Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Series: Access April 2024

Chris’ Favorite JAWS Power Moves

Access April with Our Bridges Resource Library

This month we take a deep dive into what may be the most important need of blind and low-vision people in our current Information Age: ACCESS. Accessible assistive technology (AAT) is great, but it’s only a tool to access the materials we need. We need to know how to use our technology, determine whether or not something is accessible, and advocate for the access we need if necessary.

  • April 2: Accessibility of the New “IRS Free File” Tools
  • April 9: Chris’ Favorite JAWS Power Moves
  • April 16: Awesome JAWS Access Tools: Convenient OCR and Voice Assistant
  • April 23: JAWS Picture Smart AI Feature April 30: Chatting About ChatGPT

This week, we’ve asked our project coordinator, Chris Nusbaum, who is also a JAWS “power user,” to share his favorite JAWS power moves.

A Special Note

We must begin this Transition Tip with the sad announcement that Imani Graham, executive director of our parent organization, the IMAGE Center for People with Disabilities, passed away on April 5 surrounded by family, friends, and IMAGE Center colleagues. Imani was a tireless advocate for all people with disabilities, and she had a special passion for young people. Since the launch of the Bridges Project in 2020, Imani has been one of our strongest allies. We therefore dedicate this Transition Tip to her memory.

What Makes a Move a Power Move?

Depending on which programs one uses, there are a lot of “moves” one can make in a day between school, work, and play. So, when I was asked to write about my favorite “power moves,” I first thought about how to define a “power move.” My definition is based partially on my personal experience and partially on my job as an assistive technology teacher, which I do when I’m not working with Bridges. Which JAWS concepts do I find myself teaching my students most, and what do they tell me makes their lives easier? If a JAWS move makes my life and my students’ lives easier, I would call that a power move. Put enough power moves together, and you’re a power user! So, here are five of my favorite moves, in no particular order.

First-letter Navigation

This one is important for any kind of reading, but it’s especially important on Web pages. First-letter navigation allows us to quickly get to what we want by navigating by the kind of “element” we’re looking for. For example, we get to the next button by pressing b; the next heading by pressing h; the next edit box by pressing e… you get the idea. I find that this comes in especially handy when I’m filling out a form or skimming through a page to find something specific. For example, when I finish this Transition Tip and enter the hours I’ve spent working on it into our timesheet program, I can press e for edit once I’m on the “time tracking” page so I can quickly get to the right field. Please note that using first-letter navigation takes some exploration first, so we all naturally use the arrow and tab keys when we first visit a website. This is just a shortcut to get to where we want to go once we know a website better.

List Navigation Keystrokes

Another option for finding what we want quickly on a webpage is to use the list navigation keystrokes: Select a form field (JAWS key + F5), heading list (JAWS key + F6), and links list (JAWS key + F7). These keystrokes will bring up all the elements of the specified type on the webpage in a list, from which we can select the one we want by down arrowing to it or pressing the first letter. For example, a quick way to get to our blog is to go to, press JAWS Key + F7 to open the links list, and press b until you hear “Bridges blog.”

Have a Laptop? Use Laptop Mode!

Did you wonder why we wrote “JAWS key” instead of “insert” in the previous section? That’s because insert doesn’t have to be the JAWS key. This is especially helpful for many laptops, which either don’t have an insert key or have one that also serves another function. So, in order to make the insert key work, one has to also press the function key, resulting in both hands twisting into all kinds of contortions to perform a keystroke. Trust us—there is a better way! To find it, the easiest place to look is the JAWS startup wizard. Go to the JAWS window, press alt + h for help, then z to open the startup wizard. When you get to the part about “keyboard layout,” set it to “laptop.” This will make the JAWS key the caps lock key. So, for example, to read the title of the current window, you would press caps lock t. Speaking of the startup wizard, that’s a good “power move” in itself—it’s a great one-stop shop to find and change several common JAWS settings that users often want to change as they get used to their screen reader and develop their own preferences.

JAWS + a Headset = Professionality

Confession: As I write this paragraph encouraging all JAWS users who want to be professional to get a headset, I am not wearing one. However, I’m the only person in my office, so I’m the only person hearing my JAWS. When I join a virtual meeting or use my computer with other people working around me, I always wear headphones. It’s a matter of courtesy which, in my opinion, is especially important in virtual meetings because background noise almost always interferes with the audio quality of the call. In order to ensure that as much extra sound is blocked out as possible (including sound from the computer) and I can be heard clearly, I prefer a USB headset with a microphone. Some people have also connected headsets to their computers via Bluetooth. If you have specific questions about headsets, please reach out to the free Bridges Helpdesk.

Have a Backup Screen Reader Handy

Ironically, my final JAWS power move isn’t even directly about JAWS. As great as it is, JAWS can sometimes freeze up on us, or not read something as clearly as we would like it to. In fact, it stopped talking to me as I was writing this Transition Tip. This was a reminder of the importance of having a backup screen reader in place. Narrator, the built-in screen reader on Windows computers, will suffice in most cases; you can bring that up by pressing alt windows enter. A more powerful, free screen reader which some people use as their primary tool is NVDA, which is also a good alternative if JAWS stops working for a long time.

Next Steps

There are many more keystrokes we could have chosen from, but we hope this will be a good start for all JAWS users. If you ever need a quick reference for JAWS shortcut keys, a great resource is Freedom Scientific’s list of JAWS hotkeys. You can also use the help section in your JAWS menu, or, as always, contact our Bridges helpdesk, and we’ll work with you personally.

Please check out the Bridges Technical Assistance Center Resource Library today!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Bridges Technical Assistance Center’s Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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