Justin looking at computer monitor with hand on joystick mouse
Accessibility (#A11y), Health

Reading with Visual Tracking Issues and Auditory Neuropathy

To read or not to read…. or how to read when you have visual tracking difficulties and auditory neuropathy. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the Shakespearean pun. Today’s post is that post I promised I’d do in the comments from my last post.

So, I am an avid reader who happens to have visual tracking difficulties. I read a line the way you would read it, then read the next line backwards. You may think, no problem, you can just use audio-books or books on tape or whatever. Nope. Because I also have auditory neuropathy with moderate/severe hearing loss. Auditory neuropathy means what I hear sometimes sounds like the choppy, garbled audio you get when someone has crappy internet during an online meeting. That along with cerebral palsy and uncontrolled movement and inability to hold, let alone turn pages of a book, makes for some interesting reading challenges.

I didn’t know about the visual tracking issues until ten years ago when I went to Richmond, Virginia to explore having deep brain stimulation surgery. As part of the assessment, I had an eye gaze analysis done. During this analysis, we discovered that I was tracking a line of text from left to right and the next line from right to left, and then somehow flip that in my head before reading right to left on the next line. That explained why reading was so exhausting – especially longer texts that were small and single spaced.

11-year old Justin with eye gaze tracking headgear, dad and young woman
11-year old me doing eye gaze analysis

So what helps me?

In previous posts, I’ve talked about how important technology is in helping do what I want to do. For reading with visual tracking issues and auditory neuropathy, having text read aloud as the words are highlighted is key for me. That way if I lose my place in the text because of my visual tracking issues, I can find my place again quickly. Or, if I don’t hear something correctly because of my hearing issues, it’s easier to follow along with the text as the words are highlighted. With the combination of both hearing and visual issues, it helps to fill in any gaps if I both hear and see when I’m reading.

What do I use to read?

These work best for me and there might be other tech that would work just as well or maybe better, but I’m a reader of habit (pun):

  • I rave non-stop about Bookshare which I’ve been using to read books for the past dozen years. I use the online reader which highlights the words and allows me to select narrator voice and reading speed.
  • For reading web content, I use Microsoft’s Read Aloud in Edge. There’s also Immersive Reader in Edge which I don’t use as often because it only works on certain types of web pages. I just need the text read aloud and words highlighted which Read Aloud does and works on most or all of the web sites that I visit. You can read more about Immersive Reader and Read Aloud in the latest MN Office of Accessibility blog post: Using Immersive Reader with Microsoft Edge by Jennie Delisi. Immersive Reader only works on certain types of web pages but I find Read Aloud works on most.
Screenshot of Microsoft Read Aloud in Edge, row highlighted in blue with word highlighted in yellow
Read Aloud in Microsoft Edge highlights the line and the word being read aloud
  • I use Microsoft Immersive Reader in Word Online from either Google Chrome or Edge or Read Aloud from my Word desktop app to review and edit my own writing. The images below shows Immersive Reader in Word Online.

A quick reminder to hit the subscribey thing down there so you don’t miss a single post and please share my posts. I talk about what it’s like to have a disability, accessibility, writing and sometimes I give book reviews. I give concert reviews and every once in a while, mom finds these really annoying pictures of me as a kid to share!

Justin, around 8 years old in gait trainer looking at book on book holder
Me as a boy reading books while standing in my Bronco gait trainer, book is in a book holder and I’d yell at my parents or helpers to come turn the pages

4 thoughts on “Reading with Visual Tracking Issues and Auditory Neuropathy”

    1. Thanks for sharing this Justin. Brody I in first grade when kids are starting to read independently and we are kind of stuck on what’s the best way to help him with it. The information you shared will be very helpful to us.


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