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The instructions for this apply up to JAWS 17.
This page does NOT cover MathML. See this Freedom Scientific page for MathML in JAWS 16+.

If you are teaching a course with technical symbols such as /→,ə,ŋ, ∲,∑,⊃,¥,₹,₩,₪/ (arrows, phonetic symbols, math symbols and non-U.S. currency symbols), JAWS may skip over them completely unless the Symbol (.sbl) file is adjusted to recognize these symbols.

The instructions below will explain how to add a symbol based on its Unicode value.

Symbol 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.

As it happens there are some .sbl files collecting common symbol types available for download:

Note: The Greek and Hebrew files are meant for spelling isolated words. For a full page of content, a screen reader with a language pack for Greek or Hebrew is recommended.

Adjust Symbol File

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

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

  1. Open or download a .sbl file.
  2. Find the location of your eloq.sbl file (or other preferred .sbl voice file). A sample path may be:
    JAWS 13 C:\Users\All Users\Freedom Scientific\Jaws\13.0\Settings\enu\eloq.sbl
    JAWS 14+ C:\ProgramData\Freedom Scientific\JAWS\15.0\SETTINGS\enu
  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.
  10. Delete eloq.sbl. You may be asked for an admin password at this point.
  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

Find Additional Codes

Below is one of the formats for a character entry in a Symbol file:

U+Codepoint=Character Name (no quotes)

For instance, if I wanted to expand the repertoire of currency symbols to include the new rupee symbol of India (₹), I would add the following to my .sbl file

U+20B9=Rupee symbol of India

A list of Unicode charts with code points is available at

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