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Accessibility Tutorial

Setting up NVDA on Parallels with macOS

This is mostly personal notes that I hope can be helpful to someone else. A lot of this info I gathered and consolidated from Deque’s super helpful post, Using Windows Screen Readers on a Mac.

Get Parallels

Download Parallels and follow the set-up. I don’t want to put instructions here, as they’ll likely change and be outdated before too long.

Why Parallels? I found Parallels to be a lot easier to use and friendlier to set-up access to macOS’s network for local development (like connecting to localhost, custom local domains, etc). Being able to access Windows programs as standalone Apps on your Mac is really nice.

NVDA Set-up

A lot of the NVDA set-up should be basically the same between Virtual Box and Parallels, but I haven’t confirmed that.

First, Download and install NVDA on your new Windows set-up.

NVDA uses a Modifier Key for a of their keyboard commands. This is normally the caps lock or insert key, but on a Mac:

Use Karabiner Elements

I tried a few options like Sharp Keys for getting a modifier key to pass through to Parallels, but couldn’t get the set-up right.

What did work for me was creating a new keybinding for the init key using right option key using Karabiner Elements. To see how to best do that, use this guide from Deque and read the Option 3: Software – Karabiner Elements section.

Other Helpful Settings

A couple of these are also from the Deque guide, here for my own reference 🙂 All of them are optional!

  • Focus Highlight addon: Adds a focus-indicator for where NVDA is on the screen, similar to VoiceOver.
  • Speech Viewer: Similar to VoiceOver’s gray box transcript of what is being announced. (NVDA + n to bring up the NVDA menu) NVDA Menu > Tools > Speech Viewer
  • Turn off mouse tracking: NVDA announces whatever your cursor is on. If you’re using a mouse a lot still, then it ends up being a lot of announcements, and will continue after you switch back to your MacOS desktop. Turn it off with (NVDA + n) NVDA Menu > Preferences > Settings > Mouse > Enable Mouse Tracking (uncheck).

Now you’re ready to learn some ways to use the modifier NVDA key. I’d also recommend downloading Firefox, as it pairs well with NVDA, similar to how VoiceOver works best with Safari.

By Jerry Jones

JavaScript Engineer for Automattic, living simply in rural MO.

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