Friday, February 5, 2016

Chrome Accessibility Extensions

Often, when searching for student-centered solutions for learning differences, we are quick to look at tools and programs specially designed for diverse learners. We forget that many of the everyday tools we use have been designed for accessibility in mind. This is true Universal Design, where one tool can be used by all, regardless of their limitations. Microsoft has a wealth of accessibility features across their products. Similarly, Google’s Chrome has several extensions to make web browsing accessible to those with reading and writing challenges. Most of the add-ons and extensions are free, making them a cost efficient alternative to some of the pricey third party resources. 

Reading and Writing Extensions

The Chrome extension Readability removes visual clutter from web pages, making them easier to read. Reducing visual noise will benefit students with attention, visual processing, and reading difficulties. If Chrome isn’t your browser of choice, readability has expanded its product line to include apps and add-ons for Firefox and Safari. The High Contrast extension allows you to alter the coloring of your webpage with several high contrast filters, making the text easier to read. 

The Zoom add-on will make reading easier by allowing you to magnify the webpage. Another great tool is the SpeakIt extension, which converts text into speech, reading the passage using a synthesized voice. ChromeVox is a screen reader designed for the visually impaired. For writing, Voice Search allows users to use voice commands to search Google and locate information online. Voicenote II is a simple and functional digital notepad that will allow you to take notes using your voice rather than typing. 

A Suite of Accessibility Features

Google has put together a suite of accessible features in their Read&Write for Google Chrome extension. This collection of tools was designed specifically to aid students with print disabilities and English language learners. Using this add-on, students can hear words, passages, or entire documents read aloud, and even hear the text translated into a different language. There is also speech-to-text capability with this extension. When typing online or in a Google Doc, integrated word suggestions will pop up, helping facilitate the writing process. Students are also able to highlight portions of the text or make voice notes. You are able to try Read&Write for free with a 30-day trial; after the trial period you can keep a free basic subscription or upgrade to the premium paid version. However, teachers are eligible for a free premium subscription. To register and activate your subscription, go to after installing the Read&Write for Google Chrome trial. 

Checking Accessibility

Online accessibility is important whether you are a consumer or creator of web content. If you are ever concerned about the accessibility of a web page, you can use the WAVE Chrome extension to evaluate web content for accessibility issues. WAVE can provide visual feedback about the accessibility of traditional websites, as well as personal sites, intranet pages and password protected sites. It is important to note that no data is sent back to the WAVE developers and all analysis is done within the web browser to ensure secure, private evaluations.

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