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Chrome Extension May Help Improve Google Docs Accessibility

A new Read&Write extension for Google's Chrome browser may be useful to some people with print disabilities, especially those with learning disabilities (cognitive) disorders. It may also be a tool for people who need a little extra help with their writing. This article documents its features, limitations, where to download it, and how to use it.

Extension Features

The Read&Write extension provides some of the basic features of desktop Read&Write software created by TextHelp. It allows a user to have anything typed in a Google document read to them. Sometimes everyone can benefit from hearing what a piece of writing sounds like when read aloud. Features that are available include:

  • Text-to-Speech Reading Aloud
  • Color Highlighting
  • Talking Dictionary
  • Picture Dictionary
  • Capture Highlights
  • Vocabulary Tool
  • Study Skills Tools to Capture Google Highlights

The following video by Texthelp explains its features. A transcript of Texthelp's video is available.

Extension Limitations

The extension is only functional within Google Docs while using a Chrome browser. The ongoing battle in the accessibility community is Chrome-only solutions vs. other assistive technologies. Google's ecosystem is designing functionality for Chrome. It will not function with mainstream assistive technology (AT) used by the larger screen reader community i.e., JAWS, WindowEyes, or NVDA in combination with Internet Explorer and Firefox. In preliminary testing this extension has not been found to be keyboard accessible. Users with disabilities may be unable to use a mouse or other pointing device and require keyboard shortcuts. It does not remove all Google Apps accessibility barriers.

Where to Get It

Icon: Google Web StoreYou can download the Read&Write extension from the Chrome Web store.

How to Use It

In the following video Karen Janowski demonstrates how to set up and use the Read&Write Chrome extension. A transcript of Karen's demo is available.

Further Information