Preparing for Your Foray into Learning JAWS

Learning to use the JAWS screen reader opens up a multitude of opportunities for performing common computer-based tasks such as creating documents, reading news items, accessing social media, and navigating the Internet. Whether you are new to using JAWS or teaching others how to harness the power of this valuable tool, there are some important steps you can take to help ensure a smooth learning process. The following tips can be used as check points for getting to know JAWS.

Become Familiar with the Computer Keyboard

Though it is not necessary to know how to type when first learning JAWS, it is helpful to know the location of keys such as letters, numbers, and punctuation, as well as modifier keys like ALT and CTRL. The more familiar you become with the keyboard, the easier it will be to locate keys when you need them. This makes executing keyboard commands faster and more efficient.

Learn How to Listen to Synthesized Speech

Listening to synthesized speech is often more challenging than listening to a person speak. Not all synthesizers pronounce words the same and understanding this type of speech can be difficult at first.

Before delving into computer concepts and keyboard commands, it may be helpful to hone your listening skills. Practice by having JAWS read text on the computer screen. Adjust the voice rate to a more comfortable speed as you listen. Over time, synthesized speech is easier to understand, and you will become a more proficient JAWS user.

Understand Important Computer Terminology

Becoming familiar with key computer terms prior to learning to use JAWS provides a basis for the information covered in subsequent lessons. Terms such as screen reader, modifier key, Windows desktop, and hotkey are examples of specific language you will hear while learning to use JAWS.

Want more preparation tips and in-depth information on getting to know JAWS? Join us for a live webinar Thursday, February 7 at 12:00 pm ET.

Visit the FS Zoom registration page to sign up and gain access to the computer in a whole new way.

Note: We are working with Zoom to resolve the issues some registrants have reported when trying to solve the CAPTCHA required to attend Freedom Scientific training webinars. Please read our CAPTCHA instructions if you experience difficulty with completing the registration CAPTCHA.



  1. Deborah Armstrong

    The zoom registration is way more confusing than previously registering directly with the training department. Dealing with the captia takes advanced-level skills. Plus the tab order is all wrong; after entering your email twice, you do not tab to a button to enable the captia but instead are thrown out of forms mode and on to the address bar. This isn’t the only web page that gives such problems, but a screen reader user should never get unceremoniously dumped in to the address bar while trying to fill out a form! It is crazy that to register for a beginner-level webinar a user would have to deal with these hurdles!

    • Linda Hunt

      As a JAWS user with many years of experience, I appreciate the
      company’s continued emphasis on training, and especially the new free webinars. I find it useful to refresh my knowledge of JAWS features that I may use less
      That said, i have some questions about your recommendations in the article, “Preparing for Your Foray into Learning JAWS.” I hope you will understand why I considered but did not recommend the webinars to an acquaintance who is newly blind. Your first recommendation is to become familiar with the computer keyboard and to know the location of various types of keys. Accomplishing that single task is not simple – e.g., laptop versus desktop keyboard, and key identification without either JAWS keyboard help or sighted assistance. How does one “practice by having JAWS read text on the
      computer screen” without knowledge of the JAWS rate and speed keystrokes hone one’s listening skills? How does one become familiar with key computer terms without context? I believe I would need to break each of these components down into separate lessons to begin JAWS instruction for my acquaintance. It is always helpful to understand how much knowledge one has acquired over the years.

  2. David Goldfield

    Hello, Elizabeth.
    Using JAWS 2018 and Firefox 65 I had a fairly good experience in registering for the upcoming webinar on Fusion. My main issue with the registration process was Zoom’s audio captcha, which I realize is not fully within Vispero’s control. First, no matter how clear the audio might be with some captchas I’ve never been a fan of audio-only solutions because they lock out deaf-blind users. To me, the ideal captchas are where you are presented with a question where the answer is simple or obvious, such as being required to enter the answer to a simple math problem or a question such as “what is the third letter in the word “grass”, with a series of radio buttons from which to choose. This makes the captcha easy to solve for users who are either blind or who are both blind as well as deaf. There could be a set of questions which would randomly be generated in order to minimize the risk of bots attempting to solve the captcha. However, this particular captcha is a bit silly as it plays a series of four or five words and then asks you to do your best to enter what you heard. This can be problematic for those of us who not only can’t see but who may have hearing difficulties. Fortunately, I must have done well enough as the form was convinced that I wasn’t a robot and I could then access the link to complete the flow. Again, I realize that this is a form from Zoom and so I realize that there may be only so much you can do to improve the process. Fortunately, the developers at Zoom seem to take accessibility very seriously and so I have no doubt they will do whatever they can to improve the registration process.
    Finally, I am so pleased that Vispero is placing such a strong emphasis on user training and that you are going to be offering more webinars on a more regular schedule. As someone who’s been providing support and training to assistive technology users since the early 1990s I’d love to see you offering some webinars on how to work with both native programs as well as Web pages which may present, to put it nicely, accessibility challenges. JAWS offers such a rich set of tools to allow the user to compensate for many badly coded apps and Web sites and I think that such webinars would really empower more JAWS users by giving them even more confidence in using their PC to navigate in some difficult waters.

    Thanks for all that you’re doing.

  3. Cedric Paulet

    Good morning,
    Will the jaws training in daisy format be updated in the coming months?
    Thank you for the new webinars.

    • Miguel Abdo

      We have set on a course to revamp much of our training material but given the amount of material it will take a while. Your request is something we are considering but don’t have a timeline yet. Continue to monitor – we will keep everyone posted on our progress.

  4. Cedric Paulet

    Good evening,
    Will the jaws training in daisy format be updated?
    Thank you for the webinars

  5. Deborah Armstrong

    I have a few more suggestions when helping beginners. There are both Braille and large print PC keyboards on the market. These are good things for a computer lab to have when the user is new to touch typing. When a school or training center has just a bit of money to spend at the end of the year, these are inexpensive and provide great value. Search google to locate them.
    When someone is starting out, memoriz
    ing all the keystrokes can seem daunting. Take it one keystroke a day. You can put the keystroke on a roladex card in Braille or large print, or use the Notes app on your phone. When I taught one guy who also had mild CP, he used a cassette recorder and each morning recorded a note to himself about the keystroke he’d think about that day, what it did and how he would use it. I often left him voicemail with a suggested keystroke, but recording his own notes helped him remember.
    Another approach is something I did for a friend. I printed out in very large print an article called “The ten most important keystrokes for JAWS users”and that helped the friend get started. And the first keystroke he learned was command search!
    Instead of having them master Word, have them master Notepad, which loads quickly and makes it easy to jot down all sorts of information one might have formerly used a pencil for. Plus, it’s harder to inadvertently hit the wrong key. Hitting a wrong key and getting lost is very stressful for people new to screen readers!

    • Miguel Abdo

      Deborah as always your experience shows in the great ideas you share. Thanks for sharing.

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