Screen reader - and readspeaker

Hello everyone

Can anyone recommend a screen reader that is free? (for testing purposes).

I have also come across installed on the website that will read out your website to people which is cool - but I had to click (or use tab+enter) on the ‘listen’ icon and I guess if someone has visual impairments they may not be able to do this.

Any thoughts?


We have a few experts here (such as Stomme poes and rguy84) who will advise better on this, but some prominent free ones are NVDA for Windows, Orca for Gnome/Linux, and VoiceOver for Mac (which comes already installed on Macs, too).

Unfortunately, there are quite a few differences between them.

What system are you on?

Hi Ralph

I’m on windows so I can try NVDA…

Yup NVDA all the way. There are a few in browser readers, but they lack functionality. You can download JAWS and run it in demo, which works 100% but for 40min per restart

I have also come across installed on the website that will read out your website to people which is cool

This type of service I’m starting to see on more and more newspaper/article sites. It’s not for the totally blind (who are very likely to have their own screen reader/refreshable Braille device, otherwise how are they using a computer on their own?) but I suppose an assistance for everyone else: low/degrading vision, dyslexics, or those who learned the site’s language as a second/third/etc language and maybe speak/listen better than they read.

A screen reader is much more, though. It’s got a whole set of navigation tools built in and it understands markup (among other things). It can be hooked up with a screen magnifiuer for low-vision folks or to a refreshable Braille reader for those who’ve learned Braille (and even at 16 or 32 characters at a time, people using those are way faster than people with just a screen reader… plus lack of speakers isn’t an issue then : ) It’s not just passive reads-stuff-to-you software.
NVDA is great for testing websites. It seems to be better at forms, tables and ARIA-stuff than JAWS, tho I don’t have the latest JAWS anymore so who knows. Screen readers are like browsers: they have their own bugs and quirks. Just because one reader does something correctly doesn’t mean all the others do. Using one is good for getting a feel for your website though, in a way using Lynx doesn’t.

Oh and since a screen reader reads through a browser, you might notice slight differences between browsers as well. You can run NVDA on Firefox and IE, though I dunno if it works on Chrome yet (didn’t used to, JAWS neither) since Chrome hadn’t implemented its accessibility layer (where information from the page code is offered to the screen reader)… and Opera, I’ve never dared : )

I agree that read speaker is for other types of disabilities besides blindness. I will disagree with Poes though on her second paragraph. If you need a magnifier and speech output, I would not recommend JAWS + ZoomText/Dolphin combo. While the two work together in tandem these days, they can still have wonky effects because both pieces of software wants to control the OS. In my experience the output ZoomText is enough for most. For clients that say they need bothh, I tell them what they may experience, and I cannot really fix these bugs.

Hi everyone

Thanks for all your help - i have been using NVDA and its brilliant. The site I’m working on had some of the form elements in a different order when read using the screen reader than how they seemed visually - so I have been able to sort this out and hopefully it makes more sense now for people using screenreaders.

Oh ya the readspeaker I did see on a news website and thought it might be cool - but I can see it’s more of a usability thing in case people feel bored of reading they prefer to listen.

Opera have got a package out you can download to use with a screen reader but havent looked into chrome yet.

So it’s a great intro to screen readers and I really recommend to everyone test in a screen reader!

I’ve never used ZoomText, but MAGic I’ve never dared use without JAWS, because I get lost on the screen without it! : )

Last time I checked the magnifier that comes on Gnome, it really sucked. But that was several versions of Ubuntu ago.

I thought MAGic of like an addon to JAWS, so people would buy MAGic vs ZoomText. At my old place of employment, we never talked about getting MAGic, so I never played with it.

Yeah they get offered together, and are made to work together.
Though when I upgraded from JAWS7 to 10 I didn’t bother getting a new MAGic so it’s an option.