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In 2006 two blind programmers started working on a screen reader to provide accessibility to programs and content on computers free of charge to people with visual disabilities.
Six years later, NVDA (Non Visual Desktop Access) is an award-winning, free, open source screen reader for Microsoft Windows. NVDA is supported entirely by donations (more on that later).
The NVDA software isn’t just free; it’s also one of the most highly regarded and popular screen readers available, with 43% of screen reader users in a recent major survey stating that they commonly used NVDA.
Software based on clear, consistent principles
Like many others in the accessibility industry, we first heard of NVDA as we looked around for high-quality screen reader software that understood PDF tags but didn’t break the bank.
We found more than software: we found an extraordinary team of developers (Michael Curran and James Teh), both blind, who have dedicated themselves to a rigorous model of software development. No shortcuts for these guys; they have a clear, consistent philosophy and the software’s quality reflects it.
In an assistive technology world that’s characterized by a near-total lack of complete technical standards implementation, NVDA may not (yet) be full-featured, but it’s remarkably lightweight, fast, predictable and reliable, just as good software should be.
The NVDA open source software project was launched and is primarily maintained by NV Access, an Australian non-profit charitable organization dedicated to the principle that access to electronic content should not mean additional costs for blind and vision impaired users. NVDA is the organization’s primary mission.
NVDA goes PDF/UA
Historically, PDF accessibility support has been weak in screen readers and other assistive technologies. As a result, many screen reader users have learned to dislike PDF as the amount of information they receive is often nearly zero.
Some assistive technologies offer extensive (although not yet complete) support for PDF, others miss certain key features and still others have no useful concept of PDF at all.
PDF/UA, the new International Standard for accessible PDF, provides clear rules for PDF creation programs so that more people will produce accessible PDF documents and forms and more software will take advantage of PDF accessibility features (Learn more about PDF/UA).
In June 2012 the PDF Association, an industry association dedicated to promoting adoption of ISO standards for PDF technology, partnered with the Swiss non-profit foundation Access for All to launch the “NVDA goes PDF/ UA” campaign. The goal is to collect enough donations to help NV Access make NVDA fully PDF/UA conforming by the end of 2012, and to continue adding PDF-related improvements thereafter.
Will you help sustain development of NVDA?
Want to change the assistive technology industry for the better?
Support Mick and Jamie as they make NVDA the finest screen reader available.
Whether you choose to donate directly to NVDA or support the NVDA goes PDF/UA campaign, you will be helping drive a real-world, near-term improvement in the experience of PDF electronic documents and forms by visually disabled users worldwide. We urge you to join NetCentric Technologies in supporting NVDA today!
Full disclosure: Duff Johnson is the Vice Chairman of the PDF Association.