Microsoft Immersive Reader Review

If you have talked to me about assistive technology in the last few months, there's a high chance that I have mention Microsoft Immersive Reader and how it can help students with vision impairments and print disabilities. I have been using this tool a lot this semester, so today I'm excited to share my review of Immersive Reader and how I use it in the classroom.

What is Immersive Reader?

Microsoft's Immersive Reader is a free tool that provides a full-screen reading experience. It is designed to increase readability of text in Microsoft applications through the use of assistive technology accommodations for people with print disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, vision impairment, and more. Immersive Reader can be used alongside the Accessibility Checker to improve the layout of documents, or can be used to make a document more accessible without editing the document further- read more about the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft Word here.

Where to find it

Immersive Reader can be found in the following applications on these operating systems. No additional downloads are needed.

Windows

  • Microsoft Edge (web browser)
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft OneNote- read more about Microsoft OneNote here
  • Microsoft Outlook

Mac/iOS

How to access Immersive Reader

Within Microsoft Word and Microsoft OneNote

Users can access Immersive Reader inside Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook by doing the following:

  • Click the "View" tab at the top of the screen
  • Click the "Learning Tools" button
  • Immersive Reader will open

Within Microsoft Outlook

Users can access Immersive Reader inside Microsoft Outlook by doing the following:

  • Open an email in Microsoft Outlook
  • Click on the "..." button to display more options
  • Click "Show Immersive Reader" on the bottom
  • Immersive Reader will open

Within Microsoft Edge

Users can access Immersive Reader inside Microsoft Edge by doing the following:

  • Open a website or document in Microsoft Edge
  • Click the book icon in the website address field
  • Immersive Reader will open

Within Microsoft Office Lens

Users can access Immersive Reader inside Microsoft Office Lens by doing the following:

  • Scan a document into Microsoft Office Lens
  • Under the "Share To" section, select "Immersive Reader"
  • Immersive Reader will open

Supported file types

Immersive Reader supports the following file types:

  • Microsoft Word documents (.doc, .docx)
  • Microsoft OneNote notebooks (.one)
  • PDF files (.pdf)
  • Website/HTML files (.html)

Read more about accessible file types for vision impairment here.

Interface

When a user opens a document with Immersive Reader, they don't have to worry about messing with their previous settings. Instead, the user-enabled settings are applied to the document immediately. Users can use the scroll wheel of their mouse, swipe across a touchscreen, or use the arrow keys on their keyboard to read the document. I appreciate that I can immediately focus on reading a document and not having to manipulate settings every time. It's worth noting that Immersive Reader settings don't  synchronize across apps, so users will have to configure Immersive Reader on each individual app listed.

Choosing a background

Users can change the background color of Immersive Reader by selecting the "page color" option within Immersive Reader in Microsoft Word. For Microsoft Edge and Microsoft OneNote, users can select the "Text Preferences" option or use the keyboard combination ctrl+shift+O in Immersive Reader. My favorite option is the dark/inverted theme as it is not harsh on my eyes- read more about reducing eye strain here.

Change font size and font type

To adjust the font size and font type in Immersive Reader, use the same Text Preferences menu to adjust the slider and increase the size of the text. Users can also choose a display font- Calibri, Sitka, or Comic Sans. Read more about choosing a font for print disabilities here.

Spacing and line blocking

For users that prefer to read one to five lines at a time, users can go into Reading Preferences in Microsoft Word or Microsoft OneNote and select how many lines they want to display at a time.  This is helpful for people who only want to focus on a few lines at a time when reading.

Built-in screen reader

For users with low vision or that benefit from having text out loud, the Read Aloud feature acts as a built-in screen reader so that information can be read out loud. This can be activated by pushing the "read aloud" button, which looks like a speaker. In addition, Microsoft Edge users can have any webpage read out loud with this function, which can be enabled by clicking the "more options" tab and selecting "read aloud."

Highlighting parts of speech

For people that have trouble identifying parts of speech, Immersive Reader can highlight different parts of speech in customizable colors so that they can easily be identified. Syllables can also be separated by pressing the "syllables" button.

Picture dictionary

Having trouble figuring out the meaning of a word? Select a word by clicking or tapping on it, and a picture illustrating the word will pop up. This service is powered by BoardMaker, so frequent users of assistive technology may recognize a lot of the illustrations.

What I use it for

Here are some of the many ways I have used Immersive Reader:

  • Reading websites
  • Listening to classwork assignments
  • Simplifying the display of a complicated document
  • Scrolling through an online article
  • Focusing on one line at a time in my programming assignments

How my professors have reacted

All of my professors have been fascinated with Immersive Reader and frequently ask me questions about how to use it. One of my professors even uses Immersive Reader to share information on the board- read more about making things on the board easier to see here.

Verdict

Immersive Reader is a free tool that has truly revolutionized reading for students with print disabilities, primarily because it is so widely accessible. Many schools utilize Microsoft products such as Microsoft Office and Windows operating systems, so Immersive Reader can easily be located and used to read a document. I highly recommend trying Immersive Reader and seeing how it can help you!