Learn More, Do More, New Features in JAWS: Toggle JAWS Sounds in Speech On Demand

In this week’s look at some of the new features in JAWS 2020, we review Speech On Demand, a feature that has actually been around for a couple versions, but received a subtle enhancement in 2020 that may benefit some users.

Introduced in JAWS and Fusion 2018, Speech On Demand allows you to limit the amount of JAWS speech you hear as you navigate windows and documents using the keyboard or mouse, type text, or perform other actions that normally provide speech feedback. By default, you can toggle between Full Speech and Speech On Demand using a layered keystroke (INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by S). For JAWS users who rely heavily on Braille or for users of Fusion who can see well enough to use the screen to track focus, too much speech can be overwhelming while navigating using the keyboard and mouse.

By default, when using Speech On Demand, JAWS only announces actions for a limited set of screen reading keystrokes such as reading the current character, word, line, or window title. Windows navigation commands, such as moving to the next or previous character, line, or word, do not speak. When Speech On Demand is active, you can also press the layered command INSERT+SPACEBAR followed by SHIFT+S to completely mute speech.

For example, if you primarily rely on Braille, you might choose to activate Speech On Demand so you do not hear speech when switching applications with ALT+TAB or navigating documents and web pages using the ARROW keys or Braille display controls. However, you may still want speech for certain actions like quickly checking the time, reading the current column or row in a spreadsheet, or reading with Say All to give your fingers a break.

In previous versions, when using Speech On Demand or muting speech entirely, one drawback was that sounds generated by JAWS could still be heard. These include the sound heard when pressing INSERT+SPACEBAR to perform a layered keystroke or when completing an address in Outlook. JAWS and Fusion 2020 now allow you to specify whether or not JAWS-generated sounds are heard when Speech On Demand is active and when speech is completely muted.

By default, JAWS sounds will continue to be heard even when Speech On Demand is active or muted. To change this:

  1. Press INSERT+6 to open Settings Center. If you want this change to apply to all applications, press CTRL+SHIFT+D to load the default settings file.
  2. In the tree view, expand the Speech Options group.
  3. Navigate to Play JAWS Sounds and press the SPACEBAR to clear this check box. You can customize other Speech On Demand settings in this group as well.
  4. Select OK to save your changes and close Settings Center.

For more information on using Speech On Demand including  a complete list of JAWS keystrokes that continue to provide speech in this mode, refer to the JAWS Help by pressing F1 while focused in the JAWS window. You will find the Speech On Demand topic under the Settings Center book.