Screen Readers, Making Websites Accessible

Screen readers are essential technology tools for people with visual impairments or other disabilities that make reading on-screen content challenging. A good screen reading application can enable a wide spectrum of computer accessibility for many users via audio or touch. Screen reader options have consistently grown in numbers and capabilities. They convert digital text into synthesized speech or Braille in organized and directed approaches, enabling users to access, navigate, and interact with websites and other computer applications.

The most commonly used screen readers are listed below with brief details:

  • JAWS (Job Access With Speech): JAWS is one of the most popular screen readers for Microsoft Windows operating system users. It was first launched for Windows 1.0 in 1995. It has grown into a common workplace application that is able to provide speech and Braille output for a wide range of computer applications. An annual license is required to be purchased from the developers of the software, Freedom Scientific. There are three separate pricing options for business, home, and school.
  • NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access): NVDA is a free and open-source screen reader for Windows. It is widely used due to its availability at no cost and its comprehensive features. It works well with all of the most popular web browsers and is especially popular with users of Firefox.
  • VoiceOver: VoiceOver is a free screen reader built into nearly all Apple products, including macOS computers, Apple TV, Apple Watch, iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices. Located within device settings, under the accessibilities tab, VoiceOver is a gesture-based screen reader that provides audible descriptions of what is on the screen. It is included in Apple’s popular browser, Safari, as well.
  • TalkBack: TalkBack is Google's free screen reader for Android devices. It provides spoken feedback and notifications for users, enabling them to interact with their devices using touch and gestures. It can be located and enabled within the Accessibility settings on Android devices.
  • Narrator: Narrator is Microsoft's built-in screen reader for Windows and the Microsoft Office suite. It has been improved significantly in recent years and is included with Windows 10 and later versions. The Microsoft Edge browser includes Narrator. Microsoft provides an excellent training guide for Narrator.
  • Orca: Orca is a free and open-source screen reader for Linux/GNU operating systems. It supports various applications within the GNOME desktop. Profiles that users set up in Orca allow them to save configurations to be used across multiple digital environments.
  • ZoomText: While ZoomText is primarily a magnification software, it also includes a screen reader feature, making it a suitable option for individuals with low vision.
  • ChromeVox: ChromeVox is  screen reader extension for Google’s Chrome and Chrome OS, making it useful for browsing the web on Chromebooks or within the Chrome browser on other operating systems.

These screen readers, as well as other options, vary in terms of their features, compatibility with different operating systems, and cost. 

Man working on a laptop, using a screen reader depicting website accessibility


Choosing a Screen Reader

Most computers, mobile devices and smartphones now have screen reading capability. Because each screen reader has differences in interface, capabilities, and performance, there is a bit of a learning curve for each one that an individual uses. Because of that inconsistency, most users like to choose a screen reader that is most intuitive and high performing for their specific needs across multiple devices, applications, and common digital activities.

The best choice for each individual is influenced by:

  • Price and Geography (and Language).
  • The type of computer and or mobile phone used. 
  • Browser preference. Specific combinations of browser and screen reader tend to perform optimally.

Most common use of digital resources. While most screen reader users will deliver satisfactory experiences within web browsers, email, and common office applications, there are combinations of screen readers and applications that will outperform others.

Web Accessibility Survey, Including Questions Relating to Screen Readers

The accessibility team, consistently active participants within disabled communities, recently sponsored a Web Accessibility Survey. The ultimate goal of the survey was to learn more from the people they serve.

Questions relating to the use of screen readers were included in the Web Accessibility Survey. NVDA is the most commonly used screen reader by the 1,200+ survey respondents. There are other insightful survey responses that point to browser preferences, common barriers to accessibility, input devices used, and much more.

Interested in the results of the Web Accessibility Survey? Visit the Web Accessibility Survey page to learn more. 

Does Your Business Need Digital Accessibility Help?

As the digital agency and accessibility partner to some of the world’s most recognized brands can provide you and your brand the confidence in the accessibility of your digital solutions. Our accessibility team achieves consistent and comprehensive solutions meeting expectations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and applicable accessibility laws.

Accessibility team members at include Certified Professionals in Web Accessibility (CPWAs) and Certified Professionals in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACCs).

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About Author

Rex Paisley Blog Author
Rex Paisley is a Senior Marketing Specialist with With contributions consistently centered around website and digital marketing solutions, he is a career creative professional who has authored, designed, and developed marketing assets across a wide range of industries. A competitive spirit, he enjoys unpacking the success factors behind the many business wins with clients of

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