Using a Chromebook for users with diverse needs

Person typing on a Chromebook at a table

Google Chromebooks offer various assistive technology options to support users with diverse needs. Some of the key features and tools available on Chromebooks include:

ChromeVox

This built-in screen reader provides text-to-speech functionality, allowing visually impaired users to navigate the interface, read web content, and interact with programs they wish to use. The keyboard shortcut to Turn on/off ChromeVox: Control+Alt+Z

Select-to-Speak

This feature enables users to select and listen to the text on the screen, providing auditory support for individuals who may have difficulty reading.  Highlight what you want to hear then press Search+S on the keyboard.  To customise the select to speak feature go to accessibility setting within the Chromebook settings.

The difference with Google’s other text-to-speech program is that ChromeVox is a full systems screen reader and is more suited for someone with significant sight loss.  Select-to-speak on the other hand makes it possible to hear only certain text on the screen, which makes it suitable for anyone with low vision or anyone who benefits from having their text read out aloud while visually reading it.  It can be helpful for anyone with reading or comprehension challenges or even new language learners.

High-Contrast Mode

Chromebooks offer a high-contrast mode that increases the visibility of text and images on the screen, making it easier for individuals with visual impairments to read content. The keyboard shortcut to turn on/off High-Contrast Mode: Control+Search+H

On-Screen Keyboard

Chromebooks include an on-screen keyboard that can be used with touch input or a mouse. It is helpful for users who have difficulty typing or require an alternative input method.  Turn this on from within the Chromebook settings.  If you go into its options menu, you can enable text prediction to help spell and find words correctly.

Switch Access

Chromebooks support switch access, allowing users with mobility impairments to interact with their devices using external switches. A switch has a large activation area typically 2 inches in diameter that allows a user with a mobility impairment to easily press rather than pressing the keys on a keyboard.  Switch software then allows access to the Chromebook. You can turn on the switch access and set up your switches from within the Chromebook settings.

Dictation

Chromebooks have a built-in voice typing feature that allows users to dictate text instead of typing. It can be beneficial for individuals with motor disabilities or those who prefer speech input.  Start dictation by Search+D.  Or Control+Shift+S within Google docs.  Learn the different ways to use voice to enter text on your Chromebook in this video below.

Zoom and Magnification

As with all other operating systems, Chromebooks offer zoom and magnification options, enabling users to enlarge the screen content for better visibility.  To adjust browser content size press control and the + or – Key.  To make everything bigger then press control +shift + “+”.  Learn about the different ways to zoom and magnify content on your Chromebook within this video.

Closed Captioning

Chromebooks support closed captioning for videos, making multimedia content accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.  Closed captions can be used to support learners as video content found across the web will have captions for speech. Turn on closed captioning from within the accessibility setting within the Chromebook settings.

Accessibility Settings

Chromebooks provide a range of additional accessibility settings, such as text resizing, font customization, and colour inversion, allowing users to personalize their experience based on their specific needs.

It is important to note that Chromebook accessibility features may vary slightly depending on the specific model, Chrome OS version, and updates from Google. We recommend that you refer to the official Chromebook support documentation or visit the Accessibility section in the Chromebook settings to explore and configure the available options.

The good:  Chromebooks offer various built-in assistive technology options to support users with diverse needs.

The not-so-good: They don’t work with Windows-based programs

The verdict:  Could be an educational device for someone with a disability as there are tools to support visual, hearing, mobility and learning challenges.

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