Best Google Chrome Accessibility Features for Assistive Tech

By Brittany Lehane August 6, 2013

By Umut159 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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If you’re like me, you’re constantly on the lookout for the best tech resources to help both in your classroom and your everyday life.  What many people don’t realize is that with a little work, you can create a completely personalized experience right from your web browser.  Many browsers offer “extensions”, which are tools you can add to your web browser. Did I mention most are FREE? My favorite browser is Google Chrome, so I decided to make a list of some of the extensions available in the Chrome web store for assistive tech.  If you have a different browser, such as Firefox, there are extensions & add-on’s for you as well, which we’ll cover in a future blog.

On a side note- Cloud and web-based software can be endlessly useful in special needs classrooms. Cloud technology allows students to access the same educational material from both school and home. They also aren’t limited to one classroom computer, because the software can be accessed from anywhere.  Chrome allows you to sync your extensions and browser settings across devices, so you can have the same experience wherever you go.  Without further ado, here are my favorite Chrome extensions and features!

Note:  To install Chrome extensions

  1. Visit the store at
  2. Browse or search for the extension you’d like to install.
  3. On the extension’s details page, click the “Add to Chrome” button.

Click “Add” and the extension installs and loads automatically


Reading Comprehension

Cortexit – used for slower and more focused reading. When you select text a panel appears, displaying one sentence at a time.

CruxLight– summarizes content in web based articles. It can eliminate clutter and highlight important information in an article.

Google Dictionary – by double-clicking any word you can view its definition in a pop-up bubble. By using the toolbar dictionary you can view the complete definition of any word or phrase. Foreign words are automatically translated to your language of choice.


Text to Speech

Google Voice– is a built in transcript feature that transcribes your voicemails into text messages.

OwebVoice Input – helps you to input texts by speaking in web apps and websites.

Select and Speak– provides text to speech for any selected online text.

Read and Write for Google Docs – increases the accessibility of the text of documents in your Google Drive. It has great features such as text to speech with highlighting, dictionary definitions, note taking tools, and vocabulary tools. This is a helpful tool for any student as it allows editing supports for writing.

SpeakIt! – provides text to speech for any selected online text.

Speech Recognizer – a speech recognizer that uses your voice dictation to type.

VoiceNote – speech recognition software that can be used along with Speech Recognizer.

Speechify – allows access to many online services and uses your speech to search and shop. It can be used with Google, Hulu, Amazon, Youtube, and more.

TalkTyper– (not an extension in Google Chrome) a web-based application that has voice recognition with helpful features which works in Google Chrome.


Typing Practice

Type Fu– practice learning 10-finger keyboarding with many exercises. There is auditory and visual feedback such as graphs of your speed and accuracy.

Typing Club– another application to practice 10-finger typing skills. You can save your progress and resume where you leave off.


Tools for Visually Impaired

Google Chrome supports assistive technology by offering screen readers, magnifiers, full page zoom, and high contrast color features for the visually impaired. They have enhanced all of their applications including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, maps, and e-books to include these features.

ChromeShades-reformats web pages to simulate how a blind user would perceive the page with a screen reader.

ChromeVis – allows you to magnify and change the color of any selected text. You can use the mouse or the keyboard to move the selection around the page.

ChromeVox – brings the speed, versatility, and security of Chrome to visually impaired users.


Keyboards and Shortcuts

Chrome strives to be fully accessible via the keyboard. People who are unable to use a mouse or other pointing device can use keyboard shortcuts for access to the keyboard. The link below explains and lists the full set of Google Chrome shortcuts.

Shortcuts for Google – view all Google services as buttons in a popup next to your address bar. This save time and mouse work. It allows easy access to services like Gmail, Google Reader, Google Maps, Google Calendar, and more. The extension includes more than 160 Google services and websites.

Chrome Virtual Keyboard – an online keyboard that allows users to click on the virtual keyboard. It attaches a virtual keyboard to any text field by double-clicking it. Also comes with 90 international layouts in different languages. Users can select if they want the keyboard up at all times or not, or a smaller keyboard that can be moved around the page. It is especially useful with a touch screen device to allow on screen clicking to type.

This link fully explains how to use the virtual keyboard with video demonstrations.


Tools for Deaf or Hard of Hearing Individuals

Google + Hangouts– is a way to video chat with up to ten different people. This is a nice option to communicate through sign language or even invite an interpreter to video chat with you (see below)

Google Interpreter App–  allows users to invite interpreters to speak and sign for them during hangouts.
Hope you found these ideas helpful! Let us know of any other extensions or accessibility features you find useful for assistive tech!
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Gil Lahlum says

Hi Brittany,

I'm a student at Bridgewater State, and I study Instructional Technology. This summer I am taking a class on Adaptive Technology (AT), and I am writing a paper on how Google Chrome could be used as a low cost AT tool. I came across your helpful article, and I think that you summed up the material well and your comments were insightful and thought provoking. Thank you!

Sandra Czernik says

Do you know of any Chrome apps or extensions that has the ability for the user to create custom keyboards with words and pictures? I would like something similar to abilipad or Clicker. Thank you.

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