Free and low-cost screen reader use increases according to survey

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Tuesday, 1 March 2011 17:30pm

WebAIM has released the results from its third screen reader user survey conducted in December 2010.

The latest survey, with 1245 valid responses, was a follow-up to the original WebAIM Screen Reader User Survey of January 2009 and the follow-up survey from October 2009.

The survey showed that the usage of free and low-cost screen readers such as NVDA and VoiceOver has increased significantly since the last survey.

Increased popularity of free and low-cost screen readers

The WebAIM survey showed that the number of people using NVDA as their primary screen reader has increased by nearly 300% to 8.6% over 14 months, while the number of people using JAWS as their primary screen reader is down 7.2% to 59.2%.

Furthermore, use of the commercial screen readers most commonly used (i.e. JAWS, Window-Eyes, System Access and System Access to Go) all decreased, while NVDA and VoiceOver increased significantly.

The number of respondents who answered ‘Yes’ to the question ‘Do you see free or low-cost screen readers (such as NVDA or VoiceOver) as currently being viable alternatives to commercial screen readers’ increased by 12.6% to 60.4%. Of those, 54% of JAWS users and 47% of Window-Eyes users answered in the affirmative compared to 98% and 95% of NVDA and VoiceOver respondents respectively.

About free and low-cost screen readers

NVDA is a free and open source screen reader that works with Microsoft Windows. It is developed right here in Australia by two blind developers in Queensland. NVDA has advanced to a point where it is sophisticated enough to fulfil the needs of an average user, and at a much lower cost compared with commercial products.

VoiceOver is a highly sophisticated screen reader produced by Apple. It comes as a standard feature when you purchase the Mac OS X operating system (version 10.4 onwards) which runs on Apple Mac computers and laptops. Although it is not free in the traditional sense, it is the only screen reader that comes as an integrated feature of any operating system and is highly advanced.

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