If you have not worked before with learners who have visual impairments then you will benefit from looking at the guide to teaching visually impaired adults that can be downloaded from the Visimpscot website (

You will need some information about your participants, if you do not have this in advance remember to allow time in the first module for gathering it.

Experienced tutors will already be familiar with some basic steps:

 Master the material that you are going to cover
 Construct a series of lesson plans for each session in your tutoring / class sequence
 Prepare in advance any learning materials you will be using
 Throughly check your proposed teaching venue and any equipment you will be using


The descriptions provided of the keys on the keyboard are based on the standard, full sized, Windows UK keyboard layout. If your keyboard is laid out differently you can use the input help function, which we will talk about in a moment to identify the various keys on your keyboard. If you are not using this keyboard then this section will need to be adapted.

The top row of keys are the Function keys. The very left key is the Escape key followed by F1 through F12.
The main part of the keyboard is below the function row. This alphanumeric section takes up about two thirds of the width of the keyboard and most of the height.

To the right of the alphanumeric section is a distinct group of keys. At the top there are three special function keys which we won't be using. The row below them is an important section of keys called the control pad. The top left key in the control pad is the Insert key. The Insert key is by default the NVDA key. Below the control pad are the arrow keys laid out in an inverted T. Finally the right most section of the keyboard is the number pad.

The Arrow, Tab, Enter, Space and Escape keys are the basic keys that allow you to move around and interact with programs on the computer. The goal of this section is to explain the actions these keys generally perform. The effect of these movement keys can change based on the current context but with practice it's easy to learn what to expect them to do.

The arrow keys control the smallest movements forward or back you can make.

In most cases you can move forwards or backwards with the left or right arrow but there some instances in which up and down become important like in a grid or table.

The Tab key is the left most key in the fourth row from the bottom, just to the left of the Q key. Pressing Tab generally moves you to the next interactive element on the screen. It may also move you between sections of an application. Tab is a quick way to move around but you may skip over paragraphs of text in the process. Pressing Shift and Tab moves backwards throught interactive elements.

The Enter key is the last key on the third row from the bottom of the alphanumeric section. Pressing the Enter key usually means "Accept" and "Continue." If you press the Enter key, you show that you've finished what you were doing, and it's okay to be taken to the next screen.

The Spacebar is the wide key in the middle of the bottom row. Pressing Space means you want to activate an element without leaving the screen you're on unless you're specifically clicking on something like a "Submit" or "Next" button.

Finally, the Escape key is the very top left key on the keyboard. Escape means that you want to back out of wherever you are and discard any changes that you may have made.

Modifier keys are generally used in combination with other keys to perform actions. Most of the modifier keys can be found on the bottom left of the keyboard. Starting at the left of the bottom row of keys, you will find the Control key. Moving right, you'll find the Windows key and then the Alt key. Above the Control key you will find the Shift key. If you're on a laptop you may have a Function key in between the Control and Windows keys.

If you decide to include a familiarisation / practice exercise the NVDA Input Help function may be useful


Starting NVDA

If NVDA is installed then it can be configured to start automatically or can be started by pressing the Alt plus the Ctrl and the letter N keys all at the same time. The portable version has no built in keyboard shortcut to start it.

If you have to run this module with visually impaired participants they will need sighted assistance starting the mobile version of NVDA and this will eat into your teaching time.    

There are two types of keyboard commands. Some use a single key, the Tab, Arrow, Space, and Enter keys are some examples of frequently used single key commands. Other commands use a combination of keys. These keystrokes use modifier keys to change the behaviour of the single key commands. Windows uses Control, Alt, Shift, and Windows keys as modifiers.

NVDA adds another modifier key called the NVDA key. The NVDA key is set to the Insert key by default but can be changed to the Caps Lock key when the program starts or in the NVDA preferences menu. The two advantages of using Caps Lock as the NVDA modifier are that hardly anyone needs Caps Lock in everyday use and it is easy to find being the third key from the bottom at the farthest left on the keyboard, so I definetely recommend this.

For the rest of these notes it is assumed that Caps Lock has been set as an NVDA modifier key.

When you start NVDA the program will show a configuration panel that looks like this and start to read it. For this introductory module pressing the Enter key will accept the default settings.
Once somebody is familiar with NVDA then they will probably want it to skip this step.

Welcome to NVDA

Working from the keyboard press Tab to move between the checkbox and button controls. Pressing Space will toggle the state of a checkbox between checked and unchecked, pressing Enter will activate a button.


NVDA has a long list of commands, luckily most people only use a small fraction of them. The hotkeys mentioned in these notes are only the ones you need to get started. To make learning the hotkeys easier, NVDA includes a tool called "Input Help". If you enable "input help," NVDA will speak the name of any key or key combination you press. If the command is provided by NVDA, it will also tell you what action it will perform in your current context.

With input help on, you don't have to worry about accidentally activating anything, none of the commands will actually be performed. This lets you safely explore the keyboard layout. It is also helpful for finding some of the more obscure keys in your keyboard and can be useful if you are using a laptop that may not have a standard key layout. Caps Lock plus 1 command toggles input help on and off.    


There will be times when you want to silence NVDA as it can be quite verbose and there are a number of ways to do this.


If you press the Control key by itself makes NVDA stop speaking immediately. The Shift key will pause NVDA's speech, pressing Shift again will resume speech from where it left off.


Pressing the Caps Lock key and the letter S key at the same time will move NVDA through a sequence of three settings.

Do not worry about speech mode beeps in this introductory module, the important thing for your participants to grasp is that pressing the Caps Lock key and the letterS key at the same time will turn speech off without exiting NVDA and pressing them two times will turn speech on.


Pressing the Caps Lock key and the letter Q will quit bring Up this dialog box, then pressing the Enter key will shut down NVDA.
![Exit NVDA](image/exitNVDA.png "NVDA exit NVDA")


Demonstrate these commands to your participants and then get learners to practise starting NVDA, changing voice settings, pausing speech, changing speech mode mode and quitting NVDA


There are a lot of configuration settings that can be changed, the only ones that we are going to cover in this introduction are the voice settings. This is because the voice settings of NVDA have the most immediate effect on the new user. If the NVDA voice does not suit the listener then they will not be motivated to continue, so getting the voice right is important.  

The voice settings can be changed in NVDA menu or by keyboard commands.


The command to open the NVDA menu press Caps Lock plus N, learners with some sight can find it in the hidden icons at the left end of MS Windows Taskbar. The menu can be navigated with keyboard commands.

![NVDA voice settings](image/voicesettingsNVDA.png "NVDA voice settings")


Pressing Caps Lock plus Control plus the Left or Right arrow will cycle through the different voice options.

To actually change the value of each setting, press Caps Lock and Control plus Up or Down Arrow.
There's no need to release the Control and Caps Lock keys between keystrokes. You can hold those two keys down and then press the arrow keys until you're done tweaking the settings.


When they have completed this stage learners should