Google Docs Accessibility

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This page gathers the IT Subcommittee's resources and reviews of the accessibility of Google Forms. This page will be updated as new information is available or further reviews are conducted.

Accessibility Overview

Our testing focused on the browser-based version of Google Docs. We did not test any mobile apps. We tested creating, sharing, and editing/commenting on a Google Doc. We found Google Docs to be generally accessible, but the accessibility relies on the use of layered keyboard shortcuts and turning on the Doc screen reader support. The accessibility of a Google Doc also relies on using accessibility best practices to design the actual document. Google supplies extensive documentation to support a variety of Assistive Technologies.

You must use the keyboard shortcuts to interact with Google Docs when using a screen reader and/or keyboard navigation. There are some aspects of Google Docs that aren’t easy use to make them accessible; tables can’t be properly formatted, and images can’t be marked decorative. Magnification is only supported in the browser up to 200%; after that, the menus and buttons are inaccessible. For extra zooming, it is suggested to use a magnification tool like ZoomText or the built-in Magnifier for Windows and Mac.

There are some third party applications you can use with Google Docs to create more accessible documents; however, there are some serious security concerns about many of them (PDF). Check with your IT or Google Workspaces Admin for advice on using any third party applications.

Creating a Google Doc

In general, creating a Google Doc is accessible. Using a screen reader and keyboard navigation without using the Google keyboard shortcuts will make navigating and creating a Google Doc more difficult, as some of the labels are misleading, and the actual create button is at the “bottom” of the page.

Sharing a Google Doc

In general, sharing a Google Doc is accessible.

Editing and Commenting on a Google Doc

Editing and commenting on a Google Doc is accessible. When using a screen reader, you must have the screen reader support activated, and use the keyboard shortcuts to share. Be sure to switch from Browse mode to Focus mode in order to write in the Doc.

General Information

Known Accessibility Issues

Screen Reader Support

You must activate the screen reader support in order to use the screen reader with Google Docs. You will be prompted to enable it, as well as given the shortcut to bring up all the keyboard commands. It is absolutely necessary to use the keyboard shortcuts to navigate, edit, and comment on the Google Doc. There may be some cognitive difficulties in exploring the comments for some users.

Creating Accessible Tables

There is currently no way to create a proper, accessible table in Google Docs without using a 3rd party add-on such as GrackleDocs. As there are some security concerns with using any third party application, you should check with your IT or Google Workspaces admin for advice. It may be easier to format the final version of the document in HTML or Word Doc for accessibility, or to just link to a Google Sheet for information in a table.

Images

Google Docs only allows you to add Alt Text to an image, but doesn’t allow you to mark it as decorative. When putting in Alt Text, the Description field needs to be used for alt text, not the Title. This is not clear to users that Description is the alt text field.


Other Resources