Accessible Software – VoiceOver Vs Jaws

Hi everyone,

This blog is about my journey with screen reading technology. I know, I know, it might sound boring to some and to others it might be a whole new subject to learn about, but it might also be helpful or interesting so here is my journey with the technology so far.

If you regularly read my blog you will be aware I’ve started a role within the sight loss sector after running my own holistic practice. I haven’t completely walked away from that world though as I continually incorporate what I have learnt then into what I do now. I also still massage one day a month. All that aside I wanted to share the different screen reading tech I have experienced and why I had to change and learn new ways of working. Here goes;

Voiceover – Apple’s inbuilt screen reading software

I have been an apple user for as long as I can remember or when that first iPhone became available and within a price range to access. I apple journey started with using their inbuilt zoom platform. This is within the accessibility offer and is a magnification that can be used within the phone. I had usable sight back then; I just needed the text to be bigger. At this point I was aware of Voice Over but never tried it out as I thought, “I don’t need that, so why bother?”. Looking back now I wished I had given it a go as it may have made the change easier. I have learnt that trying things even if you think they are not relatable to you is a great way of preparing and learning.

When I lost the remaining sight, I had five years ago, I had no choice but to begin to use VoiceOver. I can tell you it was a difficult start and my phone got thrown quite a few times at the wall. Luckily, they were a lot sturdier back then. With support and encouragement, mainly from my sister, I began to learn this new way of using my phone. This then led onto to using my computer and iPad, opening the world back up to me.

I soon realised that my mind set had to change. I had to begin to look at this challenge as a way to reclaim my independence, to reconnect and to begin to accept who I now was. This was not a moment to allow fear and frustration to take over. Don’t get me wrong there were moments of complete despair and I thought I will never get it, but I knew what was at stake and where I wanted to go.

I can now say I am a right whizz at using VoiceOver so much so people now say to me, “How can you understand that?” It is like learning a new language and way of communicating.  I guess similar to British Sign Language. As my confidence grew with this platform and I got comfortable I subconsciously, I guess, shook it up and created new challenges for myself. I got a job in the sight loss sector and had to start all over again.

Jaws – An external screen reading programme for PC\s

Jaws has been around a lot longer than the apple equivalent, VoiceOver. However, it in my opinion, is still behind it is a lot more clunky as a program to use. For instance, Jaws doesn’t have the rota feature that VoiceOver has and this makes tapping through things longer and somewhat frustrating. The rota allows you to select things to tab through cutting out a lot of info making it easier to find what you want in a shorter time. Jaws does have the function of skipping through headings but so far I have not discovered so much more. I am still a relative newcomer to Jaws so maybe I will find out more as I go on.

My introduction to Jaws was when I started my new job. The company uses Outlook so I had to fit into their way of working rather than being able to adapt my own way. As a disabled person I am used to molding into the world around me rather than the world accommodating me. I know that that sounds wrong but the world is still very much an ablest space and doesn’t want to change. There is hope though and it is slowly happening but, in the meantime, we have to sacrifice where we have too if we want to move forward, or I do anyway.

So, I embraced a new learning, which is not a bad thing. I choose to look at it as me building my knowledge and therefore being more prepared for change because change is inevitable. I had training by someone with lived experience and a great knowledge of the programme and now I work between the two platforms. Another bow to my string as you might say and this time the experience of learning to use it wasn’t as frustrating because I had learnt from the previous experience and grew from that.

I wouldn’t say one is better than the other now. They both have benefits and faults I guess a lot like humans really. It is knowing which I need to use at what point and for what task that makes them work well together. Taking with me the positive from both learnings and growing and changing with them.

I would recommend trying something new even if you think it is not relatable to you or you don’t need to know about it because it doesn’t directly affect you. I try wherever I can now to open my mind to new experiences because you never really know what is around that corner and what you will need once you are there.

Please remember the views in this blog are my own and not reflective of anyone else’s. I am very aware that we all have our own view and are entitled to our own thoughts. If you wish to share any of them with me, please do comment below.

Take care and remember to stay open to new things.


Nina xx


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