Spectator of Screen Reader? tools for you

Testing with a screen reader is one of the major activities while making a website accessible. For non-screen reader users it will be hard hearing the robotic voice output through-out the day. On the other hand they might be missing important information spoken out by the screen reader. Sometimes that make huge difference in identifying accessibility problems. If the test engineer miss to hear the word link, they end up raising a missing role bug under 4.1.2 Name, Role, Value.

Through this article I want to improve the productivity of sighted accessibility engineers by introducing tools such as

NVDA Speech Viewer

The NVDA speech viewer feature shows the information spoken out by NVDA as the user navigates through the page or types in some information. This can be activated from the tools menu in NVDA settings that can be invoked by pressing NVDA + N. (NVDA key may be insert key in most computers and caps key in case of some specific laptop layouts).

NVDA > Tools > Speech viewer or the hot keys NVDA + n followed by T and S.

Sample NVDA Speech viewer

JAWS Speech History

JAWS speech history feature introduced in JAWS 15, provides the content spoken out by JAWS in a panel. The JAWS speech history panel can be invoked by pressing JAWS key + spacebar followed by H (JAWS key may be insert key in most computers and caps key in case of some specific laptop layouts). Remember that JAWS speech history panel can show only last 50 sentences spoken out by JAWS. When the JAWS speech history panel is invoked the focus is presented at the last sentence spoken by JAWS. Use normal navigation keys to read the rest of the content in the panel. To clear the JAWS history press JAWS key + spacebar followed by shift h.

Sample_JAWS_History

In case for any reason JAWS Speech History is not displayed, check if it is enabled (By default this feature is enabled).

  1. Press INSERT+F2, and select Settings Center.
  2. Press CTRL+SHI3FT+D to load the default JAWS settings.
  3. In the Search edit box, type “speech history” without the quotes.
  4. Press DOWN ARROW to move to Enable Speech History in the filtered search results in the tree view.
  5. Check if Enable Speech History check box is checked.

VoiceOver Caption Panel

VoiceOver caption panel shows the content read out by voiceover as the user navigates through any web page or other portions of the computer. VoiceOver caption panel is switched on by default for voiceover users. For any reason if the caption panel is not available check if it is switched off by any chance. The caption panel feature can be found at
VoiceOver Utility > Visuals > Caption Panel tab

Sample_VoiceOver_caption_panel
*Knowledge and screen shot are the credits of Paul J Adam.

Talkback Display Speech output

The Display speech output feature is an option under talkback developer settings. When this feature is enabled the currently spoken text of talkback is displayed at the bottom of the screen. This allows the developers to understand the exact text read out by talkback. This feature may also be benefited by low vision users who want to follow talkback. This feature is not checked by default. Use the following steps to invoke the display speech output feature of talkback.

Settings> Accessibility> TalkBack > Settings > Developer options> display speech output.

I am not aware of any similar feature for VoiceOver on IOS.

How does these features help?

  • Useful for any sighted user trying to use screen reader for various reasons.
  • When developers do unit testing to understand the screen reader output.
  • When accessibility testers want to provide the exact speech output to reproduce a bug and show / email to developers.
  • For sighted accessibility testers who may be relying more on visual output than the audio spoken out by screen readers while testing.
  • For low vision users who depends on both audio output and display output.

These are few ways a visual speech output can be beneficial.

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