Dear AccessWorld Readers,
Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day! For the last 10 years, every 3rd Thursday in May has been Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). Considering that this event started from a single blog post it is impressive how widely celebrated the event is. Like many organizations, AFB is celebrating GAAD in several ways. We have produced a GAAD blog post containing AFB and GAAD resources. In addition, check out this month's AccessWorld News for information on the episode of our Inform and Connect podcast focused on GAAD.
As part of AccessWorld's celebration of GAAD, I thought I would take this space to share information on some useful NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) addons with you. An NVDA addon is essentially a packaged piece of code that adds features to NVDA. JAWS has had this functionality for decades in the form of Scripts. For a sterling example of the power of JAWS scripts, see our review of Leasey in the July 2020 issue of AccessWorld. NVDA addons serve a similar purpose.
Before I begin, I would like to welcome the newest AccessWorld author, Judy Dixon! You may know Judy from her role of Consumer Relations Officer at the National Library Service (NLS). You also likely know Judy from the many useful technology books that she has published with the National Braille Press, many of which have been reviewed here in AccessWorld. Judy's debut article discusses the uses of Lidar technology on the latest iPhones for people with vision loss.
As I mentioned, Addons can add functionality to NVDA but can also be used to make programs more accessible or serve as programs in their own right. Adding Addons to NVDA is as simple as can be.
- Locate an addon package (most likely online)
- Run it directly or save the file and then run it from Windows Explorer.
- After launching the file, You will be asked if you would like to install the addon.
- Once installation is complete, you will be prompted to restart NVDA.
That is all there is to it. There is one caveat to keep in mind when searching for addons online. Starting with NVDA version 2019.3 and later, NVDA now uses Python 3, which means that addons that are not updated to be compatible with this version of the Python programming language will not work with modern versions of NVDA. Generally when you install an addon, NVDA will check for compatibility and let you know if the addon will not work for you.
The main source for NVDA addons is the NVDA Addon Repository. This site is the official source for NVDA addons which means that addons from this repository should be safe to use and compatible with the most recent version of NVDA. There are other sources of NVDA addons online, but you are on your own when it comes to determining safety and compatibility. Below, I have listed a few addons that I find personally useful.
Instant Translate: This addon will allow you to translate text on the fly. To use, press the NVDA key (Insert or Caps Lock) + SHIFT + T. After this, you can press "T" again to read text that you have selected or press Shift + T to read what is contained on the clipboard. To change languages and make other setting changes, go to the NVDA menu > Preferences > Settings. The Translate settings will be at the bottom of the list.
Speech History: This deceptively simple addon is something I have found to be incredibly useful. This addon allows you to copy whatever NVDA last spoke to the clipboard by pressing the "F12" key. Considering all the items spoken by a screen reader that you normally could not copy to the clipboard, This addon has many uses. In addition, you can press Shift + F11 and Shift + F12 to move backwards and forwards respectively through the last 100 items spoken by NVDA. This means that you can cycle to something you would like to copy with these commands, and then press the "F12" key to copy it to the clipboard. I would say that it is the addon that I personally use most commonly.
NVDA Remote Access: This extremely useful addon allows you to control another computer running NVDA from your PC. See my Review in the March issue of AccessWorld for full details and information on how to operate the addon. As would be expected, an addon like this has many uses, from allowing an instructor to assist a student remotely to allowing you to manage multiple computers seamlessly. It probably seems obvious, but if you use this addon be extremely careful to whom you give access to your machine as this makes for a very affective tool for anyone who would want to steal data from your device or has malicious intent for your machine.
LION, Live OCR Reader for NVDA: This addon is one of the most revolutionary that I have seen in a while. In short, This is an automatic subtitle reader for NVDA. The addon allows you to perform Optical Character Recognition (OCR) continuously on the screen of your windows 10 computer. The addon will only speak if it detects text that was not present in a previous scan. In addition, you can crop the recognition window size in the options, allowing you to focus on the part of the screen where the subtitle resides, keeping the addon from repeatedly speaking extraneous information and lowering your CPU's load. If you would like to learn more and discuss the addon, This forum thread on the Audio Games forum is a good place to do so. I have found the addon to work fairly well for the intended purpose, but to also be helpful for other applications. For example, A website I use has text that will appear after performing a function but there is no indication when the next text will appear. I will run LION while using the site and as soon as text appears, LION will begin speaking, letting me know I can read the new text. You may notice that LION stops speaking randomly; I find that toggling the addon on and off (NVDA Key + ALT + L) can fix the issue. I also find that the addon stops working or crashes more often if I have the addon performing OCR on the entire screen. Narrowing the recognition window size tends to fix the issue. The addon can take some fiddling to get it to the proper recognition window size for the application with which you are using it, but I have personally found it an invaluable tool.
Are there any NVDA addons or JAWS scripts that you use that you find particularly valuable? Let us know and we will be happy to share your suggestions with your fellow AccessWorld readers.
AccessWorld Editor and Chief