NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) is software that makes computers accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities such as blindness.
It goes without saying that it is almost impossible to function and succeed today without fluency with computers, modern technology, and the internet. Everything from automatic bill paying, credit card management, education interfaces, most employment opportunities (and opportunities for advancement), and government program access and applications — these are all heavily reliant on internet access and a basic ability to navigate websites.
Text-to-voice and braille display software made significant steps forward to change that — but at great cost. Fully functional software often costs more than a computer itself. So we returned to the familiar trope of “help is here, if you can afford it.”
In 2006, NVDA was born, and it was the mission of the creators to make this vital software available to all, for free. At no cost and available in 50+ languages, NVDA is the option of choice for individuals with disabilities to maintain a competitive standard in the workforce, and has more than 100,000 downloads.
How it Works
Programed in Python, NVDA is made to run on Windows, the most widely distributed and utilized operating system by most industries throughout the world. Working exclusively with accessibility oriented APIs, NVDA allows for a more fluid and comprehensive interpretation of web content than many more expensive alternatives.
NVDA primarily utilizes an integrated speech synthesizer (though several popular alternatives are fully compatible) and allows for output to braille displays (after version 0.6p3).
Downloading NVDA is a one-click process, followed by an easy setup. With this software enabled, you can take your laptop with you anywhere, or — and this feature is a real game-changer — you can download the program into a flash drive, which you can then plug in and load up on any other computer (for example, at a library, workplace, or government office) and have the full functionality of NVDA available for immediate use.
Wrapping it All Up
Given the impressive impact of NVDA applications, it’s unsurprising that it gained support in 2013 for Microsoft PowerPoint — an invaluable tool for many professionals across the spectrum of management and executive pools. Finally, in 2015, NVDA broke even more ground, becoming one of the first screen readers for Windows 10 and improving functionality and support for Skype, Microsoft Excel, and many other vital applications.
Although there have been some other efforts in this direction, it’s safe to say that none come close to the accomplishments of NVDA in delivering solid assistance to the blind and visually impaired.