JAWS Topics: Basic Navigation

In order to become an independent screen reader user on the computer, you will need to know how to navigate.  Today, I will discuss the most basic skills for moving around in Windows to locate and open programs.  We will stop short of discussing how to navigate within various programs.

To start, I will be assuming that you have a mastery of the keyboard and can touch type from the home row when oriented correctly using F and J.  It is critical to know key locations so that you can correctly enter shortcuts, etc. for navigation.  I am also assuming that you understand fundamentally what a screen reader does, in that it not only can read out the contents of the screen, but it can also read out, or narrate, your keystroke actions.

Let's begin on the Windows desktop.  Visually, there is a background image, and there are several icons sprinkled around.  At the bottom of the screen is the taskbar; to the left is a Windows logo start button and search bar, and to the right there is the system tray of other programs and settings.  What we usually want to do is open a program up, and over time we may have several needed programs opened up.  We will address methods for opening a program, as well as how to switch between them.

There are two options for opening a program:

  • Navigate to a desktop icon
    • Use the Windows + D shortcut to go to the desktop.  JAWS should say "Desktop folder view list view..."  
    • Use the arrows to manually explore available programs on the desktop, OR
    • Use first letter navigation to jump to a desired program, based on its label's first letter.  (Ex: jump to Google Chrome by pressing G, not C)
    • Press Enter when you hear the icon label read to you, confirming that your focus is on the correct icon.
  • Use Windows Search to locate your desired program (useful when a desired program is not on the desktop)
    • Press the Windows Key to open up the start menu and search box.  Windows + S shortcut achieves a very similar result, just search-specific.
    • Type in the name of the program you want to open.  Windows should be able to provide a suggestion based on your input.
    • Use the arrows to navigate between suggestions.
    • Press Enter when you hear the correct program read out to you

Once you have at least two programs open, you may want to switch between them.  The best way to do this is to use the program switcher shortcut, Alt + Tab.  Specifically, you should hold Alt down and then press Tab until you hear the program you wish to switch to; let go of Alt to switch to that program.  If you have more than 2 programs open, pressing just Alt + Tab without holding Alt down will switch you between the two most recently used programs.

That's it, hopefully a simple start to moving around to the programs you need and want to use on the computer!  Did it make sense?  Are you running into any questions?  Leave a comment below and I'll see how I can help!  Feel free to also check out my other posts by clicking on my Blogger name link near the top of the page.

JAWS Topics Series Announcement and First post: Typing Feedback


Collage of JAWS topics