One of our new analysts Tehani, gives us her view on screen reader preferences, and why she prefers one over another.
Today screen reader users are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the right software to meet their needs. In the past, Jaws (Job Access with Speech) had the monopoly. There was supernova, but that didn’t fully meet my needs as a screen reader user. Jaws remained the preferred choice, and will always have a following due to it being one of the original screen readers blind people were trained to use. These days however, voice over and NVDA (None Visual Desktop Access) are starting to be a real alternative, and freedom scientific have to work hard to keep their customers happy.
Recently, NVDA has been receiving many positive plaudits for their work. I was a loyal Jaws user throughout my time in college and university until my husband and I had to consider getting a screen reader for our laptop at home. At college, Jaws was already on the computers, and at university, my disabled student allowance paid for a copy of the same software. We ended up deciding to try NVDA as there was no way that we could afford to spend £800 on Jaws, especially as we would need to spend more on upgrading in the future. In terms of mobile use, I had always used talx on Nokea, so when voice over became available on IOS I switched to that. No more paying for a device, then even more for a screen reader. Learning to use a touch screen took a lot of time but now I wouldn’t go back.
In my opinion, learning to use NVDA was the best thing we could have done, as I personally find it more responsive and intuitive than Jaws. For example, I find it much easier to access all elements from within one list rather than needing to remember several different short cuts. I can still use Jaws, and do so for my job, but honestly, I believe that in future web aim screen reader surveys, NVDA will certainly catch up, if not overtake freedom’s efforts. Saying this, due to its popularity, Jaws will always remain one of the screen readers of choice, especially for students going to university or college.
It is clear from my discussions with colleagues about screen reading technology that opinions are still mixed. When I set about writing this article I had a discussion with my colleagues to find out their views on the various screen reading software available. Starting the discussion, I thought that NVDA would be preferred overall, but I was surprised to discover that support for Jaws was still strong despite the cost and its complexities. I do believe though, that if Jaws is to continue to be a viable option to screen reader users, the cost will have to come down dramatically in order to compete with free options such as NVDA and voice over.