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Make work more inclusive with these Chromebook accessibility features

October 24, 2019
Laura Allen

Senior Program Manager, Chrome & Chrome OS Accessibility

We want to make our products as helpful as possible, and that means for everyone. As a senior accessibility program manager at Google, a big part of my job is to work with our engineers to build assistive technology that makes Chromebooks accessible for all users—something that is core to Google’s mission. 

This month marks Disability Awareness Month, which is a great time to highlight accessibility features that you or your business can use, like built-in text-to-speech, dictation tools and more. In this post, I’ll share some of my favorite accessibility features in Chrome OS.

Note: Be sure to explore and enable accessibility features in your settings first. At the bottom right select the time, or press Alt + Shift + s. Then select “Settings.” Scroll to the bottom of the screen and choose “Advanced.” In the "Accessibility" section, select “Manage accessibility features.” If you want to enable them even quicker, turn on “Always show accessibility features” in the system menu of your Chromebook to skip some of these steps in the future.

We’ve built a number of accessibility features to support individuals with a wide variety of needs. Here are some ways you can make your Chromebooks more accessible.

Have text read aloud to you with Select-to-speak. I happen to have low vision and greatly benefit from listening to specific text read aloud. If you are like me and need synthesized speech on occasion, try Select-to-speak. Just press and hold the Search key, then click or drag to select content you want to hear. Each word is highlighted as it’s read aloud for better audio/visual connection.

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Use the built-in screen reader. Chromebooks have a built-in screen reader called ChromeVox, which enables people with more significant visual impairments to use Chrome OS. It provides spoken feedback for items on the screen and can also be used with a refreshable braille display. You can turn ChromeVox on or off from any page by pressing Ctrl + Alt + z. Read how to use the built-in screen reader.

Zoom into web pages and adjust font sizes. In Chromebooks, you can change the size of everything on the website you visit, including text, images, and videos. It’s also possible to change only the size of the font on a web page. Read this help center article to learn how to adjust sizing in Chromebooks, or follow these instructions to get started:

  1. On your computer, open Chrome. At the top right, click “More” and then “Settings.”

  2. Under "Appearance," you can make the changes you need. To change the size of browser content, click the down arrow next to "Page zoom” and select the zoom option you want. You can also press Ctrl + Plus to increase or Ctrl + Minus to decrease. To change only the font size, click the down arrow next to “Font size” and select the font size you want. Note: You can also select more font options by clicking “Customize fonts.”

Magnify your Chromebook screen further. For employees with more limited vision, you can use greater levels of zoom (up to 20x) to make the screen more visible. You can turn on a full screen magnifier to zoom in the whole screen, or the docked magnifier to magnify only part of the screen.

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Enable dictation or the on-screen keyboard. If typing on the physical keyboard isn’t possible or preferred, turn on the on-screen keyboard to type with a mouse pointer, touch, or handwriting. You can also choose to type with your voice by enabling dictation in your settings, which lets you speak to type text in any text field. It’s even possible to add common punctuation by saying "comma," "period," "question mark," or "exclamation point.” Either tap or click the microphone icon in the lower right corner or press Search + d to begin typing by voice. Read this help center article on Voice-to-type, or watch this video to learn how to get started:

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Customize your cursor to take different actions. You can set the cursor to automatically take action when the cursor stops moving for a certain amount of time, a feature that can be helpful for people with motor impairments. Check out this help center article on automatic clicks or follow these instructions to get started: 

  1. At the bottom right, select the time. Or, on your keyboard, press Alt + Shift + s.

  2. Next, select “Settings” and then “Advanced.” Under “Accessibility,” select “Manage accessibility features.”

  3. Under “Mouse and touchpad,” turn on “Automatically click when the mouse cursor stops.”

You can also choose what action each click takes, for example left click, right click, double click and more. It’s also possible to scroll a page or app simply by hovering. Read how to customize clicking on a Chromebook

Customize audio settings and hearing support. Chromebooks allow individuals to choose how sound plays in speakers or earbuds. For example, Mono Audio makes it so that the same audio plays through both speakers or earbuds, which can be helpful for users who may miss audio if it plays in stereo sound. Another feature to consider is playing sound on “startup.” This provides audio confirmation to blind and low vision users when a device is turned on. You can turn on these features under Settings > Advanced > Manage accessibility features.  

Learn more
We continuously strive to make Chromebooks more accessible and useful with new features, improved functionalities, and partnerships—just like we do with other Google products (for example, G Suite).  If you’d like to learn more about Google accessibility features, watch this Youtube playlist or visit the Accessibility Help Center.  As a part of this ongoing effort, we also offer a Disability Support team who can help answer questions about using assistive technology and accessibility features with Google products. To chat with support agents, visit g.co/disabilitysupport

Lastly, discover how you can work securely with Chrome Enterprise on our website.

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