People with low vision encounter a variety of challenges. In the digital world we live in, the inability to see a screen properly poses many limitations.
Job Access with Speech (JAWS) such as ZoomText or NVDA helps people affected by blindness break through those challenges. Using several cutting-edge technologies, the software enables the visually impaired to perform everyday work tasks more easily.
In this article, you’ll learn everything about JAWS, including what’s new in this category, how JAWS scripting helps these programs function and an alternative you should consider.
What is JAWS?
JAWS is a screen reader that lets visually impaired or blind people listen to the text on a screen. This happens via speech synthesis or a refreshable Braille display.
The software is made for those who can’t navigate the screen via a mouse cursor or can’t read the screen’s content. It provides both Braille and speech output that greatly benefits those with impaired vision.
JAWS is among the world’s most popular Windows screen readers. Developed by Freedom Scientific specifically for Microsoft’s OS, this assistive technology unlocks many opportunities for visually impaired workers.
Here are some of the main features of JAWS:
- Talking installation
- OCR for images and inaccessible PDF documents
- Multi-browser support for Chrome, Firefox, Edge (formerly Internet Explorer), etc.
- Compatibility with most major document processors such as Microsoft Office and Google Docs
- Optional integration with Citrix, JAWS Tandem, Remote Desktop and Terminal services
- Support for Windows 10, 8.1, and 7
As you can see, JAWS users can expect a myriad of features from the popular screen reader. Let’s see how they can use it to overcome common accessibility issues.
How to use JAWS
As mentioned, JAWS offers speech installation. Once the setup wizard starts, you’ll hear spoken installation instructions as they show up on the screen. All you have to do is follow them and restart your device once setup is complete.
Next, you’ll need to activate JAWS.
- Go to Start Activation in the appropriate dialog box.
- Select Internet using the arrow keys.
- Type the 20-digit Authorization Number (unless it displays automatically) and press Enter.
- If you haven’t registered your account, go to freedomscientific.com to fill out the form.
- Confirm your registration and choose Finish once JAWS is activated.
For more details on the installation process, you can follow the Quick Start Guide. There are also online tutorials you can use.
Common keyboard shortcuts
JAWS comes with various convenient shortcuts that let users execute many commands in only a couple of keystrokes. Here are some of the most common examples:
- Go Back – BACKSPACE or ALT+LEFT ARROW
- Go Forward – ALT+RIGHT ARROW
- Read Address Bar – INSERT+A
- Open Link – ENTER
- List Links – INSERT+F7
- List Headings – INSERT+F6
- Close Current Tab – CTRL+F4 or CTRL+W
- Close All Tabs – ALT+F4
- Next Article – O*
- Next Paragraph – P*
- Next Element – SHIFT+PERIOD
- Previous Element – SHIFT+COMMA
Of course, these are only some of the many shortcuts that people with vision disabilities can use to navigate their computer screen and maximize web accessibility. All commands and shortcuts are available in the JAWS training materials.
Using JAWS to read content
To browse web pages, JAWS uses a virtual cursor. The JAWS reading commands then enable users to read all types of content in a convenient manner:
- Read Screen – INSERT+DOWN ARROW
- Say Character – NUM PAD 5
- Say Character Phonetically – NUM PAD 5 twice
- Say Prior Character – LEFT ARROW
- Say Next Character – RIGHT ARROW
- Say Word – INSERT+NUM PAD 5
- Spell Word – INSERT+NUM PAD 5 twice
- Say Line – INSERT+UP ARROW
- Jaws for Windows offers all the tools visually impaired people need to listen to the desired text. This is the power of text to speech technology.
JAWS isn’t the only software that offers this level of convenience. If you’re looking for another option, Speechify is a great alternative.
One of the main drawbacks of JAWS is that it’s specific to Microsoft Windows. Today’s business environment often requires people to use different devices and operating systems. That’s why Speechify is a more versatile option than JAWS.
Speechify is a text to speech platform that turns any digital or physical text into easily understandable audio. It’s available for iOS and Android devices. There’s also a dedicated Mac app. If you’d like to use it on any PC or laptop, Speechify offers a Chrome extension.
Visually impaired people can use Speechify for many purposes. It can turn documents, study guides and other files or printed materials into high-quality speech.
Speechify also supports a global workforce thanks to its 20+ languages. There’s also a variety of voices from which to choose, all of which sound natural. This ensures a pleasant listening experience.
These are some of the many ways visually impaired people can benefit from Speechify. If you want to see how the features work in action, you can try Speechify for free.
Does JAWS have a speech viewer?
Yes, JAWS offers a capable text to speech function that lets people with vision disabilities consume different forms of written content.
Is JAWS screen reader free?
JAWS doesn’t offer a free version. There are options to subscribe to it annually or buy a home or professional license for a lump-sum payment.
What are the benefits of using JAWS?
JAWS lets visually impaired people interact with digital tools more conveniently. It unlocks opportunities to consume content that would otherwise be inaccessible.
What is the difference between JAWS and other screen readers?
JAWS is the most popular screen reader on the market. It offers a variety of features not found in other solutions for a fair price.
How do you type with JAWS?
You can use a Braille keyword and appropriate commands to type with JAWS in a way that’s similar to using a regular interface.