Using Google products: How to use accessibility features
In this section, we go over the accessibility features of our products for 2 groups of people:
Blind & low-vision users
Deaf & hard of hearing users
If you notice information that’s missing, have questions or feedback, or want to offer other ideas for ways people with disabilities can use Google products, we want to hear from you.
Information for blind and low-vision users
Note: We’ve created an Administrator Guide to Accessibility that explains best practices for deploying Google Apps to support users’ accessibility needs.
The Android platform includes a built in text-to-speech engine and a screen reader to enable phone manufacturers deliver accessible smartphones. Blind and Deaf users also benefit from the wide variety of Android hardware options available, giving users the flexibility to choose a phone with the features that best meets their needs.
Android phones can also be highly customized by downloading third-party accessibility applications that make nearly every function possible without sight, including phone calls, text messaging, email, web browsing, and more.
Accessibility overview in Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) Release
Eyes-Free Android Site
Eyes-Free Android Developer & User Blog
Eyes-Free Android YouTube Channel
The Chrome browser supports assistive technology including some screen readers and magnifiers. It offers people with low vision a number of tools, including full-page zoom and high-contrast color. In addition, Chrome Extensions are extra features and functionality that you can easily add to your Chrome browser to customize it with functionality you need. There are many extensions which improve accessibility or which help developers create accessible web applications, such as ChromeVox, ChromeShades, and ChromeVis.
Chrome Low-Vision Features
Chrome Keyboard Shortcuts
Chrome Screen reader Integration Vision & Progress
Accessible Chrome Extensions
ChromeVox and Chrome OS
Chrome OS delivers built-in accessibility through the ChromeVox screen reader, designed to bring the speed, versatility, and security of Chrome OS to visually impaired users. ChromeVox has also been released as an extension for Google Chrome where it’s intended to help authors of web applications quickly come up to speed with web accessibility on Chrome OS. If you don’t yet have a Chromebook and are interested in experiencing ChromeVox yourself, give it a try on Chrome on your current desktop.
Install ChromeVox from the Chrome Web Store
Learn more about how to use ChromeVox
The standard HTML view of Gmail has been enhanced to enable Blind and low-vision users to use Gmail on the web to send and receive email. Users who prefer a desktop client can also sync their email account with an existing desktop program such as Microsoft Outlook.
Gmail Screen reader instructions in basic html and standard view
Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts
Gmail sync with Microsoft Outlook mail
Google Calendar has been enhanced to enable Blind and low-vision users to view and edit the contents of their Google Calendar on the web with their existing screen reader. Users who prefer a desktop client can sync with an existing desktop program such as Microsoft Outlook.
Use Google Calendar with screen readers
Google Calendar Keyboard Shortcuts
Google Calendar sync for Microsoft Outlook
Google Docs and Sites
Blind and low-vision users can use the Google Docs suite of applications to edit, view, and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and sites in the cloud with a screen reader.
Get started using Google Docs with a screen reader
Use a screen reader with Google Drive on the web
Use Android’s accessibility features with the Google Drive app
Use Google documents with a screen reader
Use Google spreadsheets with a screen reader
Use Google drawings and presentations with a screen reader
Use Google Sites with a screen reader
Google offers nearly 3 million free eBooks on the web to any user. Low-vision users can also access many features on our Web Reader. Purchased eBooks aren’t currently compatible with screen readers. However, we do provide a platform for authors and publishers, many of whom offer accessible features, to sell their own books.
Google Books Advanced Booksearch
Google Maps works with any screen reader for all sorts of tasks, including finding businesses, getting directions, or accessing public transit information. We recommend using the mobile interface, which does away with graphical maps and concentrates entirely on giving directions that can be cleanly read out by a screen reader.
Google Maps also works smoothly on any Android phone with TalkBack, the built in screen-reader. Its also worth noting some special Google Maps applications on Android phones. Walky Talky, for instance, announces street names and addresses as you pass them, and Intersection Explorer allows you to explore a neighborhood and get directions using finger touch. You can download these apps from the Android Market.
Mobile interface for Google Maps local and directions
Google Search remains extremely popular among blind users for searching and navigating the web, given its simplicity. We’ve built easy-to-navigate search results pages that work smoothly with adaptive technologies. Here’s some more information on how we’ve made search accessible: Accessibility in Google Search.
The Accessible Search Experiment in Google Labs is no longer supported. If you’d like to learn more about the decision to deprecate this experiment, including how to continue using it as an unsupported feature, see this post in the firstname.lastname@example.org discussion forum.
Using a simple interface, Google Voice can transcribe your voicemail to text message and then link text transcripts to your computer or mobile device so that you can skim them quickly.
Google Voice Accessible (mobile) interface
Google Voice Text Transcripts
Information for deaf and hard of hearing users
The Android platform supports both hearing aid compatibility (HAC) and teletypewriter (TTY) modes for connecting a TTY device. Your Android phone manufacturer needs to provide the hardware for these features and the information on using them. Droid phones, offered through Motorola and Verizon, support both of these functions.
Motorola Droid compatibility information
Verizon Droid compatibility information
Google SMS Applications
There are a number of handy SMS-based apps that turn text messages to speech phone calls. For example, Taxi Magic lets you call a cab from your mobile phone or the web using a text message. Check these out in the Android Market.
Google SMS applications
Taxi Magic on Android Market
Google Translate Conversation Mode
Conversation Mode in Google Translate is a feature on the Android phone that allows easy communication with a nearby person in many languages. By setting both languages to English, users can turn speech into text and read it on their phones.
Conversation mode blog post
Gmail Video Chat
Gmail two-way video chat is a great tool for sign language speakers. It’s available to anyone with a webcam and a Gmail account—and it’s free.
Google Video Chat Information
Google Drive makes it easy to caption your uploaded videos to make them available for deaf and hard of hearing viewers or for speakers of different languages. Also, the text in the captions is searchable in your Documents List, making it easy find your uploaded videos.
Add caption tracks to your video files
Google Voice’s built-in transcript feature converts voicemail to text enabling deaf users to receive notification of and read their voice messages.
Google Voice Basics
We want YouTube videos to be accessible to everyone, whether or not they can hear or understand the language. Much YouTube content is already available with captions, and we’re improving the quantity and quality every day. Here’s some basic information on finding captioned videos, turning on and off the captions, and adjusting the captions to meet your needs.
Viewing YouTube videos with captions
How-to video on viewing captions in YouTube
Setting up your YouTube account to show captions by default
And here are some sites where you can learn about Google through captioned videos on our YouTube channels.