A a linguist, I work with lots of exotic symbols, but only a small percentage of them are recognized by the standard U.S. of JAWS. If you work with phonetic symbols like /ə, ʃ,ʒ,ɰ/ you will need to tweak your pronunciation files.

I wrote about this in an earlier post on JAWS 6, but today I was able to document and implement, so I thought I would share the procedure.

The fix I am using will expand the symbol set within JAWS so that a character like /ə/ will be read as “schwa” (but not as its phonetic value of “uh”) Ideally, it would be nice to have a word pronunciation engine so that phonetic pronunciation values are emulated, but let’s take this one problem at a time.

### SBL Files

JAWS includes a set of symbol or .sbl files which match punctuation and symbol characters with a “word” (e.g, ? = “question mark”). The key is to add the character and reading to your working files.

Luckily, there there is a phonetic symbol .sbl file from Robert Englebretson. There’s also a math symbol .sbl file from Carroll Tech.

### Add Characters to Symbol File

This procedure assumes that JAWS is using the Eloquence engine, in which case the key file to change is eloq.sbl. You will also need to have an Admin account to implement the changes.

Note: SBL files can be opened in any text editor such as Notepad.

2. Find the location of your eloq.sbl file. Mine was in the the following path on my C hard drive:

C:\Users\All Users\Freedom Scientific\Jaws\13.0\Settings\enu\eloq.sbl
3. Make a (second) copy of this file and rename as eloqOld.sbl. This is your backup in case something goes wrong.
4. Make a third copy and rename it as eloqNew.sbl. This is a temporary file to edit since you may not be able to directly edit eloq.sbl.
5. Open eloqNew.sbl in a text editor such as Notepad. This file contains pronunciation values for multiple languages. Scroll to the language you normally use (e.g. “[American English]”
6. Scroll to the end of the symbol list for that language.
7. Copy and paste the list of symbols from one of the other .sbl files immediately after the final line in the list. Each symbol will be in a single line and have the format U+0001=character name

Note: Don’t worry if the format does not match the rest of the symbol list.

8. Repeat the last step for each language you want to support. You can translate character names as needed for each language. Save and close file.
9. Exit JAWS if it is open.
11. Rename eloqNew.sbl as eloq.sbl.
12. Restart JAWS and test on a page such as IPA Characters based on Letter A with Numeric Codes

 U+Codepoint=Character Name (no quotes) 
 U+20B9=Rupee symbol of India