Accessibility Technology

Google Accessibility Update – Live Blog Post 7 – Accessibility Guides for End Users

Brand New Accessibility Guides for end users announced:

  • Best practices
  • Keyboard shortcuts – not in table format, so it’s easier to navigate

Product managers specifically asked the audience to provide feedback on these guides, they will update based on your feedback!  Contact them here:


  • How often will this document be updated?  Pretty much all the time, but definitely when there are new feature releases.
  • Where do we find this published?  Help Center, Google list serves.
  • Can changes to this document be announced to organizations rolling out Google Apps?  (I think this was a GREAT question).  We will review this with our deployment teams.
  • Any other screen readers beyond ChromeVox?  We’re working on it.
  • Are keyboard shortcuts specific to ChromeVox?  Those with a ChromeVox keys are noted in help guide.
  • Use of “Shift-Question Mark” key will provide list of keyboard shortcuts

TV Raman commented on use of online help:  it should be available BEFORE user begins using the tool.  We will do our best to keep this documentation as up-to-date as possible.


  • What does near and long term mean?  Near = now.  Longer term = we’re working on it, 6-12 months.
  • What about Calendar updates?  This was not covered earlier. These updates fit into the longer term bucket.

Betsy Roman introduced – runs the literacy program at Benetech, and described the Bookshare reader tool.  Helps commercial industry make textbooks accessible.  In short, it’s a reader tool.  I have to admit that I was completely unaware of this effort. There is work coming out of the W3C about adding speech APIs to HTML.  As this is “baked” many exciting new features and technologies will be made available into Google products. Chrome is only browser thus far to have implemented any of these APIs.  Demonstrated a biology textbook using the Bookshare web reader (Chrome extension).  Still working on MathML.


  • How many titles are available?  All Bookshare titles (apparently a thousand-ish).
  • Is there voice search?  Not yet.
  • Is there rich text navigation?  Yes
  • Can you change speed of reader?  Yes
  • Are there bookmarks available?  Not yet
  • For Betsy:  how well has this BookShare tool been embraced by the publishing industry?
  • Can email be deleted in Gmail with one keystroke?  Yes, it’s the pound key, or A for archive.
  • Will ChromeVox be built as a desktop app?  No, it will probably not be built as a standalone screen reader app.
  • Which combination of OS / browsers are tested?  Last 2 versions on Windows, Mac, and Linux.  Including screen readers Jaws, NVDA and most recently WindowsEyes.  We work to make Chrome and ChromeVox most accessible first.
  • Is there a mode that can spell out words?  Reading level can be changed on both phones and desktop.
  • How do you avoid keyboard shortcut collisions?  We try to use same shortcuts other productivity software uses.  Trouble is that we compete with a lot of different things on your computer.  We sometimes have to deviate from “standards.”
  • Can you talk about standalone Google forms?  It’s accessible in the same way as our 3 editors.
  • Can you talk about App Engine?  Can a blind developer develop accessible apps using this platform?  Yes.  However, content creators still have the ability to make content that’s NOT accessible.
  • Is accessibility only for core apps?  Google is committed to building accessibility into all apps.  For practical purposes, it seems that the answer now is yes.  Engineers are now building in automated testing into build process.

TV Raman:  in the web app world, we need to standardize on keyboard combinations.  Which web app will want which keys?  This is an important question.

UPDATE:  Shawn from Google Docs tweeted this while he was sitting two chairs away from me: “Clarification: we also support and test with VoiceOver, not just JAWS, NVDA, ChromeVox.”



By Paul Schantz

CSUN Director of Web & Technology Services, Student Affairs. husband, father, gamer, part time aviator, fitness enthusiast, Apple fan, and iguana wrangler.

One reply on “Google Accessibility Update – Live Blog Post 7 – Accessibility Guides for End Users”

Clarification – we have about 177,000 books available through the Bookshare Web Reader (in the US, typically 60-80k in other countries). Only about 1000 in our collection are not…and that’s not related to the reader, but our EPUB3 conversion has been choking on super big books. We’re working with DAISY folks to fix that issue.

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