Screen Readers 101

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As a person who is blind, I find screen readers invaluable because they provide access to information. I use several screen readers regularly. In this article, I will provide information about a variety of screen reader software. As another blogger points out in an article from 2005 entitled

“What is a screen reader?”,

screen readers provide feedback about information on-screen, using text-to-speech and/or braille. the primary screen reader which I use on the Windows operating system is

Job Access With Speech (JAWS) from Freedom Scientific,

an assistive technology manufacturer which was

acquired by Vispero.

JAWS is a commercial product, meaning there is a fee to acquire a serial number. For me, it is worth paying every 2 years to get the next two JAWS versions by renewing my JAWS Professional serial number

Service Maintenance Agreement.

Consistent payment supports product development and I can remain up-to-date about JAWS features. Here is a link to

JAWS Headquarters,

a section of the Freedom Scientific web site with a variety of resources for the screen reader. Here is a

video: “Jaws Basics for Beginners part 1”,

which discusses a variety of topics about using JAWS. Although the person who produced these tutorials used Windows 7 for JAWS demonstrations, most of the information should remain relevant for Windows 10. My focus now shifts to other screen readers for Windows.

 

Another screen reader for Windows which I use is

Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) from NV Access.

Unlike JAWS, NVDA is free and open-source. It is similar to JAWS, however, because some keystrokes are the same. This fact is evident in the online guide about

switching from JAWS to NVDA.

To learn more about this screen reader, I suggest consulting the

NVDA User Guide.

Here is an NVDA demonstration

video: “Screen Reader Basics: NVDA”.

Two alternative screen reader products for Windows, which can be purchased by individuals, are

ScreenReader from Dolphin Computer Access

and

System Access from SeroTek.

The remainder of this article will reference screen readers for other operating systems.

 

My focus in this section is primarily on Linux and Apple screen readers, with which I have no experience. The only screen readers for Linux I am aware of which have been worked on within the past decade are

Orca

and

Speakup.

Here is an Orca

video: “Take a tour through the Orca screen reader preferences”.

Technology company Apple includes a screen reader for Apple products called VoiceOver. According to

this page on Apple’s web site,

VoiceOver is available with Mac computers, IPads, IPhones, Apple TV and Apple Watch. Here is a detailed guide from Apple called

“VoiceOver Getting Started”.

For a demonstration of VoiceOver usage on a Mac computer, I suggest this

video: “VoiceOver Screen-reader on the Mac – Getting Started [Part 1]”.

A screen reader for Android is TalkBack, which is now part of

Google’s Android Accessibility Suite.

TalkBack, which I use regularly on my smartphone, will be discussed in more detail in an article about Android which I will be publishing next month. I hope these screen reader resources are of benefit. I will be back next week with another article.

 

Question for readers: What did you learn from my article about screen readers?

 

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