Screen reader FAQ

Your customers and employees with visual impairments have a way to “view” your website. The assistive technology is called a screen reader. Once loaded onto a user’s computer the screen reader converts the website code into speech (or a refreshable Braille display).

The most common screen reader in use in the US is called JAWS. It was created by Freedom Scientific and has updated versions approximately once a year, plus bug fixes throughout the year. According to the 2014 Webaim screen reader survey 30% of their respondents use JAWS. This seems low until you consider that it has long been the screen reader of choice for AT programs teaching young blind/ visually impaired people how to use a screen reader. It is in widespread use in industry, library systems and government at various levels.

JAWS is also expensive – about $1000 a license. People without the financial resources to update their licenses often fall behind in updating.

NVDA (Non-visual Desktop Access) is a free screenreader created and updated by an Australian team. It is used worldwide and available in 43 languages. NVDA has been downloaded over 70,000 times. The fascinating story of how two young men, both blind, came to creating this product can be read here.

Window Eyes is free and available for those who have an Office 2010, 2013 or 2016 license.

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