By Martin Courcelles
Choice is the zest of life:
In my field of work, it's crucial to have an arsenal of tech tools and screen reader redundancy. Not only that, it gives an allure of nerdiness; something I strive for.
So you're quietly working at your PC, typing away on an important document and you notice that your screen reader has stopped talking. What are your options? Here are a few suggestions.
Since Windows 98, Microsoft implemented a very basic screen reader called Narrator. You can launch it by pressing WINDOWS+U. This gives you access to all of the settings, including built-in magnifying. Or directly launching Narrator by pressing WINDOWS+R and then typing "narrator" (without the quotes), and pressing ENTER. You will quickly notice that not much is spoken, but it will voice most windows controls and give you a slight edge in trouble shooting the situation.
But if you want a full-fledged screen reading experience, then NVDA is the way to go. NVDA stands for Non-Visual Desktop Access. This is an open source screen reader and is always being improved. You can utilize this screen reader at no cost, however the author appreciates any donations. You can download the application at:
Once downloaded and installed, you can launch it by pressing ALT+CONTROL+N. Most shortcut keys will be familiar, especially if you are a JAWS user. The only difference is how you review the screen. I'm still working on that concept, but the rest is pretty straightforward. NVDA is a good solution for access to netbooks or PCs with less computing power. There is also a portable version which can be installed on a USB stick, so that it can be used on any PC. For a good overview of NVDA and web surfing, visit:
And the Thunder Rolls:
Another free screen reader called Thunder comes to us from:
it comes equipped with a podcast player, RSS reader BBC Radio and TV tuner, the list goes on. Thunder also comes in a portable version which you can install on a USB stick.
And for an affordable alternative screen reader, why not visit:
you can run this screen reader simply by visiting the site and following the audio instructions given there.
Navigate the web site to see the extensive options and features for this low-cost screen reader alternative.
What about Screen magnification?
Although, I don't use screen magnification, I'm always interested in promising open source applications. It seems that I won't be disappointed today.
Virtual Magnifying Glass 3.4 is a magnifying utility which works on multiple platforms; notably Windows and Mac. You can find more info here;
For an extensive list of free and shareware screen magnification, visit: http://www.magnifiers.org/links/Download_Software/Screen_Magnifiers/Windows_Freeware_and_shareware/