New NVDA Features for Teachers

Screenshot of the NVDA Braille Veiwer showing output in both simbraille and print.

The newest version of NVDA contains several new features that are helpful for teachers. These new features provide visual on-screen feedback of the keyboard focus and braille output.

Focus Highlight

The Focus Highlight feature can eb used to highlight where the current keyboard focus is on screen. Focus Highlight highlights the system focus (normal keyboard focus, such as in a menu), the navigator object (the current window/object containing focus, such as an HTML window in a browser), and/or the browse mode virtual focus (the screen-reader focus on a website). These options can be enabled by going to the NVDA menu (NVDA + N), then Settings, and selecting Vision. The first checkbox enables or disables highlight focus, while the following three can be used to experiment with the individual types of highlighting and determine which are helpful.

Braille Viewer

The Braille Viewer presents a visual display in both print and braille of exactly what is displayed on a braille display. This feature can work regardless of whether a braille display is connected or not. To enable the Braille Viewer, open the NVDA menu (NVDA + N), select Tools (T), and select Braille Viewer. Once active, the Braille Viewer floats over other windows (i.e., stays in the foreground). It can be turned off by following the same steps as above.

Using These New Features

These new features can be very helpful for both lesson planning and supporting a student who uses NVDA.

For example, if planning a lesson on navigating the internet, a teacher can turn on Focus Highlight to determine exactly what content is being read or displayed by NVDA. Teachers can use this feature to decide which commands they would like to suggest students use, or to explore navigation with new single character navigation commands online.

The Braille Viewer can be used in a similar way to Focus Highlight. Even without having access to a student’s braille display, a teacher can use the Braille Viewer to preview exactly what text a student will see when their display is connected. This can be used to help teach a student what the information being displayed means, such as braille abbreviations that convey the type and state of controls or HTML content. Similarly, the Braille Viewer can be used while working with a student to help clarify braille-related questions without having to look at the actual braille display.

About the author

Jen Jesso

I have worked in various roles in the field of visual impairment since 2007. In addition to working as a teacher of students with visual impairments, I recently completed coursework to become an orientation and mobility specialist. I have been fortunate to work with the fantastic team at PRCVI since 2014.

I enjoy many aspects of my role at PRCVI, but highlights include working with teachers of students with visual impairments and their students on outreach visits and working on PRCVI initiatives and projects.

Outside of work, my interests include reading, computer programming, swimming, and spending time with friends and family.

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