A Free Software that You Never Heard About

Imagine browsing Facebook, Google Plus or Youtube, without looking at your computer screen, and imagine doing all of that without using your mouse. You would think that it is impossible, but in the world, for millions of people, this is the kind of situation that they are facing. These people, like me, are visually-impaired, meaning that they are unable to see things well, and some can’t see things at all. To enable these people to use computers, which has become essential in today’s globalized and ICT-driven world, they need a special program to read aloud to them what is on the computer screen. There are a number of programs available for visually-impaired people that does this job, but NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access), and JAWS (Job Access With Speech) are the two main ones for the Windows platform. Although JAWS performs well according to my 10-year or so experience, NVDA does have a number of advantages over JAWS, and that is what I am going to be covering in this article.

Firstly, do you know that JAWS is the most popular computer screen reading software for the blind? It’s used everywhere. But however, it is extremely expensive to buy. Do you know that it costs at least $895 to buy this program? To put that into context, $895 is equivalent to 28,000 Thai baht or more. You can certainly buy a laptop or an iPhone with that amount of money!

NVDA, on the other hand, is totally free, meaning that you don’t have to pay to use this program! Also, have you ever feel annoyed because of the reboots associated with the installation of many programs? NVDA does not require any reboots when installing! Also, have you ever used a program that runs off your USB? These programs don’t need to be installed. NVDA is the only screen reader I know of that runs perfectly from the USB! JAWS works as well, but in my opinion it’s just too complicated to get it to run from USB.

I’m sure all of you are familiar with windows, dialogs and menu bars. JAWS uses a standard window with a menu bar. But do you know that NVDA doesn’t even have a window? All of the program’s features are accessed through a special menu which can be accessed by pressing a special hotkey of insert+n. In my opinion, I like both, but NVDA just feels somewhat better and easier to use.

If a program like Firefox (I’m sure all of you knew or heard about it) can be extended by add ons, and so can NVDA as well! In this context, these extra features are also called add ons in NVDA, and can be installed through the add ons manager just like in Firefox. In JAWS, these extra components are called scripts. NVDA’s add ons are very easy to install, and you can take it along with the main program on your USB!

As I said that NVDA is free, updating to newer releases is also free, and let me tell you, the process is a piece of cake with NVDA, while JAWS is a lot more complicated. This is one reason that I would say that NVDA is the best computer screen reader out there because it’s just so easy to update and maintain!

To wrap things up, these are just a few feature comparison between the 2 programs. But overall, I would say that NVDA is the best program that visually-impaired people can use to access computers because it’s free and relatively easy to use and maintain. To learn more about NVDA, visit www.nvaccess.org. Hope you learn something interesting from this article!

Note this was copied directly from an article that I’m doing for my school’s high school magazine.

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