Tag Archives: accessibility

Lessons learned from building an accessible support team

From the earliest stages of product design until the moment we release a product to the public—accessibility is front of mind. But that commitment doesn’t end there. Every day our support teams offer help and advice for people who use our products, and we want to make sure that support is accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.  

In 2017, we launched our Disability Support team. The team is available to answer questions about using assistive technology with Google products and the accessibility features and functionalities available within Google products. In our first year we received more than 13,000 inquiries and with each question we learned how to better build a support team that centers around accessibility. 

Today we are launching a playbook of everything that we’ve learned to help other companies and organizations who might be interested in creating their own Disability Support Teams. Here are a few of the key lessons that we learned.

Names matter: “Disability” vs. “Accessibility” 

When naming our team, we had to consider using “disability” or “accessibility” to describe the focus of our work.  Ultimately, we learned that including “disability” made our focus clear. “Disability” is a more widely searched term across the globe, and widely accepted and understood. Making that focus clear helped reduce the number of questions we received that were outside the scope of our team. Before launching the Disability Support team, more than 70 percent of the questions we received were not related to assistive technology or accessibility features. 

Build with and for people with disabilities

When it comes to setting up and staffing a support team, make sure you work with people, organizations and tools that are focused on disabilities. First, we learned that hiring people who personally use assistive technology helps them share better insights because of their own experiences using assistive technology. Community members notice when support agents don’t use assistive technology themselves, even if they can provide the correct answer.

When working with vendors, do your due diligence to identify and partner with experienced vendors. Conduct on-site visits, speak with support agents (without management present), and shadow existing processes. Look for vendors who already have strong inclusive programs in place, such as The Chicago Lighthouse and TELUS International, and partner with organizations like the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to train support agents. 

Similarly, make sure you use support tools that are accessible. Conduct thorough accessibility testing on your own support channels and tools. Go above standard testing to determine both usability and usefulness and work with your engineering team to prioritize fixes where needed prior to launching your support team. 

Meet people where they are

When we initially launched the team we received less inquiries than expected. We wanted to reach more people in the disability community, so we partnered with established and experienced organizations that could connect us with the communities we were trying to help.  We worked with organizations like Be My Eyes and Connect Direct to spread more awareness about our services within the Blind and Low-vision community and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, respectively. 

Consider cultural differences

In addition to the typical forecast planning (i.e., cost per case, headcount, time zone, languages, etc.), consider cultural differences and the ability to recruit experienced support agents. Consider places that meet all of your requirements in addition to proven positive cultural perception for people with disabilities (i.e., accessibility laws, typical jargon usage, etc.) For example, in the U.S. it is common to use “person-first language” like “person with a disability instead of “disabled person” or “handicapped,” which can be considered offensive. In addition to the U.S. office, the Google Disability Support team is located in Ireland.

The full report is available in view-only PDF and Google Doc.  


Find wheelchair accessible places with Google Maps

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and we’ll be sharing resources and tools for education, as well as accessibility features and updates for Android and Google Maps. 

Imagine making plans to go somewhere new, taking the journey to get there and arriving— only to be stuck outside, prevented from sitting with family or being unable to access the restroom. It’s a deeply frustrating experience I’ve had many times since becoming a wheelchair user in 2009. And it’s an experience all too familiar to the 130 million wheelchair users worldwide and the more than 30 million Americans who have difficulty using stairs.

So imagine instead being able to “know before you go” whether a destination is wheelchair accessible, just as effortlessly as looking up the address. In recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’re announcing a new Google Maps feature that does just that.

People can now turn on an “Accessible Places” feature to have wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps. When Accessible Places is switched on, a wheelchair icon will indicate an accessible entrance and you’ll be able to see if a place has accessible seating, restrooms or parking. If it’s confirmed that a place does not have an accessible entrance, we’ll show that information on Maps as well.

Better maps for everyone, whether you walk or roll

Today, Google Maps has wheelchair accessibility information for more than 15 million places around the world. That number has more than doubled since 2017 thanks to the dedication of more than 120 million Local Guidesand others who’ve responded to our call to share accessibility information. In total, this community has contributed more than 500 million wheelchair accessibility updates to Google Maps. Store owners have also helped, using Google My Business to add accessibility information for their business profiles to help users needing stair-free access find them on Google Maps and Search.


With this feature “rollout”, it’s easier to find and contribute wheelchair accessibility information to Google Maps. That benefits everyone, from those of us using wheelchairs and parents pushing strollers to older adults with tired legs and people hauling heavy items. And in this time of COVID-19, it’s especially important to know before you go so that you won’t be stranded outside that pharmacy, grocery or restaurant.

How to contribute accessibility information to Google Maps

Anyone can contribute accessibility information to Google Maps

To get wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps, update your app to the latest version, go to Settings, select “Accessibility,” and turn on “Accessible Places.” The feature is available on both Android and iOS. 

We’re also rolling out an update that allows people using iOS devices to more easily contribute accessibility information, joining the millions of Android users who have been sharing this type of information on Maps. This guide has tips for rating accessibility, in case you’re not sure what counts as being “accessible.” We invite everyone to switch on Accessible Places and contribute accessibility information to help people in your community.

A Maps milestone, built on a movement

This launch is a milestone in our journey to build a better, more helpful map for everyone, which includes recent efforts to help people find accessible places, transit routes and walking directions. Our work wouldn’t be possible without the decades of advocacy from those who have fought for equal access for people with disabilities. Were it not for them, there would be far fewer accessible places for Google Maps to show.

The Accessible Places feature is starting to rollout for Google Maps users in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, with support for additional countries on the way.

How to turn on Accessible Places

Use the Accessible Places feature to see accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps

Accessibility updates that help tech work for everyone

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and we’ll be sharing resources and tools for education, as well as new accessibility features for Android and Google Maps

In 1993, Paul Amadeus Lane was an EMT with his whole life planned out. But at age 22, he was in a multi-car collision that left him fighting for his life and in recovery for eight months. After the crash, Paul became quadriplegic. He soon realized that his voice was one of his most powerful assets—professionally and personally. He went back to school to study broadcasting and became a radio producer and morning show host. Along the way, Paul discovered how he could use technology as an everyday tool to help himself and others. Today, he uses accessibility features, like Voice Access, to produce his own radio show and share his passion for technology.

Stories like Paul’s remind us why accessible technology matters to all of us every single day. Products built with and for people with disabilities help us all pursue our interests, passions and careers. Today, in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’re announcing helpful Android features and applications for people with hearing loss, deafness, and cognitive differences. While these updates were designed for people with disabilities, the result is better products that can be helpful for everyone. 

Action Blocks: One-tap actions on Android for people with cognitive disabilities

Every day, people use their phones for routine tasks—whether it’s video calling family, checking the weather or reading the news. Typically, these activities require multiple steps. You might have to scroll to find your video chat app, tap to open it and then type in the name of the contact you’re looking for. 

For people with cognitive disabilities or age-related cognitive conditions, it can be difficult to learn and remember each of these steps. For others, it can be time consuming and cumbersome—especially if you have limited mobility. Now, you can perform these tasks with one tap—thanks to Action Blocks, a new Android app that allows you to create customizable home screen buttons

Android Blocks

With Action Blocks, tap on the customized button to launch an activity.

Create an Action Block for any action that the Google Assistant can perform, like making calls, sending texts, playing videos and controlling devices in your home. Then pick an image for the Action Block from your camera or photo gallery, and place it on your home screen for one-touch access.

Action Blocks is part of our ongoing effort to make technology more helpful for people with cognitive disabilities and their caregivers. The app is available on the Play Store, and works on Android devices on Android 5.0 and above. 

Live Transcribe: Real-time transcriptions for everyday conversations

In 2019, we launched Live Transcribe, an app that provides real-time, speech-to-text transcriptions of everyday conversations for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Based on feedback we’ve received from people using the product, we’re rolling out new features:

  • Set your phone to vibrate when someone nearby says your name. If you’re looking elsewhere or want to maintain social distance, your phone will let you know when someone is trying to get your attention. 
  • Add custom names or terms for different places and objects not commonly found in the dictionary. With the ability to customize your experience, Live Transcribe can better recognize and spell words that are important to you. 
  • It’s now easier to search past conversations. Simply use the search bar to look through past transcriptions. To use the feature, turn on ‘Saving Transcriptions’ in Settings. Once turned on, transcriptions will be saved locally on your device for three days.
  • We’re expanding our support of 70 languages to include: Albanian, Burmese, Estonian, Macedonian, Mongolian, Punjabi, and Uzbek.

Live Transcribe is pre-installed on Pixel devices and is available on Google Play for devices Android 5.0 and up. 

Sound Amplifier: Making the sounds around you clearer and louder

Sound Amplifier, a feature that clarifies the sound around you, now works with Bluetooth headphones. Connect your Bluetooth headphones and place your phone close to the source of the sound, like a TV or a lecturer, so that you can hear more clearly. On Pixel, now you can also boost the audio from media playing on your device—whether you are watching YouTube videos, listening to music, or enjoying a podcast. Sound Amplifier is available on Google Play for devices Android 6.0 and above.

Sound Amplifier

Use Sound Amplifier to clarify sound playing on your phone.

Accessibility matters for everyone

We strive to build products that are delightful and helpful for people of all abilities. After all, that’s our mission: to make the world’s information universally accessible for everyone. If you have questions on how these features can be helpful for you, visit our Help Center, connect with our Disability Support team or learn more about our accessibility products on Android

Source: Android


Find wheelchair accessible places with Google Maps

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and we’ll be sharing resources and tools for education, as well as accessibility features and updates for Android and Google Maps. 

Imagine making plans to go somewhere new, taking the journey to get there and arriving— only to be stuck outside, prevented from sitting with family or being unable to access the restroom. It’s a deeply frustrating experience I’ve had many times since becoming a wheelchair user in 2009. And it’s an experience all too familiar to the 130 million wheelchair users worldwide and the more than 30 million Americans who have difficulty using stairs.

So imagine instead being able to “know before you go” whether a destination is wheelchair accessible, just as effortlessly as looking up the address. In recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’re announcing a new Google Maps feature that does just that.

People can now turn on an “Accessible Places” feature to have wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps. When Accessible Places is switched on, a wheelchair icon will indicate an accessible entrance and you’ll be able to see if a place has accessible seating, restrooms or parking. If it’s confirmed that a place does not have an accessible entrance, we’ll show that information on Maps as well.

Better maps for everyone, whether you walk or roll

Today, Google Maps has wheelchair accessibility information for more than 15 million places around the world. That number has more than doubled since 2017 thanks to the dedication of more than 120 million Local Guidesand others who’ve responded to our call to share accessibility information. In total, this community has contributed more than 500 million wheelchair accessibility updates to Google Maps. Store owners have also helped, using Google My Business to add accessibility information for their business profiles to help users needing stair-free access find them on Google Maps and Search.


With this feature “rollout”, it’s easier to find and contribute wheelchair accessibility information to Google Maps. That benefits everyone, from those of us using wheelchairs and parents pushing strollers to older adults with tired legs and people hauling heavy items. And in this time of COVID-19, it’s especially important to know before you go so that you won’t be stranded outside that pharmacy, grocery or restaurant.

How to contribute accessibility information to Google Maps

Anyone can contribute accessibility information to Google Maps

To get wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps, update your app to the latest version, go to Settings, select “Accessibility,” and turn on “Accessible Places.” The feature is available on both Android and iOS. 

We’re also rolling out an update that allows people using iOS devices to more easily contribute accessibility information, joining the millions of Android users who have been sharing this type of information on Maps. This guide has tips for rating accessibility, in case you’re not sure what counts as being “accessible.” We invite everyone to switch on Accessible Places and contribute accessibility information to help people in your community.

A Maps milestone, built on a movement

This launch is a milestone in our journey to build a better, more helpful map for everyone, which includes recent efforts to help people find accessible places, transit routes and walking directions. Our work wouldn’t be possible without the decades of advocacy from those who have fought for equal access for people with disabilities. Were it not for them, there would be far fewer accessible places for Google Maps to show.

The Accessible Places feature is starting to rollout for Google Maps users in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, with support for additional countries on the way.

How to turn on Accessible Places

Use the Accessible Places feature to see accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps

Source: Google LatLong


Accessibility updates that help tech work for everyone

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and we’ll be sharing resources and tools for education, as well as new accessibility features for Android and Google Maps

In 1993, Paul Amadeus Lane was an EMT with his whole life planned out. But at age 22, he was in a multi-car collision that left him fighting for his life and in recovery for eight months. After the crash, Paul became quadriplegic. He soon realized that his voice was one of his most powerful assets—professionally and personally. He went back to school to study broadcasting and became a radio producer and morning show host. Along the way, Paul discovered how he could use technology as an everyday tool to help himself and others. Today, he uses accessibility features, like Voice Access, to produce his own radio show and share his passion for technology.

Stories like Paul’s remind us why accessible technology matters to all of us every single day. Products built with and for people with disabilities help us all pursue our interests, passions and careers. Today, in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’re announcing helpful Android features and applications for people with hearing loss, deafness, and cognitive differences. While these updates were designed for people with disabilities, the result is better products that can be helpful for everyone. 

Action Blocks: One-tap actions on Android for people with cognitive disabilities

Every day, people use their phones for routine tasks—whether it’s video calling family, checking the weather or reading the news. Typically, these activities require multiple steps. You might have to scroll to find your video chat app, tap to open it and then type in the name of the contact you’re looking for. 

For people with cognitive disabilities or age-related cognitive conditions, it can be difficult to learn and remember each of these steps. For others, it can be time consuming and cumbersome—especially if you have limited mobility. Now, you can perform these tasks with one tap—thanks to Action Blocks, a new Android app that allows you to create customizable home screen buttons

Android Blocks

With Action Blocks, tap on the customized button to launch an activity.

Create an Action Block for any action that the Google Assistant can perform, like making calls, sending texts, playing videos and controlling devices in your home. Then pick an image for the Action Block from your camera or photo gallery, and place it on your home screen for one-touch access.

Action Blocks is part of our ongoing effort to make technology more helpful for people with cognitive disabilities and their caregivers. The app is available on the Play Store, and works on Android devices on Android 5.0 and above. 

Live Transcribe: Real-time transcriptions for everyday conversations

In 2019, we launched Live Transcribe, an app that provides real-time, speech-to-text transcriptions of everyday conversations for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Based on feedback we’ve received from people using the product, we’re rolling out new features:

  • Set your phone to vibrate when someone nearby says your name. If you’re looking elsewhere or want to maintain social distance, your phone will let you know when someone is trying to get your attention. 
  • Add custom names or terms for different places and objects not commonly found in the dictionary. With the ability to customize your experience, Live Transcribe can better recognize and spell words that are important to you. 
  • It’s now easier to search past conversations. Simply use the search bar to look through past transcriptions. To use the feature, turn on ‘Saving Transcriptions’ in Settings. Once turned on, transcriptions will be saved locally on your device for three days.
  • We’re expanding our support of 70 languages to include: Albanian, Burmese, Estonian, Macedonian, Mongolian, Punjabi, and Uzbek.

Live Transcribe is pre-installed on Pixel devices and is available on Google Play for devices Android 5.0 and up. 

Sound Amplifier: Making the sounds around you clearer and louder

Sound Amplifier, a feature that clarifies the sound around you, now works with Bluetooth headphones. Connect your Bluetooth headphones and place your phone close to the source of the sound, like a TV or a lecturer, so that you can hear more clearly. On Pixel, now you can also boost the audio from media playing on your device—whether you are watching YouTube videos, listening to music, or enjoying a podcast. Sound Amplifier is available on Google Play for devices Android 6.0 and above.

Sound Amplifier

Use Sound Amplifier to clarify sound playing on your phone.

Accessibility matters for everyone

We strive to build products that are delightful and helpful for people of all abilities. After all, that’s our mission: to make the world’s information universally accessible for everyone. If you have questions on how these features can be helpful for you, visit our Help Center, connect with our Disability Support team or learn more about our accessibility products on Android

Source: Android


A is for accessibility: How to make remote learning work for everyone

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and we’ll be sharing resources and tools for education, as well as accessibility features and updates for Android and Google Maps

When it comes to equity and access in education, nothing is more important than making sure  our digital tools are accessible to all learners—especially now as distance learning becomes the norm. I’m a proud member of the disability community, and I come from a family of special education teachers and paraprofessionals. So I’ve seen firsthand how creative educators and digital tools can elevate the learning experience for students with disabilities. It’s been amazing to see how tools like select-to-speak help students improve reading comprehension as they listen while reading along or assist students who have low vision. And tools like voice typing in Docs can greatly benefit students who have physical disabilities that limit their ability to use a keyboard.

This Global Accessibility Awareness DayI'm reminded of how far we’ve come in sharing inclusive tools for people with different abilities. But it doesn’t stop there. Everyday we strive to make our products and tools more inclusive for every learner, everywhere.

Applying technology to accessibility challenges

At Google, we’re always focused on how we can use new technologies, like artificial intelligence, to broaden digital accessibility. Since everyone learns in different ways, we’ve  built tools and features right into our products, like G Suite for Education and Chromebooks,  that can adapt to a range of needs and learning styles. For learners who are Deaf, hard of hearing, or need extra support to focus, you can turn on live captions in Google Slides and in  Google Meet. On Chromebooks, students have access to built-in tools, like screen readers, including ChromeVox and Select-to-speak, and Chromebook apps and extensions from EdTech companies like Don Johnston, Grackle Docs, Crick Software, Scanning Pens and Text Help, with distance learning solutions on the Chromebook App Hub

As more students learn from home, we’ve seen how features like these have helped students learn in ways that work best for them.

Helping all students shine during distance learning

Educators and students around the world are using Google tools to make learning more inclusive and accessible. Whether that’s using Sheets to make to-do lists for students, sharing the built-in magnification tools in Chromebooks to help those who are visually impaired, or using voice typing in Google Docs to dictate lesson plans or essays. 

In Portage Public Schools in Portage, Michigan, teachers are taking advantage of accessibility features in Meet to help all of their students learn at their own pace.  They use live captioning in Meet so that students who are Deaf or hard of hearing can follow along with the lesson. And with the ability to record and save meetings, every student can refer back to the material if they need to.  

In Daegu, South Korea, about 100 teachers worked together to quickly build an e-learning content hub that included tools for special education students, such as Meet, Classroom and Translate. “In the epidemic situation, it was very clear that students in special education were placed in the blind spot of learning,” said one Daegu teacher. But thanks to digital accessibility features that were shared with students and parents, the teacher said, “I saw hope.” 

live captions in Meet.gif

Accessibility resources for schools

At a time when digital tools are creating the  connection between students, classmates, and teachers, we need to prioritize accessibility so that no student is left behind. The good news is that support and tools are readily available for parents, guardians, educators and students:

Your stories of how technology is making learning accessible for more learners during COVID-19 help us and so many others learn new use cases. Please share how you're using accessibility tools and requests for how we can continue to meet the needs of more learners.

A new keyboard for typing braille on Android

Over 150 years ago, the invention of braille was revolutionary in making reading and writing accessible to blind people. Today, braille displays make typing accessible on most phones and computers through a physical braille keyboard. But it can be time-consuming to connect an external device each time you want to type something quickly on your phone. 


TalkBack braille keyboard is a new virtual braille keyboard integrated directly into Android. It’s a fast, convenient way to type on your phone without any additional hardware, whether you’re posting on social media, responding to a text, or writing a brief email. As part of our mission to make the world’s information universally accessible, we hope this keyboard can broadly expand braille literacy and exposure among blind and low vision people. 

UI + shell.png

Caption: A built-in braille keyboard for Android phones


Our team collaborated with braille developers and users throughout the development of this feature, so it’ll be familiar to anyone who has typed using braille before. It uses a standard 6-key layout and each key represents one of 6 braille dots which, when tapped, make any letter or symbol. To type an “A” you would press dot 1 and to type a “B,”  dots 1 and 2 together. 

blogpost-header-v02.gif

Caption: Type braille wherever you want—in an email, a text message, a doc, or social media

The keyboard can be used anywhere you would normally type and allows you to delete letters and words, add lines, and submit text. You can turn the keyboard on and off as simply as switching between international keyboards. (Note: TalkBack gestures are not supported when the keyboard is on.)


To use the braille keyboard, turn on TalkBack in the Accessibility section within Settings, and follow these instructions to set it up. Once you set up the keyboard, use three fingers to swipe up on your screen and try practicing with the gestures tutorial. 


Talkback braille keyboard is rolling out to Android devices running version 6.0 or later, starting today. It works across all apps on your Android device, supports braille grade 1 and grade 2 and is available initially in English. 

Source: Android


A new keyboard for typing braille on Android

Over 150 years ago, the invention of braille was revolutionary in making reading and writing accessible to blind people. Today, braille displays make typing accessible on most phones and computers through a physical braille keyboard. But it can be time-consuming to connect an external device each time you want to type something quickly on your phone. 


TalkBack braille keyboard is a new virtual braille keyboard integrated directly into Android. It’s a fast, convenient way to type on your phone without any additional hardware, whether you’re posting on social media, responding to a text, or writing a brief email. As part of our mission to make the world’s information universally accessible, we hope this keyboard can broadly expand braille literacy and exposure among blind and low vision people. 

UI + shell.png

Caption: A built-in braille keyboard for Android phones


Our team collaborated with braille developers and users throughout the development of this feature, so it’ll be familiar to anyone who has typed using braille before. It uses a standard 6-key layout and each key represents one of 6 braille dots which, when tapped, make any letter or symbol. To type an “A” you would press dot 1 and to type a “B,”  dots 1 and 2 together. 

blogpost-header-v02.gif

Caption: Type braille wherever you want—in an email, a text message, a doc, or social media

The keyboard can be used anywhere you would normally type and allows you to delete letters and words, add lines, and submit text. You can turn the keyboard on and off as simply as switching between international keyboards. (Note: TalkBack gestures are not supported when the keyboard is on.)


To use the braille keyboard, turn on TalkBack in the Accessibility section within Settings, and follow these instructions to set it up. Once you set up the keyboard, use three fingers to swipe up on your screen and try practicing with the gestures tutorial. 


Talkback braille keyboard is rolling out to Android devices running version 5.0 or later, starting today. It works across all apps on your Android device, supports braille grade 1 and grade 2 and is available initially in English. 

Source: Android


Accessibility ideas for distance learning during COVID-19

The massive shift towards distance learning presents many challenges for students, educators and guardians alike. But supporting students who have disabilities or require a hands-on approach in the classroom is an even greater challenge. Educators around the world are putting in long days to find creative ways to support all students in this new setting, especially students with disabilities. Here are some tips on using accessibility features to support all learners.

To help students stay organized and get work done

Distance learning has made it tougher for all students to pay attention and manage their time, and this can be especially hard for students with executive functioning challenges. These tools can hopefully help.

  • Use Calendar reminders to help students remember deadlines, and view due dates in the class Calendar in Google Classroom.

  • Encourage students to organize their assignments in Google Classroom or Google Keep, or in Google Drive

  • Suggest students use Chromebooks in full-screen mode when working on assignments to minimize distractions.

  • Students can use Virtual Desks on Chromebooks or the Dualless Chrome extension for students who may benefit from seeing multiple Chrome windows on a single Chromebook monitor. For example, students can view a video lesson on one side of the screen, and a written assignment on the other side.

  • To help students manage their time, use the Stopwatch & Timer Chrome extension to create large on-screen timers. 

  • Break up lessons into shorter parts, which can be beneficial for students with attention challenges.

  • Instead of doing video calls with the whole class, consider breaking the class into smaller groups, where each group meets one or two times per week. Prioritize 1:1 video calls for students who need it most.

  • For students used to working alongside teaching aides in class, you can create a Google Doc in which students can ask questions and get help in real time from their tutors, family members or support staff.

To help students and parents create a space for learning

Now that many of us are doing everything from home—teaching, learning, playing, and working—finding time for it all can be challenging. But it’s important to help students, especially those with learning challenges, carve out space and time to focus on schoolwork.

  • Dedicate a space (even if it’s small) for learning time only. If possible, avoid spaces near windows, open doors, or noisy areas of homes.

  • Suggest that students with attention challenges sit on swivel chairs, if available, to let off some energy. Fidget toys like spinners can also help students focus during lessons.

  • For students using text-to-speech tools, headphones can be helpful, especially if they’re listening during a video class with other students.

To ensure your lessons are accessible

Many Google tools have accessibility functions built in: 

  • If you’re using G Suite for Education, you can enable captioning in Meet or in Slides. Captions can be helpful for students who are Deaf or have hearing loss, or those learning English—but also students in a noisy home environment.

  • Record your presentations in Meet or tools like Screencast-O-Matic or Screencastify for students to watch on their own as homework. This can help you make the most of live lessons, when you want to encourage as much interaction as possible.

  • Learn from your peers who are sharing stories with Google about engaging students through distance learning. Visit the COVID-19 distance learning resource page and Teach from Home for help.

To learn more and watch some tutorials, watch these videos, our G Suite accessibility user guide or join a Google Group. And find more on the Teacher Center, YouTube, and the Chromebook App Hub. Now is an important time to learn from each other—if you have other ideas, we encourage you to share them via this Google Form to help educators around the world benefit from your experience.

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Chromebook accessibility tools for distance learning

Around the world, 1.5 billion students are now adjusting to learning from home. For students with disabilities, this adjustment is even more difficult without hands-on classroom instruction and support from teachers and learning specialists.

For educators and families using Chromebooks, there are a variety of built-in accessibility features to customize students’ learning experience and make them even more helpful. We’ve put together a list of some of these tools to explore as you navigate at-home learning for students with disabilities.

Supporting students who are low vision

To help students see screens more easily, you can find instructions for locating and turning on several Chromebook accessibility features in this Chromebook Help article. Here are a few examples of things you can try, based on students’ needs:

  • Increase the size of the cursor, or increase text size for better visibility. 

  • Add ahighlighted circle around the cursor when moving the mouse, text caret when typing, or keyboard-focused item when tabbing. These colorful rings appear when the items are in motion to draw greater visual focus, and then fade away.

  • For students with light sensitivity or eye strain, you can turn on high-contrast mode to invert colors across the Chromebook (or add this Chrome extension for web browsing in high contrast).

  • Increase the size of browser or app content, or make everything on the screen—including app icons and Chrome tabs—larger for greater visibility. 

  • For higher levels of zoom, try thefullscreen or docked magnifiers in Chromebook accessibility settings. The fullscreen magnifier zooms the entire screen, whereas the docked magnifier makes the top one-third of the screen a magnified area. Learn more in this Chromebook magnification tutorial.

002-B2S-Tips-Resize-GIF.gif

Helping students read and understand text

Features that read text out loud can be useful for students with visual impairments, learning and processing challenges, or even students learning a new language.

  • Select-to-speak lets students hear the text they choose on-screen spoken out loud, with word-by-word visual highlighting for better audio and visual connection.

  • With Chromevox, the built-in screen reader for Chromebooks, students can navigate around the Chromebook interface using audio spoken feedback or braille. To hear whatever text is under the cursor, turn on Speak text under the mouse in ChromeVox options. This is most beneficial for students who have significant vision loss. 

  • Add the Read&Write Chrome extension from Texthelp for spelling and grammar checks,  talking and picture dictionaries, text-to-speech and additional reading and writing supports- all in one easy to use toolbar. 

  • For students with dyslexia, try the OpenDyslexic Font Chrome extension to replace web page fonts with a more readable font. Or use the BeeLine Reader Chrome extension to color-code text to reduce eye strain and help students better track from one line of text to the next. You can also use the Thomas Jockin font in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.

Guiding students with writing challenges or mobility impairments

Students can continue to develop writing skills while they’re learning from home.

  • Students can use their voice to enter text by enabling dictation in Chromebook accessibility settings, which works in edit fields across the device. If dictating longer assignments, students can also use voice typing in Google Docs to access a rich set of editing and formatting voice commands. Dictating writing assignments can also be very helpful for students who get a little stuck and want to get thoughts flowing by speaking instead of typing. 

  • Students with mobility impairments can use features like the on-screen keyboard to type using a mouse or pointer device, or automatic clicks to hover over items to click or scroll.

  • Try the Co:Writer Chrome extension for word prediction and completion, as well as excellent grammar help. Don Johnston is offering free access to this and other eLearning tools. Districts, schools, and education practitioners can submit a request for access.

How to get started with Chromebook accessibility tools

We just shared a 12-part video series with training for G Suite and Chromebook Accessibility features made by teachers for teachers. These videos highlight teachers’ experience using these features in the classroom, as well as what type of diverse learner specific features benefit. For more, you can watch these videos from the Google team, read our G Suite accessibility user guide, or join a Google Group to ask questions and get real time answers. To find great accessibility apps and ideas on how to use them, check out the Chromebook App Hub, and for training, head to the Teacher Center.


We’re also eager to hear your ideas—leave your thoughts in this Google Form and help educators benefit from your experience.