A screen reader is generally a blind person’s main method of access to any sort of screen, be it on a computer, phone or tablet. Screen readers take content from the screen and present it using speech synthesis or Braille.
Is that all?
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But of course there’s more to the story. Whilst many computer programs work well with screen readers, people often need to learn each application’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. Then there’s keyboard shortcuts – a blind person may press hundreds in a typical work or school day. Finally, the device running the screen reader (and this is most often the case with laptops and touch-screen phones) will have a lot of underlying material to learn as well. So it’s not just a case of sitting back and listening to a voice.
What can I offer?
I don’t teach screen readers from books or cheat sheets. I use them myself every day of my life for leisure and lifestyle, work and play, and everything in between. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of (and expert certification in) both NVDA and JAWS, the two most common Windows screen readers which I have been using for decades. Not being as familiar with Narrator and Supernova (the other contendors) I took steps to learn those two, and am a fully-qualified Dolphin trainer and have completed several Microsoft-accredited training courses.
I am also young enough to have picked up some of a teenager’s glued-to-the-phone syndrome and can of course therefore teach VoiceOver for the iPhone and iPad too.
Finally, there’s a growing number of other things that talk, from television sets to microwaves, tablets to dictionaries. Chances are if it speaks to you and it’s confusing you, I’ll be able to shed some light.