Using the Jaws For Windows Screen Reader with Unicode IPA fonts

by Dr. Robert Englebretson

the purpose of this page is to provide step-by-step instructions to enable users of the Jaws for Windows screen reader (manufactured by Freedom Scientific) to be able to access material written in Unicode IPA fonts. Please be aware that this does not actually add text-to-speech rules for IPA (it does not enable Jaws to fluently read IPA as if it were text) -- but what it does is to provide glyph labels for all IPA characters in Unicode. I.e. Jaws will read the word [θɪŋ] as "theta SmallCapitalI Eng" but it will not read it as "thing".

In order to use Jaws For Windows with Unicode IPA fonts, you will need the Jaws For Windows screen reader, version 6.1 or later, a current version of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office that supports Unicode, as well as a fully compliant Unicode font. I highly recommend The Doulos SIL Font as a good font to use for IPA characters. It is fully Unicode compliant and costs nothing to download and use. This font provides a full IPA Unicode character set, something which the Unicode fonts otherwise generally available in Windows do not have.

* Note: I am not affiliated with FreedomScientific, and this page is provided "as-is". For official FreedomScientific documentation, see the section in the Jaws help file entitled "Adding Speech for Special Symbols."

Please feel free to e-mail me at reng {at} with any comments or suggestions.

  1. Browse to the folder where your user-specific Jaws settings files are stored. If you don't know where this is, you can access it on computers running recent versions of Jaws by clicking the start button, then 'All Programs', then 'JAWS12.0' (or whatever version of Jaws you're using), then 'Explore Jaws', and finally 'Explore My Settings'.
  2. Using WordPad or another plain-text editor, open the .sbl file for the speech synthesizer you use. For example, if you use Eloquence, open eloq.sbl. (If this file does not exist in your settings directory, you'll need to copy it from the Jaws default settings folder--if you don't know where that is, choose 'Explore Shared Settings' from the 'Explore Jaws' menu as described above, and copy it from there to your personal settings folder.)
  3. Move your cursor to the bottom of the language-specific section for the language you are using. For example, if you use American English with Eloquence, you would position your cursor at the end of the line immediately above the label [British English]. Press enter to create a blank line.
  4. Now, right-click on the following link: IPA_SBL.txt and choose "save target as" from the context menu. Save this file on your desktop, or in any other convenient folder. This file contains the Unicode values of all of the (non-ASCII) IPA characters, along with their names, in the appropriate format for a Jaws synthesizer file. Of course if you don't like the names in this file, you can edit them to any value you want.
  5. Open this file, and copy the entire contents to the clipboard.
  6. Paste the entire contents of IPA_SBL.txt (which you just copied to the clipboard) into the .sbl file you have opened, at the cursor position specified above.
  7. Save the .sbl file, then exit and restart Jaws.

In addition, I have also created a JBT file which adds IPA Braille symbols to Jaws when using a braille display. Please feel free to e-mail me at reng {at} if you would like a copy of that as well.

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