Supporting students to see a more enriching educational future

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

The launch of free screen reading software, NVDA, from Australian not-for-profit organisation NV Access, aims to improve engagement for vision impaired school students around the world.

NVDA is  a screen reader can be downloaded, free of charge, by anyone. NV Access do this because they believe everyone, especially the world’s poorest blind people, deserve access to computers and a way out of poverty. It’s a lofty goal and one that is supported by donations and grants that help support the ongoing work that ensure NVDA remains compatible with the world’s rapidly changing technology.

With figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing that chronic eye conditions affect approximately 12 percent of Australian children aged between 0-14 years, finding ways to improve the way vision impaired young people access educational materials at school and home helps deliver equal education opportunities.

NV Access co-founder, Mr Michael Curran, says the team at NV Access believes no blind or vision impaired person should be forced to choose between exclusion, or the high costs associated with other screen readers.

- Advertisement -

“For blind people to use a computer, they need a screen reader which reads the text on the screen. Unfortunately, most screen reading software is incredibly expensive, which has left computers inaccessible to vision impaired kids across Australia,” says Mr Curran.

“This is critical because, without computers, access to education and future employment is severely limited,” he says.

But with the right support, Mr Curran says, vision impaired students can learn the curriculum alongside everyone else.

To empower vision impaired students, the NCCD recommends verbalising lessons, magnifying materials, and incorporating braille and tactile resources into all aspects of the classroom environment.

Supporting vision impaired students 

The impact and challenges presented by vision impairment are significantly different for every student, depending on the cause and extent of vision loss, according to the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD).

- Advertisement -

Vision impairment can also cause students to experience visual fatigue and strain their eyes while alternating between near and distance focussing – making it difficult to complete assignments and study effectively.

In the NCCD’s podcast series on classroom adjustments, the Vision Impairment episode highlights the five adjustments that help enable students with disability to access and participate in education on a more equal footing.

By simply making a few actionable adjustments, educators can better support vision impaired students in the classroom and enable schools, education authorities and governments to better understand the needs of students with vision impairment or blindness.

Five key takeaways for teachers:

  1. Verbalise your instructions as much as possible – fill visual gaps with words.
  2. For students that need braille access, be mindful that not all parents and carers read braille. Giving parents and carers access to print copies of homework tasks helps students get additional support.
  3. Use optical magnifiers to enlarge materials, and encourage students to be proactive using them.
  4. Consider visual fatigue and strain in lesson planning. By alternating lesson plans between activities that rely on vision and activities that provide an opportunity for students to rest their eyes, teachers can help students avoid strain. Providing a hard copy of notes, in addition to verbal instruction, also helps.
  5. Create an inclusive learning environment where braille and other tactile resources are incorporated into the classroom environment.
NVDA Founders – Michael Curran and James Teh.

Introducing NVDA: the free screen reading software that supports vision impaired students

NVDA has the potential to revolutionise education for blind and visually impaired students, by making equal access a reality. According to NV Access General Manager, Mr James Boreham, the benefits are already being seen in schools and universities worldwide.

- Advertisement -

“The reality is, blind and vision impaired students deserve the same right to education as any other child,” says Mr Boreham.

“NV Access is dedicated to the idea that accessibility and equitable access is a right and should not come as an extra cost to a person who is blind or vision impaired. It’s important that schools understand it is often simple changes that can make a world of difference to vision impaired student’s learning outcomes.”

Developed by Michael Curran and James Teh – two completely blind men  from Brisbane – NVDA is a free and open-source screen reader that is transforming the lives of blind and vision impaired students in Australia. With NVDA, students can access digital content, browse the web, write documents and use email.

NVDA is a simple solution for schools to improve their educational opportunities for vision impaired students. Implementing screen reading software will not only benefit current students but future generations of vision impaired students.

Implementing NVDA is quick and simple, with users able to plug in a USB with NVDA or download NVDA from the NV Access website.

- Advertisement -

Plus, unlike other screen readers, NVDA’s installation and updates are free, making it a sustainable, long-term solution for education systems.

In addition to being free to access, the software is open source and consistently updated by the engaged community. It supports more than 55 languages, and is compatible with most computers.

Donations are vital to NVDA’s success and help keep the program free and constantly updated to remain relevant for its users.

For more information on NVDA, to download to the free software, or to donate, please visit:

For more information on how schools can support students with disabilities, visit:


Share This Article
Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]