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How to make math and other special symbols talk in JAWS Article

Have you always wanted JAWS to read symbols such as the Greek Alpha, Gamma, or Pi correctly? Are you a student who wants to do geometry homework using Microsoft word, print out, and hand it to your teacher? Or are you just frustrated with JAWS not speaking certain symbols within your field of study or science? then you have come to the right place to learn a good solution!
JAWS uses configuration files, called Dictionary files, that allow it to speak certain patterns of characters or words in a different way. You could use this to correct misspellings, or other pronunciations that JAWS does not talk correctly. And well, you can use it to make JAWS say symbols correctly!
Here are some tips on how to make JAWS speak your inaccessible and visual-looking symbol. These tips apply if you are using Microsoft word 2010 or later, but they could be applied to similar contexts of applications where editing unicode is allowed.
1. Insert the new symbol into the document. In word 2010, the keyboard commands for doing this is ALT+N, then u, and Shift+tab for “more symbols…”
2. If JAWS does not talk the symbol, put the cursor on the symbol, and then select it by hitting Shift+Right Arrow.
3. Now, hid the shortcut key Insert+D.
4. A dictionary manager window appears. This is where you can configure JAWS to say the symbol or words like you want them to say it.
5. Hit the tab key until you hear “Add…” button—just hit the space bar on the button.
6. Follow the steps in the boxes that appear. It will ask you for the actual word, which in this case, is the symbol. Simply paste here. Next, it asks for the replacement word, where you will type the actual written meaning of the symbol, for example, Triangle, arrow, or any math sign that is specific to geometry.
7. Next, press enter, and then press Control+S to save the file and close the window. From then on, bingo! you will have JAWS say all your symbols correctly.

For example, you can insert the Greek letter Omega into the document (which JAWS simply calls O), select it, copy it to the clipboard, go into the Dictionary manager, go to add a new definition, paste the Omega symbol into the “Actual word” edit box, and type in the word “omega” into the “replacement word” box. After hitting enter and saving your changes, you will be good to go.
Please not that while inserting your symbols, you will sometimes need sighted assistance to find out what they are. this request for sighted help should be a one-time process, since you will be saving your symbols into the JAWS dictionary—at this point JAWS should be able to talk those symbols. Alternatively, you can look up every single symbol you insert which JAWS does not talk online by using google or Wikipedia, however, it is much more time-consuming than using sighted assistance. Remember that the assistance should be a one-time request, so you shouldn’t have to worry about asking your teacher, for instance, all times you want to insert a mathematical symbol.
Thanks for reading!

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  1. 1

    Thank you for the tip! I had my student do this today, but it worked in Office 2007, too. We found though, if you add the correct word for a symbol in Word, it only works in word. To change it across all settings, you need to change it in the JAWS Dictionary Manager from the JAWS window. For example, we changed the pronunciation of a name while in Word, when Google or Excel was opened, JAWS mispronounced the name. When we changed the pronunciation in the JAWS dictionary manager, it worked in several applications.

  2. 2

    Yes, please be aware that the dictionary manager, when open within a specific application, it will open the settings for that particular application. For example, in Word, it will open the settings for word.
    to change this so that the changes go across all other applications globally without having to make the same change and avoid that hassle, when opening the dictionary manager with INSERT+D, you then press CONTROL+SHIFT+D, to change your setting to the default (all applications) setting.

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