Navigating Documents with JAWS, NVDA & Voiceover

Screen readers for Windows, Mac and the iPhone are very powerful tools when used in the right way. Data Australasia can help you to work through the keyboard commands and other necessary items to give you the best reading and writing experience possible.

Understanding the way a document is marked-up, structured and the way a screen reader interacts with your document is important if you want to enjoy your writing skills. Our training is also very valuable if you want to enjoy your reading too.


If the document you are reading has structure and uses proper mark-up, with a screen reader you can very easily follow what has been written in a logical way.

Mark-up is the term given to using the correct heading styles that are offered by most word processors like Microsoft Word. These heading styles enable a reader to skip over parts of a document and navigate straight to a point of interest. This is often referred to as “Accessibility” or “Universal Design”.

Screen readers have the ability to identify headings in a document, often referred to as “Semantic mark-up”, changes to the font, bold and italic attributes and the alternative text, often known as “Alt Text” if present for pictures.

Without proper mark-up, having to read a document with a screen reader is a sequential reading experience, a reader has to read all the way through a document just to find one little section of interest. Imagine trying to do that on a 200 page report if you do not know exactly what you are looking for.

Should the right mark-up not be present in a document, even though the document has readable text and could be read in a linear way, it still may not be deemed as accessible because it lacks the mark-up or universal design that gives everyone, especially those using assistive technology the same reading experience as their sighted counterparts.

By issuing your screen reader with the right commands you can very easily navigate around a long document and look for a part of interest. This is especially useful for people who are studying.

The verbosity settings of most screen readers will allow the user to customise the way mark-up and punctuation is read in a document or web page.


Most screen readers have tools for identifying misspelt words, checking for missing punctuation and even identifying the text and background colour of your document.

By learning the keyboard commands for your word processor like Microsoft Word and your choice of screen reader you can very easily create quality work that will impress your readers.

Being able to tell if you’re working with a heading, list item, hyperlink, bold or italic text is extremely important if you want to make your document look good and have your readers appreciate your work.

PDF Documents

The Portable Document Format, (PDF) make it easy to move documents around the Internet without the reader being able to edit or change the content. Most PDF documents originate from a word processor or publishing program and therefore should contain exactly the same semantic mark-up and other elements as do documents that are being read in word processors by a screen reader. When this happens the person reading the PDF has the same reading experience as anyone else and therefore the PDF document is accessible.

Sadly however, people often print documents, scan them on a photocopier and send them on to people who need a screen reader with which to access those documents. When this happens the document is not accessible and cannot be read. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) may help in some cases but this is not always available to the reader and may contain errors that could change the meaning of a document.


DATA Australasia offers Navigating Documents with screen readers training on a one on one basis or to people in small groups.

Contact our team to find out more.