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Blind or Visually Impaired? There’s help using your computer

Good News for the blind and visually impaired! NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free (and open source) screen reader for folks using Microsoft Windows that “talks” via synthetic speech and Braille — allowing blind or visually impaired folks to use computers that use Windows.

(Sorry Mac users, you will need to install Boot Camp that came with your OSX install DVD’s and boot into Windows to use this.) NVDA is developed by NV Access, with contributions from the community.

To read more about this software, you can visit the NVDA Wiki here: http://www.nvda-project.org/wiki/About

You can download the installer for the software here: http://www.nvda-project.org/wiki/Download (We recommend downloading the most recent STABLE version)

Pros:

  • Software is easy to install and works great out-of-the-box for the average user. Installer includes voice instructions for installation as well as the standard install windows.
  • Ability to add additional voices to the reader.

Cons:

  • Default voice is robotic and annoying. Fortunately you can easily switch to the Windows Microsoft Speech API which is smoother and more pleasing.
Voice Selection
To switch to the Windows Microsoft Speech API which is smoother and more pleasing, right-click the NVDA task bar icon and select Preferences, then select Synthesizer and select the Microsoft Speech API from the drop-down menu. After selecting the Synthesizer, be sure to select “Save Configuration” or it will default back to the NVDA eSpeak Synthesizer the next time you start up the software.

Most sites aren’t optimized for screen readers so you will get a lot of html read to you that is useless. Learn the navigation shortcuts that allow you to skip ahead,  go back or repeat from the documentation here:  http://www.nvda-project.org/documentation/userGuide.html#toc21 .

About Georgeana Mimms

Georgeana Mimms was a researcher at the Social Policy Lab of the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California, Deputy Director of the Asociation Pro Personas Mayores and a Special Consultant to the Los Angeles County Area Agency on Aging.