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NVDA – The free, open-source screen reader

Contributed by Joel Zimba, Technology Outreach Coordinator, MDTAP

Traditional screen readers for Windows are expensive.  They can cost anywhere from a few hundred to the low thousands of dollars.  It’s not uncommon for assistive technology to cost more than the common off-the-shelf hardware with which it works.

NVDA, which stands for “Non-Visual Desktop Access” is a free screen reader for Windows which does nearly as much as the expensive screen reading solutions, but costs nothing.  It’s a good product.  We use it here at MDTAP and often recommend it to clients.

NVDA has a newly redesigned home at:  http://www.nvaccess.org.  Here, you can download the newest release (there is a new one as of this month) and get all of the information about installing, and using NVDA you could possibly want.  Of course, being Open-source, you can also get the source code or contribute to the project either with your coding skills or with some financial lubrication.

The free voices which come with NVDA are terrible in my opinion, but additional voices can be purchased, some of which are very high quality. I was pleasantly surprised by the voice samples available  on the website.

Later this afternoon, I plan to check out the new NVDA support for MS Power Point.  JAWS For Windows doesn’t work particularly well with it, so I am eager to see how well NVDA stacks up.

If you want a smaller, faster and free solution for screen access to Windows, try out NVDA.

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