Rescue from the death of JAWS!

If you’re a PC user, you’ve probably been running Windows 10 for ages but I have come to the party rather late in the day. It had to be done, though, so a couple of weeks ago my brother kindly helped me load the operating system onto my PC. It all seemed very straightforward and I thought at first that everything was running normally.

Ha! I wish! It turned out that JAWS wasn’t working properly.

JAWS, which stands for Job Access With Speech, is the software which runs the speech and braille applications on my computer. In theory, the program converts everything on the screen to speech. So, as I move the cursor through, for example, a Word document, JAWS will read it aloud to me. I can also navigate through a document letter by letter so I can find errors and correct them. JAWS will even read punctuation if I place the cursor over the relevant symbol. I also use it for reading emails as it is quick and easy and saves my joints, which get a lot of stress while reading braille.

I said that, in theory, JAWS can read everything on the screen. To do that, though, you have to be able to move the cursor onto every part of the screen and I have often found that this is easier said than done.

Sometimes, for example, when I have a problem reading a document, I ask my sighted PA what is on the screen and she says, “You need to get to the column on the left.”

Documents like that pose two levels of difficulty for me. How do I know that there is another column on the left and, even if I do discover its existence, how do I get to it?

I’m not saying that someone with more technical expertise than me couldn’t make JAWS reach the parts that other programs cannot reach (which, for those of you too young to have been watching UK TV ads during the 1970s, is an oblique reference to a famous beer commercial), but it can be very frustrating when I can’t do what a sighted person viewing the screen could manage so easily.

That said, JAWS is a great asset and, despite its annoying robotic voice, I find it invaluable.

So, how to get JAWS up and running again following the belated arrival of Windows 10?

First, my brother and I had to uninstall JAWS. That was interesting because it was at that point that we discovered that I already had not one but two versions of the program on my computer, so one had to be deleted.

We then re-installed the other version and restarted the computer. We waited with, literally in my case, baited breath, to see if JAWS would start again.

I shouted “Alleluia!” when the robot voice announced “JAWS Professional,” and we all breathed again.

So that was it, then? Everything running perfectly on the new operating system?

You’ve got to be joking! After that we had to sort out Duxbury… But I’ll tell you about that next week.