About a year and a half ago, I made the switch from using a screen magnifier, Windows 7 Magnifier, to using a screen reader, JAWS for Windows. My vision had changed enough that I found I could be more productive at work using a screen reader. Why did I choose JAWS you ask? Well, JAWS is what most of the people I know use and it is what I teach my students to use.
A couple of months after using JAWS, I discovered that there were some things that JAWS did not read for me. The first thing I remember it not reading was a submit button for a form I was filling out on a web site. I knew there had to be a button to submit the form I had just filled out, but JAWS could not find it. I had just spent 20 minutes filling out this form and now I had no way to submit it. Well, I had shown NVDA to some students and had it on my computer. So I turned off JAWS, turned on NVDA and, what do you know, NVDA found the submit button. Granted it did not say, “submit,” it said, “button one” instead, but sure enough that was the submit button. I now find that I usually prefer NVDA when surfing the web.
Of course, I have found the reverse is also true. When working in MS Excel, NVDA does not do a very good job of reading some of the worksheets I use and JAWS always does the trick. Also, I find it easier to switch between screen readers because, whenever possible, I use Window commands rather than screen reader commands.
Sometimes people get locked in a paradigm where they think of themselves as a JAWS user or a Window-Eyes user or whatever. My suggestion is that everyone who uses a screen reader starts to think of themselves as a screen reading user and be comfortable with at least two different screen readers. That way, when the one you are currently using does not read something, you can close it and start another one. NVDA is a good choice for a second screen reader as it is free. You can download it from: www.nvda-project.org.