Accessibility for Docs editors

The Google Docs editors are designed to work with screen readers, braille devices, screen magnification, and more.

Use a screen reader

If you already use screen reader software on your computer, such as ChromeVox, NVDA, JAWS, or VoiceOver, follow these steps to get started with the Docs editors. 

Step 1: Turn on Docs screen reader support

The first time you use the Docs editors with a screen reader, you need to turn on Docs screen reader support:

  1. Go to Google Docs and open a document. 
  2. In the Tools menu, select Accessibility settings
  3. Select Turn on screen reader support.

Optional: In your Google Account, visit Accessibility settings, then turn on Screen reader

Step 2: Check your screen reader settings

For some screen readers, you might need to adjust your settings when you use the Docs editors. Check your screen reader instructions below.

ChromeVox

If you use ChromeVox on Chrome OS, you don't need to do any additional setup to use the Docs editors.

NVDA

On Windows, the recommended screen reader for the Docs editors is the latest version of NVDA, along with Mozilla Firefox.

Docs, Slides, and Drawings

  1. Go to Google Docs and open a document.
  2. Listen for these words: "Screen reader support enabled." If you don't hear anything, go to the Tools menu, select Accessibility settings, then select Turn on screen reader support. You should hear "Screen reader support enabled."
  3. Press NVDA + Ctrl + k, then turn off Speak typed characters and Speak typed words.
  4. Optional: Change your NVDA startup keyboard shortcut so that it doesn't conflict with the Docs editors. The default NVDA keyboard shortcut, Ctrl + Alt + n, is commonly used in the Docs editors (for example, Ctrl + Alt + n then g navigates to the next image in a document). To change your NVDA keyboard shortcut, open Properties from the NVDA shortcut. On the Shortcut tab, edit the Shortcut key so it doesn't conflict with the Docs editors (for example, Ctrl + Alt + \).

Sheets and Forms

To get started in Sheets or Forms, simply turn on screen reader support as described in Step 1 above. 

Tip: Focus mode generally provides a better experience than browse mode. To switch between focus and browse modes, press NVDA + Spacebar.

JAWS

If you use JAWS, Mozilla Firefox is the recommended browser for the Docs editors, along with the latest version of JAWS.

Docs, Slides, and Drawings

For Docs, Slides, and Drawings, follow these steps to adjust your JAWS settings:

  1. Go to Google Docs and open a document.
  2. Listen for these words: "Screen reader support enabled." If you don't hear anything, go to the Tools menu, select Accessibility settings, then select Turn on screen reader support. You should hear "Screen reader support enabled."
  3. If you use Firefox:
    • Set key echoing to no echoing: Press JAWS + 2 until you hear "None."
    • Turn off the virtual cursor: Press JAWS + z until you hear "Use virtual PC cursor off." Then press JAWS + z + z until you hear "The virtual cursor will be turned off for all applications."
    • Adjust forms options: Make sure that the focus is on the top toolbar, then press JAWS + v. In the settings window, search for "Forms options" and uncheck both "Auto forms mode" and "Forms mode off when new page loads." Then press OK.
    • Tab from the address bar through the Docs toolbar controls until you hear application mode announced, then press Escape to return to the editing area.
  4. If you use Internet Explorer: Make sure that forms mode is set to "Manual" so that your focus stays in the expected location in your document.

Sheets and Forms

To get started in Sheets or Forms, simply turn on screen reader support as described in Step 1 above.

Tip: Forms mode generally provides a better experience than virtual mode.

VoiceOver

Google Docs editors are compatible with VoiceOver on the latest version of macOS. The recommended browser is Google Chrome.

For the best experience, turn off VoiceOver's Quick Nav feature by pressing the left and right arrows at the same time.

Docs, Slides, and Drawings

  1. Go to Google Docs and open a document.
  2. Listen for these words: "Screen reader support enabled." If you don't hear anything, go to the Tools menu, select Accessibility settings, then select Turn on screen reader support. You should hear "Screen reader support enabled."
  3. If you've turned on "Automatically speak the webpage" in VoiceOver, you'll hear the screen reader. Press Escape to return your focus to the editing area.
  4. Press VoiceOver + Shift + down arrow to interact with the editable text.

Sheets and Forms

To get started in Sheets or Forms, simply turn on screen reader support as described in Step 1 above.

Keyboard shortcuts and VoiceOver

VoiceOver shortcuts conflict with Docs editors menu shortcuts. To open the Docs menus, first use the VoiceOver pass-through keys Ctrl + Option + Tab, then type the Docs menu shortcut, such as Ctrl + Option + f for the File menu. You can also quickly search the menus by pressing Option + / then searching for a term such as File.

If VoiceOver doesn't automatically focus on the correct part of the page (for example, if a dialog window appears), press Escape to return your focus to the editing area. Then press VoiceOver + Shift + down arrow to return to the editing area.

Step 3: Start editing

Learn more about using Docs editors with a screen reader in the following help pages and videos.

Note: In Docs, Sheets, and Slides, you can turn off the screen reader announcements about other people entering, editing, or leaving the file. Learn how to turn off collaborator announcements.

Video tutorials

Screen reader videos for Docs, Sheets, and Slides

Get started with Google Docs (18.9 minutes)

In this video, you’ll learn how to get started with Google Docs, using NVDA with Firefox.

Get started with Google Sheets (26.3 minutes)

In this video, you’ll learn how to get started with Google Sheets, using NVDA with Firefox.

Get started with Google Slides (16 minutes)

In this video, you’ll learn how to get started with Google Slides, using NVDA with Firefox.

Use a braille display

You can use a braille display to read and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings. 

Use a screen magnifier

You can use screen magnification with Docs editors to zoom in to make everything bigger on your screen.

Note: This option is available on Mac and Chrome OS.

  1. In Chrome, open a document, spreadsheet, presentation, or drawing. 
  2. In the Tools menu, select Accessibility settings.
  3. Select Turn on screen magnifier support.
  4. Adjust the settings on your computer, if needed:
    • Mac: Go to System Preferences and then Accessibility and then Zoom. Turn on Zoom follows the keyboard focus.
    • Chrome OS: Go to Settings and then Advanced and then Accessibility and then Manage accessibility features. Turn on Enable fullscreen magnifier or Enable docked magnifier. Learn about Chromebook magnification.

Type with your voice

You can type with your voice in documents or in presentation speaker notes. (This feature is only available in Chrome browsers.)

Use keyboard shortcuts

The Docs editors include keyboard shortcuts for navigation and editing. 

To open a list of keyboard shortcuts while you're editing a file, press Ctrl + / (Windows, Chrome OS) or ⌘ + / (Mac).

More keyboard shortcuts:

Use touch input with a screen reader

With some computers and screen readers, you can touch the computer screen to move the cursor and enter text. 

Touch input works in Docs, Sheets, and Slides using the following screen readers and browsers:

  • On Chromebooks, use the ChromeVox screen reader with Chrome 67 or later.
  • On Windows, use the JAWS screen reader with Edge or with Chrome 67 or later.

Touch input with ChromeVox

To use touch input with ChromeVox on a Chromebook: 

  1. Check your Chromebook accessibility features for the following settings:
    • Turn off Enable select-to-speak.
    • Turn on Enable on-screen keyboard.
  2. Open a document, spreadsheet, or presentation.
  3. In the Tools menu, select Accessibility settings.
  4. Select Turn on braille support.
  5. In the editing area, use the on-screen keyboard
  6. Outside the editing area, swipe and touch the screen as you would normally. Learn about using Chromebook touch screen accessibility.

Touch input with JAWS

To use touch input with JAWS on Windows with Edge or Chrome: 

  1. Open a document, spreadsheet, or presentation.
  2. In the Tools menu, select Accessibility settings.
  3. Select Turn on braille support.
  4. In the editing area, use JAWS Text Reading mode. 
    • To cycle through the touch modes to Text Reading mode, use a two-finger rotate gesture. Learn about JAWS touch support.
  5. To move focus to the application menus, double-tap on the top of the screen. Use a three-finger swipe or touch exploration to navigate.