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Accessibility for Docs editors

The Google Docs editors are designed to be accessible by everyone, regardless of the device you're using. You can use screen readers, Braille devices, and more.

Use a screen reader

These steps are for people who already use screen reader software on their computers, such as ChromeVox, NVDA, JAWS, or VoiceOver. 

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. Choose one of these options:

  • Press Ctrl + Alt + z (on Windows) or ⌘ + Option + z (on Mac) in your document, spreadsheet, presentation, form, or drawing.
  • In your Google Account settings, visit Accessibility preferences, then select Accessibility and turn on Screen reader

For more details about your screen reader, refer to the instructions below.

Step 2: Change your screen reader settings

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, press Ctrl + Alt + z. 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

Press Ctrl + Alt + z to turn on screen reader support.

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, press Ctrl + Alt + z. 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 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

Press Ctrl + Alt + z to turn on screen reader support.

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

VoiceOver

Google Docs editors are compatible with VoiceOver on Mac OS X Yosemite. 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, press ⌘ + Option + z. 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

Press ⌘ + Option + z to turn on screen reader support.

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.

Video tutorials

These videos show how to use Docs, Sheets, and Slides with a screen reader. 

Docs video
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.

Sheets video
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.

Slides video
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 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, using the Chrome browser.

  1. In Chrome, open a document or spreadsheet. 
    • Note: This feature isn't yet available in presentations or drawings.
  2. Turn on screen magnifier support.
    • Option 1: Press Alt + / (Chrome OS) or Option + / (Mac) to search the menus. Type Screen magnifier, then press Enter
    • Option 2:  In the Accessibility menu, select Settings, then choose Enable screen magnifier support. If you don't see the Accessibility menu, press Ctrl + Alt + z (Chrome OS) or ⌘ + Option + z (Mac).
  3. 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 screen magnifier.

Use a Braille display

You can use a Braille display to read and enter text in Docs, Slides, and Drawings. 

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:

 

Mary is a Docs & Drive expert and author of this help page. Leave her feedback below about the page.

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