Over the years, I have been a Windows computer user in both my home and school life. I have used both the JAWS and NVDA screen readers. I am the king tinkerer. I enjoy driving my teachers nuts with all the technology I discover.
I started exploring the Chromebook in sixth grade. Then I decided that in the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I would start using the Chromebook full-on for all of my class work. I have been using this Chromebook for about 4 months and it has worked flawlessly.
I use Chromevox screen reader almost all the time in conjunction with Google Docs, Google Drive, and Google Slides. Overall, these applications are quite accessible with Chromevox.
Chromevox comes on all Chrome devices running Chrome OS. You can enable Chromevox from any screen. Press ctrl+alt+z to enable Chromevox. You will hear a tone and the Chromebook will announce “Chromevox spoken feedback is ready”. Once enabled, there is not much setup
needed. I recommend going threw the interactive tutorial. In the Chromevox options, you might want to change some keyboard shortcuts like the Chrome vox key for ease of use.
How it works.
Chromevox uses audio and voice feedback to help in navigating the Chromebook similar to the way JAWS and NVDA work. You can use tab and shift tab to navigate a web page just like with other screen readers. However,I find it much more efficient to use quick keys. You can find the list of quick keys in the Chromevox Options page.
The commands I find most beneficial are: next/previous headings (Chromevox+nh), next/previous links (Chromevox+nl, next/previous button (Chromevox+nb), list commands (Chromevox+l and then what you want a list of such as lh for list of headings), Chromevox modifier and arrow keys to navigate web pages. The command to navigate to previous features is “p” instead of “n” in the above commands. Other commands are alt shift S to get to the status tray. Alt shift l to get to the apps. Alt plus a number from one to nine will open an app in the shelf as they are listed from left to right.
Things I like and things that are difficult
Most Chromebooks are compact and lite. Chromevox can be enabled and disabled on any Chromebook by hitting ctrl alt z. All Chromebooks come integrated with Google services such as youtube, Google drive, hangouts, and many more. Chromevox also works very well with most Google services like Google docs as opposed to the frustrations I had trying to use the Google services with JAWS and NVDA.
However, There are a few dislikes I have with Chromebooks. Some Chromebooks may be laggy at times. Chromebooks rely heavily on the internet. You can make documents available offline, this just takes preplanning and storage. By default, when you receive a Word doc, you have to convert it to a Google doc. Chromebooks do not come with built in CD drives. You will need to provide your own CD drive if you want to do anything with CDs or DVDs.
Comparison of Chromebook to JAWS
JAWS is a pretty good screen reader. However, there are some things that Chromevox has that are better than JAWS. For example, Chromevox is free, and does not require too much setup. Also, the default voice that comes with Chromevox is a bit more natural sounding than the voice that comes with JAWS.
Although Chromevox offers a lot of useful features, there are a few things JAWS has that Chromevox lacks. JAWS has much more simple commands over Chromevox. If you want to move by heading, you just press h in JAWS. However, in Chromevox, you have to press the Chromevox key then nh for next heading. Also by default, Chromebooks have no microsoft services. This can be annoying at times such as when you receive a document as a Microsoft Word document. This means you have to convert the document to a Google doc.
Over all, Chromebooks and Chromevox work quite well together. If you are a person that does a lot of work on line such as surfing the web or using Google doc, then a Chromebook might be for you. If you are a person that does a lot of gaming, and or things with cds or dvds, then a Chromebook might not be the best option. If you want to try out Chromevox without getting a Chromebook, you can get the free Google Chrome extension for Google Chrome. Most Chromebooks are compact and lite, so it will not be hard to carry one around.