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

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 or 764-4357.

7/23/15: The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) issued a Resolution at its 2015 meeting acknowledging that "Google has created some truly innovative solutions allowing blind users to collaborate in real time with their peers" and "the stability and usability of the suite with screen-access software has increased dramatically over the last three years."  They also indicated that "some features required for full accessibility of the tool, including full Braille support, have yet to be fully implemented; for example, it is not possible to read spreadsheets with Braille or to move the cursor with a Braille keyboard in any of the Google Apps." Link to full NFB resolution.

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

General Notes (updated 7/14/14) (all links are to external resources)

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

Google has created a Google Apps for Blind and Low Vision Users page with many links covering topics relevant to Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Mail, Calendar, and Sites.

Google also has 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 page  and activate the "Join group to post" button.

In 2012, North Carolina State University published information about accessibility and implementation of Google Apps on their campus.

We have found that many cases, third-party Windows assistive technology such as screen readers and Dragon NaturallySpeaking have tended to work much better with Google Apps in Firefox than in Internet Explorer. In all cases, we recommend that you upgrade your assistive technology to the latest version if possible.

Chrome (updated 7/14/14) (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.
Per Google: "For security reasons, ChromeVox will not talk when you're browsing the Chrome Web Store. All Chrome extensions follow this rule."

ChromeVis and ChromeVox will only work within Chrome.

Google Mail and Calendar (updated 7/14/14)

If you are experiencing difficulties using the standard Google Mail and Calendar interface on your computer, you may instead access your mail and calendar via the client programs Outlook for Windows 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

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 7/14/14)

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

Two free apps are available to enhance Hangout accessibility for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing: 
  • 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 app 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 7/14/14)

Information about using Google Sites to create accessible web pages is now available.

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

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 for other types of assistive technologies, and will be adding to this information as we learn more.
Remember that at U-M you will also still be able to use CTools, Microsoft Office, and other traditional tools for composition and collaboration.

Keyboard Shortcuts (updated 8/12/14)

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 shortcut functionality is available across many programs, but may not have consistent implementation; e.g., bringing up a list of shortcuts is Ctrl-/ or ⌘-/ in some programs, and Ctrl-? or ⌘-? in others.
With Google Mail, it may be necessary to enable use of keyboard shortcuts. If shortcuts are not already working, 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.

Note that most common keyboard shortcuts built into the operating system (Ctrl-P or ⌘-P to print,
Ctrl-V or ⌘-V to paste text, etc.) will work fine in Google Apps. These are usually not listed here, but are worth trying. Here are external links to lists of keyboard shortcuts in Windows 7 and keyboard shortcuts in Mac OS X Mavericks (10.9). For other operating systems, try doing a Google search for "keyboard shortcuts" plus the name of the operating system.

If you find a shortcut that works with one Google App (e.g., Ctrl+Alt+Shift+G to bring up the revision history panel), it's also worth trying it in other apps, since Google may not always document every option.
The following are links to lists of shortcuts for specific programs:

Accessibility Benefits (updated 7/14/14)

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.
Please note that your inquiry will be sent to the University of Michigan, not to Google.

If you wish to contact Google directly, we recommend using their accessibility feedback form or joining the Accessibility Google Group.


Accessibility feedback

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