Choosing the Right Screen Reader: A Comparison of JAWS, NVDA, and Narrator

May 22, 2023

As technology advances, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that everyone has access. For people with visual impairments, screen readers are a necessary tool for accessing the content displayed on computer screens. A2J’s search to find the best screen reader for our Legal Kiosks inspired me to write this blog post. I am a sighted person who does not use a screen reader on a daily basis, and so my research was primarily obtained from online sources created by individuals who are blind or have visual impairments, with additional testing and findings obtained through WebAIM’s articles on how to evaluate accessibility

I evaluated three popular screen readers: JAWS, NVDA, and Narrator, based on a range of key features like price, best browser experience, operating system, language and speech synthesizer, braille display support, virtual cursor/scan mode, speech to text, customizable features, OCR for image files, and popularity amongst screen reader users. 

Below is a brief rundown of what each screen reader offers as well as a visual comparison chart available for download. As you proceed, keep in mind that each screen reader has its pros and cons, and what works best for one individual or organization may not work for another.

Screen reader comparison chart


JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a well-known Windows-only screen reader developed by Freedom Scientific and has been around for over 20 years. It is a paid software that costs $95 per year or a one-time purchase of $1100 for a single user home license. and it has been around for over 20 years. JAWS supports a wide range of operating systems, browsers, and applications, making it a versatile option for users. JAWS can be made available on kiosks and works best with Storm Assistive Technology products such as keypads and navbars. JAWS supports over 25 languages and with multiple speech synthesizers (reading voices). JAWS also has strong OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capabilities, allowing it to recognize text from images and PDF files.


NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) is a free and open-source screen reader developed by NV Access. Although NVDA is free, its essential features are comparable to the likes of paid software such as JAWS. It is a Windows-only software that works best with Chrome, Firefox, and Edge browsers. It also has the added benefit of being portable, meaning that it can be installed from a USB drive on any Windows computer. NVDA is becoming an increasingly popular option, especially among individual users and small organizations. Although there was not much information available about kiosks in my search, NVDA has been used in the past by self-service kiosk company Advanced Kiosks. NVDA supports over 50 languages and multiple speech synthesizers, including eSpeak and Microsoft Speech Platform. NVDA also has braille display support, allowing users to connect a braille display and read content in braille. It also has strong OCR capabilities through its integrated OCR add-on.


Narrator is a Microsoft built-in screen reader that comes with Windows 10 and 11. It is free and does not require any additional installation. Narrator supports a variety of languages best with Edge and Chrome browsers, but it can also work with other applications. While Narrator is less popular than JAWS or NVDA, it is a useful option for users who are just starting with screen readers or for those who don't want to pay for a separate software. It supports over 30 languages and multiple synthesizers, including Microsoft David and Zira. Narrator also has braille display support, allowing users to connect a braille display and read content in braille. However, it lacks some of the advanced features of JAWS and NVDA, such as customizable keyboard shortcuts and OCR capabilities.


JAWS is a powerful and popular option with advanced features and kiosk support, but it comes with a price tag. NVDA is a free and open-source option with strong braille display and OCR support. Narrator is a built-in and free option for Windows users but lacks some advanced features. 

Consider the needs of your users and try out different options to find the most accessible solution for all!

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