What are they?
Screen readers are software that reads out text (like text readers do), while also providing information that is otherwise only available visually. For example, it may inform about special kinds of text (such as headings and links, which sighted users can identify due to the way they look), and read out text alternatives for non-text content (such as images). This is useful for all people who benefit from text readers, and essential for some people, such as those with severe or complete blindness.
Most operating systems ship with their own screen readers:
- Windows and Windows Phone: Narrator.
- Mac OS and iOS: VoiceOver.
- Linux: Orca comes with many distros.
- Android: TalkBack.
- Chromebooks: ChromeVox (this can also be added to the Chrome browser on Windows and Mac, but in that case it is limited to web pages only).
Some other screen readers include:
- JAWS (paid, for Windows): most popular screen reader, although the license is very expensive. It can be used for free for 40 minute sessions, so it’s possible to use it for testing without having to purchase a license.
- NVDA (free, for Windows): not as popular as JAWS, but it still has more features and a wider user base than Narrator.
It is crucial to test with screen readers when assessing the accessibility of a digital product or service; learn more about that on our screen reader testing page.
VoiceOver on macOS:
- VoiceOver User Guide by Apple
- How to enable VoiceOver on Mac by Mick Symons and Bryan M. Wolfe (2019)
- VoiceOver Keyboard Shortcuts on a Mac by Deque University
VoiceOver on iOS:
- Turn on and practice VoiceOver on iPhone by Apple
- How to use VoiceOver on iPhone and iPad by Mick Symons (2019)
NVDA on Windows:
- Download NVDA from NV Access
- NVDA 2019.3.1 User Guide by NVDA (2019)
- Using NVDA to Evaluate Web Accessibility by WebAIM (2017)
- NVDA 2019.2 Commands Quick Reference by HelpTech (2019) [download]
JAWS on Windows:
- Download JAWS from Freedom Scientific
- JAWS for Windows Quick Start Guide by Freedom Scientific (2018)
- Using JAWS to Evaluate Web Accessibility by WebAIM (2017)
- Web Browsing Keystrokes for JAWS by Freedom Scientific
TalkBack on Android:
- Android Accessibility Suite on Google Play
- TalkBack on Android Accessibility Help
- Use TalkBack Gestures on Android Accessibility Help
Orca on Linux:
- Download Orca from Softpedia
- Orca Screen Reader on GNOME Help (2014)