There are quite a few software programs out there to help the blind and visually impaired use computers. In this article I will be writing about a program called JAWS for Windows (JFW). JFW is one of the top Text to Speech (TTS) programs available for the visually impaired. This program is manufactured and sold by Freedom Scientific (http://www.freedomscientific.com). Freedom Scientific has been in business for more than ten years. Their products are sold in 55 countries, and their products have been translated into 24 different languages.
(About Information retrieved from: http://www.freedomscientific.com/about/about.asp)
Text to speech you may ask? Text to speech is a technology that reads text from the computer screen in programs such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, MS Word, and other text files using a synthesized voice.
JAWS allows the user to read not only these text applications, but in some cases can read labeled graphics on a web page or in a PDF or Word Processing Document. Many Visually impaired people use JAWS for every day basic internet use such as Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and AOL Instant Messenger just to name a few.
While surfing the Internet, there are a few special features that JAWS has to make it more convenient and much easier to navigate web sites. One of these features is a Key command that allows the user to stack the links. In other words, put the links into a list that is vertically arranged. This allows the user to arrow up and down through the links and simply hit the Enter key on the computer keyboard on the highlighted link to navigate to that link. A few other key commands that make navigating web pages easier are, “H” to go to the next Heading on the page, “F” to go to the next form field, “M” to find the next frame on the page, and “T” to go to the next Table on the page. These are not all of the key commands as there are too many to write about, but these will give you an idea of how this program works.
JFW is quite expensive and the cost ranges anywhere from $900.00 to over $1000.00. Fortunately there are organizations such as Blindness and Visual Services (BVS) in Pennsylvania, and Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) in West Virginia, that help visually impaired individuals obtain these programs. For more information on JAWS for Windows (JFW), you can go to Freedom Scientifics’ web site witch will be referenced at the end of this article.
JFW is only one of the many TTS programs out there for the visually impaired. There a few other TTS programs that are even free with limited features but in some cases are enough for some people. For information on other TTS / Screen Reading programs, you can research them on your favorite search engine.
JAWS for Windows by Freedom Scientific (http://www.freedomscientific.com)
JAWS for Windows is a Registered Trademark of, and the rights are owned by Freedom Scientific