Accessibility

For general information about Information Technology (IT) Accessibility at the University of Michigan, please see the CIO's IT Accessibility page.

February 28, 2014:

With Apple's 10.9.2 update, Mail.app has again been patched to work better with Google Mail accounts. We strongly recommend updating your Mac to 10.9.2 before activating or adding a Google Mail account (M+Google or a consumer GMail account). MiWorkspace users can run the update from the Menu Bar.

There are still some quirks to using Mail.app with a Google Mail account. This article breaks down some of the improvements and some of the differences still present in 10.9.2.

If you have a support issue, please contact the ITS Service Center.




This page will provide information about known accessibility barriers and work-arounds, and will be updated regularly. If you have any questions, please contact the ITS Service Center at 4HELP@umich.edu or 764-4357.

Faculty members, please see A Reminder About Accessibility from Provost Hanlon

This site was put together with extensive input from Scott Williams, Donna Goodin, John Cady, and Rita Girardi; thanks, all.

General Notes (updated 5/22/13) (all links are to external resources)

Google provides a variety of resources about the accessibility of their products, including the Use Google Products page.

On February 26, 2013, Google released a set of links to information about Accessibility for Google Apps.

On September 19, 2012, Google released a summary of accessibility fixes that have been made over the prior year. They also published an Administrator Guide to Accessibility and a feedback form for reporting problems or suggestions.

The accessible@googlegroups listserv is a public forum for posting questions about accessibility. To join, go to the accessible@googlegroups.com page  and activate the "Join group to post" button.

North Carolina State University has published information about accessibility and implementation of Google Apps on their campus.

Third-party assistive technology such as JAWS and Dragon NaturallySpeaking seems to work much better with Google Apps in Firefox than in Internet Explorer. We also recommend that you upgrade your assistive technology if possible.

Chrome (updated 8/3/12) (all links are to external resources)

Google has built various accessibility features into its Chrome browser and made two free utilities available (ChromeVis for magnification and adjusting color contrast, and the ChromeVox screen reader). It also provides information on Chrome compatibility with other screen readers. If you follow the accessible@googlegroups listserv, you'll see a variety of postings about ChromeVox in particular.
Per Google: "For security reasons, ChromeVox will not talk when you're browsing the Chrome Web Store. All Chrome extensions follow this rule."

If you choose to use Chrome, be aware that when you are asked to sign in you will need to enter both your U-M email address and password, unlike Internet Explorer and Firefox where you enter only your email address and then go to an authentication screen.

ChromeVis and ChromeVox will only work within Chrome.

Google Mail and Calendar (updated 5/21/13)

The Access Technology Higher Education Network (ATHEN), which includes U-M representatives, tested Mail and Calendar for compatibility with several assistive technologies, and found the browser-based interface to have significant accessibility issues. 
ATHEN report on accessibility of Google Mail and Google Calendar (external link)


The initial time you open your Google mailbox using the browser-based interface, you may have an unexpectedly large number of "new messages." Many of these may actually be old messages that you deleted without opening. Be aware that they may be part of a "conversation" (a grouped set of related messages), so if you automatically delete these, you will also be deleting related messages that you wished to keep.

How to delete a single message or an entire conversation. (external link)



An alternative strategy is to set up access via the client programs Outlook or Apple Mail. Instructions for doing this are below. Be aware that the first time you use this, it may take awhile for all your information to transfer, and that it will take a little longer to send and receive email messages compared to what you may be used to with Exchange.
 
This process involves setting up your client to sync with Google Mail and Calendar. You should only need to perform this once.
If you are a member of the U-M community and have any problems with client setup, please contact 4Help at 734-764-4357 or 4Help@umich.edu.

You can also access Google Mail via your mobile device


The Knox Center now has copies of the GBoard (external link), an inexpensive USB pad that has keys for fifteen of the most common Google Mail keyboard shortcuts. It works with both Windows Mail shortcuts and Mac Mail shortcuts in the browser-based interface. If you are using a desktop Macintosh, be sure to plug the GBoard into the USB port on your keyboard; if plugged directly into the computer, it seems to cause a system freeze.
 
Detailed instructions for setting up the GBoard (external link)

Google+ Hangout (updated 3/11/13)

Google+ Hangout is a chat and videoconferencing utility that is part of Google Plus. Up to ten people can participate at a time. 

Three free apps are available to enhance Hangout accessibility: 
  • Hangout Captions allows real-time captioning to be typed in by anyone who's part of the chat. It does not provide speech-to-text transcription or, in many cases, significant advantages over simply using the Chat function.
  • Clicking on the Sign Language Interpreter link automatically installs an app that allows a chat participant to be identified as an interpreter. For the sign user, this adds a small window that shows the interpreter for the duration of the Hangout.

Google Sites (updated 3/6/13)

Information about Google Sites and web page accessibility is now available.

Other Apps (including Google Docs/Drive) (updated 7/9/14)

Google has recently updated its information about screen reader accessibility for several of its apps:

We have also collected a variety of information about issues and work-arounds, and will be adding to this information as we learn more.
Remember that you will also still be able to use CTools, Microsoft Office, and other traditional tools for composition and collaboration.

Keyboard Shortcuts (updated 3/11/13)

Keyboard shortcuts can be tremendously useful to anyone for whom mouse use is impossible, difficult, or inconvenient, and Google relies on them as a key part of their accessibility strategy. Some programs have an extensive list of shortcuts; others have only a few. Certain shortcuts (such as ? to bring up a list of shortcuts) are consistent among many programs.
 
With Google Mail, it may be necessary to enable use of keyboard shortcuts. If shortcuts are not already enabled, open the Settings menu (on the far right, near the top of the screen; it has a picture of a gear), select the General tab, and make sure that the radio button for "Keyboard Shortcuts On" is selected.

Many keyboard shortcuts are non-standard in that they require pressing two letter keys; for example, pressing g then s brings up all starred conversations in Mail. The keys can either be pressed simultaneously or in sequence; either way, it's important to press them in the order shown.

If a keyboard shortcut doesn't work, it may be because your focus is within a form field. In this case, Google will interpret the keystroke as text entry rather than a shortcut. Move the focus away from the form field by pressing the Tab key or clicking with the mouse, and try the shortcut again. If it still doesn't work, please use the form at the end of this page to notify Jane of the problematic shortcut and the program you tried to use it in.
 
The following are links to lists of shortcuts for specific programs:

Accessibility Benefits (updated 8/28/12)

For some people, there are features in the browser-based version of Google Apps that may improve accessibility. These are detailed below:

  • Google Mail and Google Calendar both have a Labs feature that can be used to activated a variety of free add-ons. These labs include several options which may enhance accessibility or usability for some people with physical or cognitive disabilities. 
  • Google Mail has two features that can make it easier to handle and organize your messages: Labels and Filters.
    • Rather than using folders like most email programs, Labels lets you assign as many labels as you like to a piece of email. Then when you do a search on any of the assigned labels, the email you want will show up in the list.
    • Filters lets you specify how messages from certain senders or with certain subject lines are automatically handled. 
Documentation on how to use these features is available on the following pages:

    Using the Label feature to organize Google Mail

    Using the Filter feature to organize Google Mail

 

Your Input

 

Please use the form below to ask questions about topics that are not covered here, or to send new or corrected information:

 

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