Captivate 2019 and Older Versions of JAWS

One of the clients I support has JAWS 16 installed as the default screen reader on all employee computers, so our accessibility testing for that client has to work with that specific JAWS release. On the other hand, we’ve been investigating migrating to Captivate 2019 for better HTML5 output and the other improvements it brings. However, we have run into a serious snag.

Captivate 2019 and JAWS 16 seem to be entirely incompatible with each other. Here are the things I’ve been able to test and the results I’ve seen:

  • HTML5: Auto labeled buttons, text, and objects reliably do not read.
  • HTML5: Manually labeled buttons, text, and objects only sporadically read.
  • HTML5: Manual slide accessibility reads inconsistently.
  • HTML5: When JAWS 16 is active, buttons only respond when you press Shift along with Spacebar or Enter.
  • HTML5: When JAWS 16 is active, keyboard input lag may become unbearable.
  • HTML5: If you accidentally tab out of the eLearning frame, you may never get back in without mouse input.
  • Flash: Buttons don’t read.

All of this is leading to every Captivate 2019 module failing accessibility compliance testing. Right now, I have no solution except to avoid Captivate 2019 if you have a client on an older version of JAWS. The good news is that one of my testers has informed my team that things are better in JAWS 19 and newer, but I don’t have an official report about how much better.

Of course, my pie-in-the-sky hope is that a future version of Captivate will export to HTML5 using standards-compliant code, which will solve a myriad of accessibility hurdles. Until then, we have to work with the software compatibility that we have. At this time, that means I have to recommend avoiding Captivate 2019 if you are tied to JAWS 16 for any reason.

I will post updates as I learn more.


  • Most of the issues are specific to a combination of Captivate 2019’s HTML5 output plus and outdated version of JAWS plus Internet Explorer. Tests with JAWS 16 were marginally better in other browsers like Edge and Chrome.
  • Keyboard accessibility saw the biggest improvements when switching browsers. Text reading was still flaky but more manageable.
  • Knowledge Check slides and cookie cutter interactions like drag-and-drop were still almost entirely inaccessible.

Bokeh background by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash