Tool to improve readability of texts built into mainstream apps and services
- Immersive Reader
- Microsoft Corporation
- Country of Implementation
- United States of America
- North America
- Start Year
- First published
“I see better fluency and engagement, and the kids are assuming more ownership.” Merlyne Graves, Washington, DC, educator
Microsoft – the U.S.-based multinational technology company – has developed the Immersive Reader, a free tool using evidence-based techniques to increase the readability of text for students with and without disabilities, most notably for people with dyslexia, visual impairments, or autism. It uses inclusive design and adjustable features, such as letter spacing, line focus, read aloud, and syllable breaks, thus allowing improved reading and text decoding, writing, and language learning. As of 2019, the Immersive Reader is used by more than 16 million people every month.
People with disabilities such as dyslexia, visual impairments or autism can find it difficult to read and write due to problems identifying speech sounds or recognizing words.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
The Immersive Reader can be personalized according to a wide range of individual needs. For example, users can reduce the effects of blurred vision by increasing line, letter and word spacing, or by using a line focus function; change the font and background colour; and display grammar markers for syllabification and to identify parts of speech. In addition, the user can activate a picture dictionary to visually display the meaning of a word or use the built-in text-to-speech function to hear words read out loud. Text translation is available in more than 60 languages, and the text-to-speech function is available in more than 40. The tool was developed with literacy and dyslexia experts, speech pathologists and researchers, and tested in consultation with students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, vision impairments, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Immersive Reader is built into Microsoft products on web, PC, Mac, iOS and Android. Users of the immersive reader have grown from 100,000 in 2016 to over 16 million by 2019.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
While the tool was originally created for students with dyslexia for use in the classroom, due to its inclusive design it is benefitting a range of people in and out of school, including those with ADHD, vision impairments, non-native speakers, and new readers. Microsoft has made the Immersive Reader available beyond its own products through a “Literacy as a Service” approach, so that the tool can be added to any service or site to make text content more accessible, as well as to software developers for use in their own applications. The company also intends to continue working with dyslexia researchers to integrate new techniques for acquiring reading skills into its products.