Tech Tips

Welcome to our Technology Tips section! The NFB Jernigan Institute Access Technology team is always on the lookout for new and better ways to give blind people access to technology, as the ever-growing International Braille and Technology Center attests. In these tips we want to share some of the pointers manufacturers and developers share with us to help you learn about new applications and new programs, and to help you find new functionality in familiar products. The Access Technology team works with the relevant manufacturers and developers to obtain the tips listed here, to make sure that you get the best and latest about anything new in the world of non-visual access technology.


If you have any feedback on the tips, please contact Clara Van Gerven at

The Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) in Microsoft Office 2007

With the introduction of the Ribbon in Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word 2007, Microsoft Office made a great change to the user interface of these applications.  To ease the transition of existing Office users to the Ribbon, and to provide an optimized experience for users who are already accustomed to the Ribbon, these applications provide a Quick Access Toolbar (QAT).  Any of the commands in the Ribbon can be easily added to this toolbar, allowing for easy access to commonly-used commands.  Below, we'll describe how to add commands to the QAT, and how to use them once they are there.

Adding a command to the QAT using the keyboard

Eliminating the Pains and Strains of Computer Use

Most would agree that computers are not inherently user-friendly. Many find using a computer to be painful, while others find daily computer use requires significant effort. These pains and strains of computer use are even more pronounced when the user is dealing with low vision or blindness. 

Most programs, however, can be controlled with keyboard shortcuts which often simplify the interaction.  Of course it would be overwhelming to try and learn them all. Instead, start with the most useful shortcuts in your most used programs and as well as some basic desktop shortcuts.

The USDA TARGET Center will be presenting a series of these shortcuts in this space.  More detailed trainings are also available online and in-person through the TARGET Center. 

Dolphin EasyReader 2.31

General Information on supported formats

Dolphin EasyReader is a software tool that not only reads DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3 materials (including Bookshare material) it also reads HTML and text files. The EasyReader is available in more than 15 languages, including Spanish, Italian and German.

DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3 materials contain multiple files.  Both formats contain a control file, NCC (DAISY 2.02) or NCX (DAISY 3), which keeps the material together. The text in the material is stored in an HTML (DAISY 2.02) or an XML (DAISY 3) file. The audio is typically streamed in MP3 format and the synchronisation between text and audio is controlled by SMIL files.

DAISY 2.02 materials can generally be protected by the PDTB scheme, however, the EasyReader can open materials that are protected with PDTB version 1.

Dolphin EasyReader 2.31 Series 2*

EasyReader 201 - Playing your book

When the material is opened the playback will start automatically as default. If the material contains audio it will play but if it comes without pre-recorded audio, the text will be played by a speech synthesiser.

To start and stop playback, use the Start/Stop button or press Spacebar.

There are several ways to navigate once you open your materials in EasyReader. Depending on how well structured the material is you can use some or all of the functions described in this series.

An Overview of Freedom Scientific's PAC Mate Omni

PAC Mate Omni' is the latest version of Freedom Scientific's Accessible Pocket PC. At its heart are Microsoft's Windows Mobile' Operating System, and JAWS for Pocket PC'.

As with previous versions of PAC Mate, you may choose your model based on whether you prefer to work with a Braille or QWERTY keyboard. PAC Mate Omni can be purchased as a voice-only unit, or a Braille display can be fitted snugly and securely to the unit. Braille displays are available in sizes of 20 or 40 cells, and these may also be used as a USB Braille display for your PC. Simply connect the display, and JAWS for Windows' will detect the presence of the display and start sending information to it.

Victor Reader Stream - Some New Tips

Stream Undo Key

Have you ever accidentally pressed key 4 or key 6 on your Stream and jumped to the previous or next chapter when you did not mean to? Then you had to fast forward or rewind to find your way back to your reading place? Is there a better way?
Yes. If you press the Cancel (star) key within 10 seconds of the accidental move, the Stream will undo your navigation.

For example, suppose you were in the middle of chapter 5 and accidentally press key 6 and moved to chapter6. If you then press the Cancel key within 10 seconds you will be returned to your previous position in chapter 5.

Making the Most of Tabbed Browsing In IE7 with Supernova or Hal: Navigating Browser Tabs

Tabbed browsing is a feature of Internet Explorer, new in version 7. Tabbed browsing allows you to access multiple web sites by loading each page into "tabbed" sections of one browser window rather than multiple browser windows. This allows you to view a selection of your favorite sites in one window, view multiple search results at the same time, and set several pages as your home page, rather than just one.

You can cycle between the tabbed pages by pressing LEFT CONTROL+TAB to move forward between tabs, or LEFT CONTROL+LEFT SHIFT+TAB to cycle backwards between tabs.

You should expect accessible PDF documents

NFB members frequently encounter PDF files that are not accessible. Much as with HTML-based web pages a few years back it can sometimes help to be able to provide pointers to the producer of the PDF document to help them understand how to properly create PDF documents that will offer an accessible and usable experience for all users.

Adobe provides a variety of documents that you can point people to (or use yourself when producing PDF files). These documents provide helpful guidance that help authors understand what steps are needed to make PDF files accessible, whether the documents are scanned images of paper documents, interactive forms, or are exported from popular desktop publishing applications.

The following documents are available:

Setting up the Apex as a Braille Display for your Mac computer

Connecting via the USB client port

1- From the Apex main menu, follow the steps described in the section “Set your BrailleNote Apex to Terminal mode”.
2- Insert the larger end of the cable into one of the Mac's USB ports. If the Apex does not display the item on the Mac, then reset the Apex. Again, choose "terminal for screen reader" from the main menu, and press the Enter key.  Items from the Mac should then be displayed on the Apex.
Connecting via Bluetooth
To establish the connection, do the following:

RealSpeak Solo Direct Voices for Freedom Scientific Products

From the JAWS help menu, you can either down arrow to move to, or press the letter R to open the Web Resources menu.  Once this menu is open, you can again either down arrow to, or press the letter R to activate the shortcut to the RealSpeak™ Solo Direct voices.

Use this page to download one or more Nuance® RealSpeak™ Solo Direct voices that work exclusively with 32-bit and 64-bit versions of JAWS 10 or later, MAGic 11 or later, OpenBook 9 or later, and WYNN 6 or later. These voices are available at no charge and will also work with demo versions of JAWS, MAGic, OpenBook, and WYNN that support the RealSpeak Solo Direct synthesizer.