Skip to main content
Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

Screen Readers Everyone Can Afford

June 15, 2018 | 1 Comment

by David Flament

Tags: , ,

headphones lying on a desk

I am often asked about the choices for a screen reader for those who cannot afford JAWS.  The first thing to know is that having two screen readers is always a better option than having just one.  Let’s look at three options that may help.


The first option, and what is quickly becoming my primary screen reader at work and home, is NVDA.  NVDA has been around for over a decade now and has only gotten better with time.  What I like most about NVDA is:

  • This screen reader uses very little system resources.
  • NVDA never seems to react badly with other programs the way some screen readers do.
  • most of the keyboard commands in NVDA are the same as JAWS, making it easy for someone to transition from one to the other.

NVDA comes with the eSpeak synthesizer, which many people find hard to listen to.  Never fear, if you are a Windows 10 user, you can choose the Windows Mobile voices, which are much better sounding  but still very responsive.



The Narrator in Windows 10 is not the same Narrator from Windows 7 that could not even read a Word document.  Narrator is now a full-fledged screen reader.  It is built-in to every version of Windows 10, so nothing to install.

To start or stop Narrator, just press CTRL+WINDOWS+ENTER.  With older versions of Windows 10, leave off the CTRL key and just press WINDOWS+ENTER.

Narrator does have an advantage being a built-in as there are fewer conflicts with Windows.  In fact, I find it to be a very responsive screen reader.  The only thing that takes getting use to is the odd choice of keyboard commands.  Although, if you are comfortable using the Caps Lock key, which is an option in NVDA and the new keyboard commands in ZoomText, it may not be so odd.

Check out Narrator keyboard commands to see a list of Narrator commands.


System Access To Go

For those with Internet access, Serotek offers access to their System Access screen reader for free.  To use this option, it is recommended that you set up an account with serotek.  Setting up the account allows you to save your settings.  Saving your settings is especially helpful if you are using a computer that is not yours such as at a library or school.

To start System Access To Go:

  1. Press the WINDOWS key.
  2. Type:
  3. Press ENTER

When the web page loads, you will hear a nice welcome message and available options.  Pressing F8 will give you a good tutorial on setting up your account and getting started.

I hope these options give you a more affordable choice for a screen reader.  Even if you do have a screen reader, it is not a bad idea to have a second one ready just in case.  I find that JAWS and NVDA work best for me, however I have used Narrator and System Access To Go in a pinch.

David is the Manager of Assistive Technology at Second Sense.

1 comment on “Screen Readers Everyone Can Afford”

  1. Sara Streeter says:

    Terrific information! You helped me solve my most vexing issue in NVDA: the voice. I switched to a Windows voice and it makes an indescribable difference. Thanks so much!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.