If you are a long time AccessWorld reader, you may remember our reviews of various JAWS scripts and additions-our review of Leasey the most prominent. In a similar vein, I wanted to share some of the addons for the NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) screen reader that I find invaluable. If you are new to NVDA addons, they are additional packages that can be added to NVDA to provide extra functionality or make an inaccessible app or software accessible, much like JAWS scripts. In the most recently released version of NVDA, The screen reader includes an addons store where you can obtain officially recognized addons from the screen reader directly. You can find the list of community created addons here.

Speech History

Speech History is a very simple but incredibly useful addon. It allows you to copy whatever NVDA last spoke to your clipboard with the press of a button. In addition, you can review the last hundred things NVDA said and copy those as well. I find it invaluable for many things; it allows you to copy things to your clipboard with a single key press vs having to use multiple keystrokes, select plus copy command, and can allow you to copy things to your clipboard that are not otherwise selectable, think window titles, dialog box contents, and the like.

The review feature is also quite helpful if NVDA said something that you missed and want to hear again. I frequently will get an alert on a website or from Windows and miss it, but I am able to go back through the speech history quickly to read it without having to try to figure out where the small clip of speech I heard originated. Helpfully, even if NVDA says something that is cut off because you made a keystroke or had it read something else, the full text of what was spoken is retained in the history. To use Speech History, press F12 to copy the last utterance spoken by NVDA to your clipboard, use SHIFT+F11 to move backwards through history, and SHIFT+F12 to move forwards. When you copy an item to the clipboard, you will hear a high pitched beep to let you know the copy was successful.

NVDA Remote Support

One of the more complex addons for NVDA is called Remote Support and is essentially a program in itself. Remote support allows you to connect to another computer running NVDA and control it as if it was your own. Compared to most remote access programs that share the display and audio from the controlled machine, Remote Support provides only the audio from NVDA making it more lightweight. The lower data transfer also means that there is no cost for Remote Support and no time limits on remote sessions. Several years ago, I wrote an in-depth article on Remote Support which can help get you started using the addon. The official documentation is also incredibly useful and straightforward.

Remote Support has several useful applications. You can fairly easily quickly provide technical assistance to another NVDA user. If you have multiple computers, it also makes it simple to allow yourself access to them when you are away. I've personally found some niche uses as well, playing myself in a game or testing various apps that require two participants solo.

Golden Cursor

Golden Cursor is an addon that allows you to control your mouse cursor with your keyboard. The addon also allows you to log certain mouse coordinates per program and then jump to them later, allowing you to access inaccessible controls. You can also share your saved hotspot lists with others allowing one person to add accessibility to programs for many people. Note that when you create a Golden Cursor profile, it is designed for your screen resolution. If others wish to use it, their screen resolution must be the same. As a relatively complex addon, it is recommended to read the Golden Cursor documentation, which is included on the addon page linked previously.

Lion Live OCR

LION is a simple but revolutionary addon. With a keystroke, it allows you to attempt to have NVDA read subtitles as they are displayed. It does this by using the Windows 10 Optical Character Recognition function continuously; if the displayed text changes it is read aloud. For those who are familiar with the Seeing AI app for iOS, Lion basically functions like the Short Text channel but on your computer. This system is not perfect, so the addon includes settings that allow you to customize it for your needs. Settings include OCR speed, what to recognize-e.g., window, whole screen, etc., an adjuster for how much the text needs to change before it is read again, and the ability to crop pixels so that they are not scanned - particularly useful to cut out text that is always on screen, such as window titles or video controls.

Since LION is application independent, it can be used to read subtitles from any source, from YouTube to Netflix. You can also use it to read other changing text when that text wouldn't normally be read by NVDA; using it to read text in otherwise inaccessible video games is quite popular. If you are interested in using LION, be aware that the included link leads to GitHub, a repository where software developers can host their code. To download the addon, find the "Assets" button for the version you want to download, activate it to expand the contents, and then select the LION.nvda-addon link.

The Bottom Line

There are numerous addons available for NVDA; in this piece, I included only those that I find personally essential. In particular, I focused on utility addons and not those that make otherwise inaccessible programs accessible. I highly recommend checking out the NVDA addons website linked in the introduction, you might just find something you can't live without.