One of my all-time favorite low vision assistive technology tools is the simplified reading display, which applies a consistent text style, size, and background color to digital text. I use a few different simplified reading displays across different devices, but my favorite one is the Microsoft Immersive Reader, which has been a major game changer for accessing my college classwork, websites, and for reading content at my Microsoft internship. Here is how I use the free Microsoft Immersive Reader with low vision in a variety of different contexts and applications- I’ve been using it for over five years now and still love it!
Where to find Immersive Reader
Microsoft has made Immersive Reader available across a variety of applications, along with an Immersive Reader API for integrating it into other tools. Supported applications include:
Immersive Reader is supported in the Microsoft Edge web browser for Windows 10 and Windows 11, as well as the iOS and Android Microsoft Edge web browsers.
To open Immersive Reader on Windows, press F9 on the keyboard or select the Enter Immersive Reader icon in the address bar, which is a book icon with a speaker. Press F9 or the icon again to close Immersive Reader.
To open Immersive Reader in Microsoft Edge for iOS or Android, select the Enter Immersive Reader icon in the address bar, which is a book icon with a speaker. Select the icon again to close Immersive Reader.
Microsoft Forms supports Immersive Reader on all forms and across all devices. Each question is displayed one at a time, prompting the user to close Immersive Reader before selecting an answer.
To open Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms on any device, open a form and select the three dots icon next to the form title, then select Enable Immersive Reader. To open each question in Immersive Reader, select the Enable Immersive Reader icon next to the question.
Microsoft Office Lens
Microsoft Office Lens supports Immersive Reader on their mobile applications. Once a user scans a document or other content with Office Lens, they can select Immersive Reader from the list of save options and have the text displayed on their device.
Microsoft OneNote supports Immersive Reader in its desktop, web, and mobile applications. Immersive Reader can be found in the View tab- select the Immersive Reader icon to open the page in Immersive Reader.
Microsoft Outlook supports Immersive Reader for the desktop and web applications, but not mobile applications.
To open an email in Immersive Reader on desktop, open the View tab in the ribbon and select Open Immersive Reader.
To open an email in Immersive Reader on Outlook for the web, select the Open More Actions menu, then View, and then Open Immersive Reader.
Microsoft PowerPoint supports Immersive Reader for the desktop and web applications, but not the mobile applications.
To open Immersive Reader in PowerPoint, select text or slide(s) and open the View tab in the ribbon, then select Open Immersive Reader. Another option is to use the keyboard shortcut Control-Shift-I, or right-click on a slide or highlighted text and select Open Immersive Reader.
Microsoft Word supports Immersive Reader for the desktop, web, and mobile applications.
To open Immersive Reader in Microsoft Word, select the View tab and Open Immersive Reader.
Supported file types
Immersive Reader supports the following file types in each of these applications:
- Word documents (.doc, .docx)
- OneNote notebooks (.one)
- PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx)
- PDF (.pdf)
- Website/HTML files (.html)
- Why Every Student Needs Microsoft Office Lens
- How I Use Microsoft OneNote With Low Vision
- How I Organize Emails In College
- How To Create Accessible PowerPoints
- Designing Accessible Documents With Microsoft Word
- File Formats For Low Vision and Print Disabilities
Customize Microsoft Immersive Reader for low vision
Microsoft Immersive Reader customization features may vary by application, and are not synchronized across devices or applications- users will need to configure Immersive Reader settings in each application when using it for the first time. Users can use the scroll wheel to navigate content, use swipe gestures, or use the arrow keys on the keyboard.
Page color may be listed as an individual option or in the group of settings labeled Text Preferences. Users can select from several page colors and themes, including a dark/inverted theme
Font size and font type
Within Text Preferences, users can customize the font size with a text slider and select a print disability friendly font that will be applied across all text- options include Calibri, Sitka, or Comic Sans.
This may be listed as an individual option or grouped with Reading Preferences. Set the width of columns with options ranging from very narrow to wide.
Line spacing and line focus
In the Reading Preferences menu, users can choose how much spacing they want between lines, as well as how many lines to display on the screen at once- this is helpful for users with double vision or that struggle with line tracking.
Syllables and parts of speech
Separate words by syllables and highlight parts of speech in the Grammar Tools menu. Users can also enable a picture dictionary in Reading Preferences, which will display a picture for select words.
Another tool in Reading Preferences, Immersive Reader supports dozens of languages including Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Hindi, Korean, and many others.
Use text-to-speech to have text read out loud- words are highlighted as they are read out loud.
Read Aloud can also be enabled outside of Immersive Reader with the following options:
- Select the Read Aloud icon in the address bar of Microsoft Edge
- Use the keyboard shortcut Control-Shift-U in Microsoft Edge
- Select the Read Aloud icon in Microsoft Word or Outlook
- Use the keyboard shortcut Control-Alt-Space in Microsoft Word
- Paper Colors And Low Vision
- How To Use High Contrast in Windows 10 and Windows 11
- My Favorite Free Fonts For Print Disabilities
- How I Document Accessibility Preferences With Low Vision
- A to Z of Assistive Technology For Low Vision
How I use Microsoft Immersive Reader with low vision
I use Immersive Reader in a variety of contexts at home, in school, and in the workplace. Some examples include:
Immersive Reader at home
- Reading magazine and newspaper articles in the web browser
- Accessing blog posts
- Reading Bookshare content in Microsoft Word
- Browsing instruction manuals
- Displaying a recipe in the web browser
Immersive Reader in the classroom
- Presenting text on the projector for improved readability
- Reading research sources for term papers
- Reading text in another language, such as for a Spanish class
- Taking a quiz in Microsoft Forms
- Proofreading a paper by having text read out loud
Immersive Reader in the workplace/internship
- Checking my email and reading through long document summaries- this was a game changer for checking email at a Microsoft internship!
- Sharing documents in a meeting so they are visible to everyone
- Scrolling through internal documents that are posted in the HTML format or as Word documents
- Enlarging text in PowerPoint presentations that are shared with me
- Simplified Reading Displays and Low Vision
- Reading Bookshare Titles With Microsoft Word
- Baking Banana Bread With Assistive Technology
- How To Make Things On The Board Easier To See
- How I Read Research Sources With Assistive Technology
- Tips For Screensharing With Low Vision
More tips for using Microsoft Immersive Reader with low vision
- I did a presentation at a conference on using Immersive Reader in 2020- check out My Talk At I’m Determined Summit: Crash Course In Immersive Reader
- I have seen reports that Microsoft Excel also supports Immersive Reader in Excel for the web, but I did not find this feature particularly helpful for working with Excel (Microsoft, if you are reading this, please feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to provide more info!)
- Immersive Reader is also supported in several educational technology apps like Flip and Wakelet
- Immersive Reader does not work with screen readers, but does have built-in text-to-speech in the form of the Read Aloud tool