other electronic file on a computer or the Internet, using high quality synthetic speech. With Kurzweil 3000, words are highlighted in a contrasting color to the reading unit making tracking easier. New or unfamiliar words can be defined using Kurzweil 3000’s electronic dictionary, or broken down into syllables using the syllabification tool.

Cost:    Kurzweil 3000 Single Unit Pricing (Windows version)

            Kurzweil 3000 Scan/Read - Color version - $1,895

            Kurzweil 3000 Scan/Read - Black & White version - $1,095

            Kurzweil 3000 Read-only Station - $249

            Lab packs and site licenses are available.


            Kurzweil 3000 Single Unit Pricing (Macintosh version)

            Kurzweil 3000 Scan/Read - $1,095.00

            Kurzweil 3000 Read Station - $249.00

            Lab packs and site licenses are available.

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