It happens from time to time to all of us who rely on a screen reader. You go to a website, and with no prompting on your part, the website starts playing some music, a video, or something else that drowns out your screen reader. How do you turn the sound down, or just make it stop, short of closing the web page altogether? You try to find your way to the stop button or the volume control, but the sound from the web page is making it hard to hear what your screen reader is telling you. Wouldn’t it be nice if your computer could automatically turn down the other sound while it’s talking? Your iPhone can do that, after all. So why can’t your PC?
Now it can, if you’re running Windows 8, or better yet, Windows 10.
Starting with Windows 8, your computer can lower the volume of other sounds while a screen reader is speaking. We call this audio ducking.
Earlier this year, NVDA added support for this very handy feature. JAWS is adding support as well in the public beta of version 18. And today, we’re happy to announce that System Access supports audio ducking as well.
To start taking advantage of audio ducking with System Access, simply open your System Access preferences, go to the text-to-speech section, and check the box called “Lower the volume of other sounds while speaking”. Then press the OK button. That’s it. Now System Access will never be drowned out again.
Of course, audio ducking is useful for a lot more than dealing with the occasional obnoxious website. Say you want to listen to some music, but you also want to multitask. Before, you had to manually turn down the music to hear what your computer was saying. Now, that happens automatically, and when your computer isn’t speaking, you can enjoy your music at full volume.
We know that many of you are still running Windows 7. It has worked reliably for years, and you feel that if something isn’t broken, you shouldn’t fix it. Nobody likes change for its own sake with no real benefit, and a lot of people feel that anything after Windows 7 is just that. But while the changes in newer versions of Windows do take some getting used to, Windows continues to introduce truly useful new features and improvements. Audio ducking for screen readers is one of these useful new features, and it’s not available in Windows 7. So if you’ve been putting off the upgrade to Windows 10, we believe this feature is an excellent reason to take the leap. Once you’ve experienced the convenience of audio ducking, you won’t want to go back.
Remember that Microsoft continues to provide the Windows 10 upgrade free of charge for users of screen readers and other assistive technologies.
Take advantage of the extended Windows 10 free upgrade for assistive technology users.