Administrator guide to accessibility

This page is primarily for Google Apps administrators. If you use a screen reader with Google Apps, please refer to our Google Apps user guide to accessibility.

Table of contents



Introduction


About this guide

This guide provides information for technical administrators, CIOs, compliance officers, and accessibility specialists for prospective and current Google Apps for Work, Education, and Government customers. This guide is designed to:

  • Give readers a summary of accessibility information for Google Apps.
  • Help users understand the current state of accessibility for each supported application in the Google Apps suite.
  • Explain best practices for implementing Google Apps to support users' accessibility needs.

This guide's primary focus is on the accessibility needs of blind and low-vision users. If you're interested in learning more about how deaf and hard-of-hearing users can benefit from the accessibility features of other Google products, please visit the Google Accessibility website.

If you use a screen reader with Google Apps, or if you perform accessibility training, you might find the following resources useful:


How to use this guide

The first sections of this guide cover Google's approach to accessibility and provide recommendations for browsers, screen readers, and Google Admin console settings to provide the best experience for Google Apps users with disabilities.

For each supported product in the Google Apps suite – such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs – you'll find the following information:

  • Features and options: Key accessibility enhancements to the product.
  • User resources: Links to product-specific help documentation for end users.

Where applicable, you'll also find information about tools and products that allow users requiring assistive technology to work with Google Apps products outside of the web interface.

Depending on which products you plan to implement for your organization, you might want to read through the entire guide or skip directly to the sections for specific products.


Support and feedback

If you're currently a Google Apps for Government, Business, or Education customer, you can submit a support ticket through the Support page in your Google Admin console. The phone numbers to contact Google Apps support can be found on the Enterprise Support page in the Google Apps Admin Help Center.

If you're a prospective customer, please contact Google Sales support through one of these forms:

If you have comments about this guide or about accessibility at Google, please use this feedback form to send us your thoughts. If you're looking for advice on accessibility challenges, we encourage you to join and start a discussion on our Google Group. You can follow Google accessibility on Twitter: @googleaccess


Disclaimer for third-party product configurations

Parts of this guide describe how Google products work with third-party screen readers (including but not limited to JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver) and third-party browsers (including but not limited to Internet Explorer and Firefox) and the configurations that Google recommends.

Google accepts no responsibility for third-party products and provides no technical support for configuring third-party products. Please consult the product's website for the latest configuration and support information. You can also contact Google Solutions Providers for consulting services.


Google's approach to accessibility

Google's mission is to make the world's information more accessible for all users, including people with disabilities, such as visual impairment, color deficiency, and hearing impairment. We're working towards these goals by:

  • Building accessibility into Google products
  • Developing accessibility APIs and services for Google Android and Chrome OS platforms
  • Supporting open standards to ensure that the greater web is accessible through all adaptive technologies

Google Apps offers the ability for people to work and interact together, so we're investing in development to make this collaboration as accessible as possible.

A guiding principle at Google is to focus on the user. We've developed active partnerships with advocacy groups and people with disabilities for their input and feedback. Our Accessibility team is a diverse group of people who serve as accessibility consultants within Google and develop the accessibility frameworks that product teams build upon.

We hope to have a positive impact on the current state of accessibility on the web, and to continue to serve all of our users. To learn more about accessibility at Google, please visit the Google Accessibility website.


Section 508 compliance (VPAT)

The following Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs) describe Section 508 compliance for each product:



General recommendations


Recommended browsers and screen readers

People using assistive technology with Google Apps generally have the best experience with the following combinations of screen readers and browsers:

Operating system Screen reader Browser
Microsoft Windows NVDA Firefox
Mac VoiceOver Google Chrome
Chrome OS ChromeVox Google Chrome

Note: These are general recommendations, so certain products might provide additional guidance in their documentation about combinations of browsers and screen readers. For product documentation, refer to the "User resources" sections below.


Recommended Google Admin console settings

To meet the accessibility needs of your users, we recommend enabling the following Gmail and Chrome OS options in your Google Admin console.

Gmail settings

The following Gmail options are enabled by default in your Admin console. The settings are domain-wide, so they affect all of the users in your domain.

POP and IMAP access: This feature allows users to continue to access their email in their familiar email client. View a list of supported email clients, and learn how to enable or disable access.

Themes: This feature allows users to customize the look and feel of their Gmail accounts by choosing their own colors and background schemes. Users with visual or learning impairments may benefit from the High contrast theme. Changing themes doesn't affect the content or functionality of Gmail, nor does it alter any settings applied by the administrator, such as a customized logo. Learn how to enable or disable themes.

Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook: This plug-in lets you use Microsoft Outlook® as a client for Google Apps email, calendar, and contacts. Email, calendar events (including recurring meetings), and contacts are all synchronized between Google Apps and Microsoft Outlook. Learn more about Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, then get the Google Apps Sync download.

  • Note: Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook isn't supported for Mac. Microsoft Outlook for Mac doesn't support the Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI), which is required for Google Apps Sync to communicate with Outlook. This Outlook limitation makes a Mac-compatible version of Google Apps Sync infeasible.
Chrome OS settings

For Chrome OS, you can enable accessibility options for a specific set of users by creating an organizational unit that contains these users. First, learn how to create an organizational unit, then learn how to turn services on or off for certain users.

ChromeVox: ChromeVox is the built-in screen reader for Chrome OS. ChromeVox is pre-installed on all Chromebooks and Chromeboxes. Users simply need to press Control + Alt + Z to enable ChromeVox.

Allow accessibility extensions: By default, users can install any extension or application. As administrator, you can block specific extensions and applications, or you can block all except for specific extensions and applications that you approve. If you choose to allow or block specific extensions, make sure that users can download and use accessibility extensions. Learn how to manage apps and extensions.

Pre-install extensions: You can pre-install specific extensions or applications at the administrative level. Learn how to pre-install extensions.



Google Apps services and accessibility


Gmail

Gmail supports the use of screen readers and offers additional features for blind and low-vision users, including the ability to use existing email clients. Users who prefer a desktop client can sync with an existing desktop program such as Microsoft Outlook.

Features and options
  • Supports screen readers in standard view and basic HTML view. These screen readers are fully supported: NVDA on Windows, VoiceOver on Mac and ChromeVox on Chrome OS devices.
  • Supports Microsoft Outlook as an email client using Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. See Recommended Google Admin console settings for more information.
  • Supports POP and IMAP for existing email clients.
  • Supports keyboard shortcuts in Gmail and in Contacts.
  • High contrast theme for the Gmail interface.
  • Option to display buttons as text instead of icons.
  • Accessibility features in standard view include ARIA landmarks, headings, conversation summary announcements, skip links, shortcut keys, and more.
  • Core functionality is keyboard accessible.
User resources

Google Calendar

Google Calendar enables 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.

Features and options
  • Core functionality is keyboard accessible with any browser.
  • Agenda view is fully accessible using a screen reader.
  • Supports screen magnifiers.
  • ARIA tags and element labels.
  • Supports Microsoft Outlook as a calendar client using Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. See Recommended Google Admin console settings for more information.
User resources

Google Drive on the web

Blind and visually impaired users can use Google Drive on the web to download, upload, create, store, and edit files. Users can organize files into folders, store files for access from any device, and share files with family, friends, classmates, or colleagues.

Features and options
  • Screen reader support.
  • Keyboard accessibility.
  • Supports zoom and high contrast mode.
  • Sync Google Drive with your computer so that you can use your familiar editing tools. More details about Google Drive for Mac/PC are in the next section.
  • Supports third-party app integration.
  • Supports keyboard shortcuts. Open a list of shortcuts any time by pressing Ctrl + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or Command + / (Mac).
User resources

Google Drive for Mac/PC

Google Drive for Mac/PC is a product in the Google Apps suite that users can install on their local machine to sync files to Google Drive on the web, making them available anywhere, at any time, on any device.

Features and options
  • Screen reader support.
  • Keyboard accessibility.
  • Use your familiar editing tools.
  • Organize files into folders.
User resources

Google Docs

Blind and low-vision users can use Google Docs to edit, view, and collaborate on documents with a screen reader.

Features and options
  • Screen reader support for editing, navigating, reading, and collaborating.
  • Navigation and editing are keyboard accessible.
  • Supports refreshable Braille displays.
  • Supports alt text on images.
  • Notifications and collaborator information are spoken when using a screen reader.
  • Supports keyboard shortcuts. Open a list of shortcuts any time by pressing Ctrl + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or Command + / (Mac).
User resources

Google Sheets

Blind and low-vision users can use Google Sheets to edit, view, and collaborate on spreadsheets with a screen reader.

Features and options
  • When screen reader support is enabled, an "Accessibility" menu is available in the menu bar with shortcuts for reading and navigation.
  • Screen reader support for reading and editing, including comments and cell highlighting.
  • Features and navigation are keyboard accessible.
  • Supports screen magnifiers.
  • Supports alt text on charts and images.
  • Notifications and collaborator information is spoken.
  • Supports keyboard shortcuts. Open a list of shortcuts any time by pressing Ctrl + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or Command + / (Mac).
User resources

Google Slides

Blind and low-vision users can use Google Slides to edit, view, and collaborate on presentations with a screen reader.

Features and options
  • Supports screen readers and refreshable Braille displays.
  • Supports alt text on images.
  • Supports keyboard shortcuts. Open a list of shortcuts any time by pressing Ctrl + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or Command + / (Mac).
User resources

Google Forms

Blind and low-vision users can use Google Forms to create, send, and respond to forms.

Features and options
  • Supports screen readers.
  • Supports keyboard shortcuts. Open a list of shortcuts any time by pressing Ctrl + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or Command + / (Mac).
User resources

Google Drawings

Blind and low-vision users can use Google Drawings to create and share drawings.

Features and options
  • Supports screen readers and refreshable Braille displays.
  • Supports alt text on images.
  • Supports keyboard shortcuts. Open a list of shortcuts any time by pressing Ctrl + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or Command + / (Mac).
User resources

Google Sites

Blind and low-vision users can use Google Sites to create and share websites.

Features and options
  • Supports ChromeVox and JAWS screen readers.
  • Many tasks are keyboard accessible.
User resources

Google Groups

Google Groups has two primary features that are useful for assistive technology users. The first is a set of keyboard shortcuts that improves the ergonomics of common workflows, and the second is the presence of ARIA hints on most of the important screen elements.

Features and options
  • Keyboard shortcuts. To open a list of keyboard shortcuts while using Google Groups, press the question mark key (?).
  • ARIA hints on important screen elements.
User resources
Area for development
  • Management of groups.

Google Hangouts

Features and options

Google Hangouts supports keyboard shortcuts, captions, and a sign language interpreter app.

  • In a video call, deaf or hearing impaired participants can request that other people in the video call who are sign language interpreters speak for them.
  • Supports Hangouts captions.
  • Supports keyboard shortcuts in video calls and chat conversations.
User resources
Area for development
  • Hangouts chat conversations on desktop.

Classroom

Classroom is available to anyone with Google Apps for Education, a free suite of productivity tools including Gmail, Docs and Drive. Classroom is a tool designed to help teachers and students stay organized, communicate with their class, and go paperless. Blind or low-vision users can use a screen reader to navigate and manage classes and assignments. Administrators can find more information about turning the service on and off in Access to Classroom.

Features and options
  • Supports screen readers.
  • Keyboard accessible.
User resources

Google Chrome browser

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 that you can easily add to your Chrome browser to customize it with functionality you need. There are many extensions that improve accessibility or help developers create accessible web applications.

Features and options
  • Keyboard accessible.
  • Screen reader support for latest versions of JAWS, NVDA (Windows), System Access to Go (Windows), VoiceOver (Mac OS X).
  • Full page zoom.
  • Adjusting font face and size.
  • High contrast and custom color support.
  • Chrome browser extension for high-contrast themes.
  • Accessibility extensions, including ChromeVox (screen reader) and ChromeVis (magnify and change color of text).
User resources
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