Blind and visually impaired people now have access to computers and the Internet through screenreaders. These screenreaders convert text messages into audio output formats in spoken language. These screenreaders also come in various languages, so blind and visually impaired people across the globe virtually cross the Digital Divide in convenient and accurate ways.
The most popular screenreader in the market is known as JAWS, which is an acronym for Job Access with Speech. It is a software application designed for MS Windows OS versions by Freedom Scientific, Inc. The latest version of JAWS is JAWS 9.0 Beta release, but the more stable version is JAWS 8.0. The most recent JAWS 8 version is compatible with MS Windows Vista.
However, many blind and visually impaired computer users choose to install the JAWS screenreader on MS Windows XP-based machines. This is because the JAWS screenreader versions that are compatible with the MS Windows Vista OS versions still have minor bugs or problems regarding accessibility to the on-screen features of the more visual MS Windows Vista. Optimizing the look and feel of MS Windows XP can virtually release the full potential of the JAWS screenreader, so here are some tips to customize the MS Windows XP OS in order to make the JAWS screenreader more efficient and user-friendly.
1. Configure MS Windows XP's display settings to match the functions of JAWS. You can do this by going to Control Panel and selecting the Display icon. Double-clicking on the aforementioned icon will launch a dialogue box with selections/options that can be modified upon the discretion of the user. Going to the Desktop tab and choosing Bliss from the list of backgrounds and selecting Stretch as the Position of the chosen desktop wallpaper will make JAWS accurately read displayed text message on the screen. Afterwards, going to the Screen Saver tab and selecting None from the list of screen savers will allow the blind or the visually impaired JAWS user to prevent screen savers from popping up in various intervals that can block the view of JAWS to the text messages displayed on the screen. Click the Ok button or the Apply button before selecting the Ok button to change the desktop settings of MS windows XP.
2. If you're still having a hard time unleashing the fullest potential of the JAWS screenreader on MS Windows XP, you should right-click on an empty space in the desktop and choose Properties. This will launch the Display dialogue box. Going to the Appearance tab and choosing the Windows Classic Style from the list of Windows and Buttons drop-down menu will further optimize JAWS to work properly with the MS Windows XP OS. In addition, selecting the Default (Blue) option from the Color Scheme drop-down list and the Normal option from the Font Size drop-down menu will tweak the MS Windows XP OS to work even better with JAWS. Finally, going to the Settings tab and selecting 11% or 1024x768 pixels as the screen resolution will optimize JAWS to efficiently read the displayed text messages on the screen by the MS Windows XP OS or other applications installed on the machine.
3. Pressing Insert+F2 or function key 2 will take the blind or visually impaired user to the JAWS Manager. Selecting Configuration Manager from the drop-down list will allow the user to make the necessary changes on the settings of the JAWS program. Pressing Alt and moving the directional keys one step to the right will take the user to the Set Options menu. Pressing the directional keys one step down will open the menu list under the Set Options list. Selecting the Graphics and Symbols option will launch a dialogue box where the user can configure JAWS to read Labeled Graphics. This will make the JAWS screenreader more compatible with most programs, especially IE, since the application can now accurately read labeled graphics and symbols that are usually found on dialogue boxes of MS Windows XP, Windows XP-based applications, and various websites published on the World Wide Web.
4. For JAWS to become more compatible with other MS Windows XP-based applications, browse through the Internet for JFW scripts and lists that were designed for the purpose of providing unrestricted access to blind and visually impaired JAWS users when it comes to various MS Windows XP-based programs.
The JAWS screenreader has various versions that are compatible with different MS Windows OS versions. To download a 40-minute fully functional trial version of the application (of course, the trial version is not technically a full-featured version of the JAWS screenreader since it is a time-restricted version of the program), go to the Freedom Scientific website and go back again to fully optimize your computer setup by carefully incorporating the suggestions above.