One of the most frustrating aspects of using a computer is navigating around the Internet with a screen reader. You have to learn and understand all kinds of elements, such as headings, frames, links, and more. Sighted people don’t need to know these elements because they can see the screen. They can read what they wish and ignore anything that is not useful. Up to this time, we, as screen reader users had the ability to do this, but only to a point.
Most screen readers have keyboard letters assigned to enable us to move through elements on the page. Also, most screen readers have the capability to search for a specific word or phrase on a page. But, what if the element you navigate to is just an advertisement, or, you don’t know what word to search for because you’ve never visited the page before?
How would you like the ability to have your screen reader ignore unuseful elements on a page and jump directly to the text you want to read? Now, with JAWS 14 Beta 2, this is possible.
The feature is called Flexible Web, and it lets us control what elements we want to read and which elements to hide. Once you’ve customized a page, you can save the customization and every time you visit that page, the rules will apply. You can set up rules for a specific web page or website, and you can decide to use the rules or not use the rules. It is all customizable with the Flexible Web Wizard, and this is one feature that I will be using every day.
This brings up an interesting point to ponder. The major companies like Freedom Scientific and GW Micro are working hard to make sure that their products will work when Windows 8 gets released at the end of October. Freedom Scientific put out the first public Beta for JAWS 14 at the beginning of September. However, GW Micro has not issued any public Beta for Window-Eyes. They’ve been very quiet about their next release. Now that JAWS 14 has the Flexible Web feature in it, are the developers at GW Micro looking at this feature and figuring out what its shortcomings are and how they can make a feature in their program better? One can only speculate on the possibilities, but this is why competition is a good thing.
You can learn all about JAWS 14 at this link. http://freedomscientific.com/downloads/jaws/jaws-public-beta.asp
You can listen to the Freedom Scientific podcast, which gives a very in depth overview of Flexible Web at this link. http://www.freedomscientific.com/FSCast/episodes/fscast070-september2012.asp