Up and Running with JAWS on a MAC

by: Joe Watkins

  • 25 June 2016

JAWS is one of the more popular assistive technologies used by people with disabilities. Since the application is a Windows-based application it can be a little tough to use on a Mac. Learn how you can install it on your Mac for use or accessibility testing.

Here are the bits of software needed to accomplish this:

  • A virtual machine application such as VirtualBox (free), VMware Fusion, or Bootcamp should work as well. This is how you can run Windows on your Mac.
  • A Windows Virtual Machine from Microsoft. Windows 7 Worked for me. This is an actual copy of Windows that you will install on your virtual machine.
  • JAWS Screen Reading Software.
  • A keymapper application such as SharpKeys. We will use this to “remap” a keyboard key that JAWS uses that isn’t on most Macs.

1. Set up your Virtual Machine

Follow directions on how to set up the Virtual Machine software on your Mac and how to install Windows within it. VirtualBox makes this fairly simple.

2. Download & Install JAWS – It’s FREE!!

JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a very powerful application and is fairly expensive for use but you can use the application for 40 minutes at a time for free. This model works great for accessibility testing. From the Windows virtual machine visit the JAWS download page and download the appropriate version and then follow the setup instructions for installation.

3. Set up keymapping for the INSERT key

JAWS leans on the Insert key for some keyboard commands. On a standard mac laptop keyboard you’ll find this key is missing and makes using JAWS very tough. One quick way around this is to map a key we will not more than likely use to the registry on the Windows machine for the insert key.

On the Windows virtual machine download and install SharpKeys. Once it loads you can map a key (I chose the right command key) to the Insert key. The video below demonstrates mapping the Right Command key to the Insert key on the Windows virtual machine:

After rebooting the virtual machine start up JAWS and you should now be able to perform the commands that require the Insert key.

4. F1,F2, etc. as standard function keys

JAWS uses standard function keys e.g. F1,F2,F3 etc. On your Mac visit:

System Preferences -> Keyboard

screenshot of system preferences keyboard settings

5. Start JAWS

After you completed the above steps start up your virtual environment and launch JAWS. A good test to make sure things are working correctly would be to open a web browser on the virtual machine with JAWS running, visit a web page and then hit modifier key + F6 (in my case the Right Command key) This will pull of the browse by headings tool. If this wasn’t setup correctly it would open the start menu.