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How to use the Windows 11 screen reader

How to use the Windows 11 screen reader

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There are a few different ways to start Narrator

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The Lenovo Yoga 9i open on a stack of books. The screen displays a purple flower on a black background.
Narrator lives on Windows laptops, such as the Lenovo Yoga 9i.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

There are numerous third-party screen readers available for Windows 11. The most popular ones include Job Access With Speech (JAWS) and NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA). (Microsoft has a full list on its website.)

But Windows also has a free, built-in screen reader called Narrator. Given the wealth of options that are out there, the majority of people don’t use it as their primary screen reader. But if you’re in that majority, it can be useful if you’re borrowing someone else’s device and can be there in a pinch if you can’t use your preferred software for whatever reason.

If you want to turn on Narrator, there are a couple ways to do it.

How to turn on Narrator with the keyboard

Assuming you’re not using a remapped keyboard, you can turn on Narrator by pressing Control + Windows + Enter. This will start Narrator and will open Narrator Home (where you can learn about Narrator’s features and tweak settings). You can minimize this, and Narrator will still run, or you can exit it to exit Narrator.

The Narrator home screen. Text reads “This is a Narrator Home, where you can get help, access your settings, and learn about new features. Narrator is a screen reader that describes aloud what’s on your screen, so you can use the information to navigate your device. To start or stop Narrator, press the Windows Logo Key + Cntrl + Enter. Explore the sections below to get started.” Sections include; Quick Start, Narrator Guide, What’s New, Settings, and Feedback.
This is what will pop up after you turn on Narrator.

How to turn on Narrator in the accessibility menu

You can also turn Narrator on in Windows 11’s accessibility settings menu. To do this, go to Settings > Accessibility > Narrator.

The Narrator menu under Accessibility in Windows 11. Options include Narrator, Keyboard Shortcut for Narrator, Narrator Home, Complete Guide to Narrator, Voice, Add Voices, and Speed.
These options, and more.

On this page, you can customize various features of Narrator, including speed, pitch, volume, verbosity, and navigation mode. This is also where you can connect a braille display, sync your settings with other devices, and make other changes that you may need to make. You can turn the keyboard shortcut on and off here as well.

How to turn on Narrator from the dock

You can also turn on Narrator in the Windows search bar. To do this, click on the magnifying glass in the Taskbar at the bottom of your screen and type “Narrator.”

Type “Narrator” into the text box that pops up and click the first result that comes up. This will start Narrator.

A screenshot of the search bar open in Windows 11 with Narrator typed in.
Should be the first result.

Alternatively, you can click on the Windows logo to open the Start menu, click on All apps, and scroll down to Windows Ease of Access. Click on that, and Narrator will be an option beneath it.

A screenshot of the All Apps interface open in Windows 11 with Narrator selected.
It’s buried in there.