NVDA (Non-visual Desktop Access) is a free and Open Source Screen Reader for Windows operating systems.
With this application, blind and visually impaired people are able to use most of the applications available in the market for windows operating system. It obviously allows even to surf the web with the most popular browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome, in a similar way to JAWS and Window-Eyes. NVDA supports 26 hotkeys to quickly move to webpage elements and also has an elements list that provides access to all the links, headings, and ARIA landmarks on a page. NVDA’s “focus mode” is used when interacting with forms, and it works much like JAWS’s “forms mode” to effectively enter form data.
NVDA also works with WordPad, Notepad and supports the basic functions of Outlook Express, Microsoft Word 2000/XP/2003 and Microsoft Excel 2000/XP/2003. Support for the free office suites LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org requires the Java Access Bridge package. Additionally, NVDA supports the WAI-ARIA standard for Accessible Rich Internet Applications, placing web applications within the reach of blind users.
Although at the moment it cannot be compared to the top commercial screen readers in the market, thanks to its Open Source framework is rapidly catching up and it can still be considered a good alternative solution.
Here is the link of the official website: http://www.nvda-project.org and we’d like to also link to a very interesting article named “Using NVDA to Evaluate Web Accessibility”: http://webaim.org/articles/nvda/
NVDA would be a good reference for all the people who are working with web accessibility, and obviously for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money buying a commercial screen reader. You can simply download the portable version, run it and point your browser at the website that you’d like to test. This tool will certainly help you get an idea of whether your website can be easily read from people with sight disabilities.