How to Add Accessibility Features to Google Chrome

chrome accessibility
Getty Images (Credit: Owen Franken #523324516)

1.  Accessibility Extensions

This tutorial is intended for desktop/laptop users (Linux, Mac, or Windows) running the Google Chrome browser.

Surfing the Web, something many of us take for granted, can be a challenge for the visually impaired or for those with limited ability to use a keyboard or mouse. In addition to letting you modify font sizes and utilize voice control, Google Chrome also offers extensions that help provide a better browsing experience.

This tutorial details some of these and shows you how to install them. First, open your Chrome browser. Click on the Chrome menu button, represented by three horizontal lines and located in the upper right-hand corner of your browser window. When the drop-down menu appears, select the Settings option. You can also access Chrome's settings interface by entering the following text in the browser's Omnibox, more commonly known as the address barchrome://settings

Chrome's Settings should now be displayed in a new tab. Scroll down, if needed, to the bottom of the screen. Next, click on the ​Show advanced settings... link. Scroll down once again until you locate the section labeled ​Accessibility. Click on the Add additional accessibility features link.

The Chrome Web Store should now be visible in a new tab, displaying a list of available extensions related to accessibility. The following four are currently featured.

  • Caret Browsing: Toggled on and off via the F7 key, this extension lets you browse through the text on a Web page using the arrow keys -- similar to how you would in a word processor or text editor. Caret Browsing also lets you select blocks of text using a keyboard shortcut, as well as move the cursor word by word via the Option key. A feature natively available in some other browsers such as Internet Explorer, this add-on allows Chrome users to avoid the mouse altogether when navigating a text-heavy site.
  • Long Descriptions in Context Menu: Many websites that are designed with accessibility in mind will associate either the longdesc or aria-described attribute with their images, pointing to a long description of the image itself. These descriptions are then utilized by screen reader software to assist the visually impaired, providing details of what the image depicts. With this extension installed, long description text can be accessed via the context menu -- displayed in a new tab when requested.
  • High Contrast: Some font or background colors on a Web page can make text hard to read, especially for those with sight issues. This extension helps with that limitation, allowing you to choose from a number of high contrast filters. These filters and color schemes can be easily toggled off and on via keyboard shortcut, and can also be applied to specific sites only.
  • Image Alt Text Viewer: Many images on the Web have alt text tied to them, providing a short description. With this extension installed you have the ability to replace these images altogether with their accompanying alt text, simply by clicking on a toolbar icon.

To install one of these extensions click on the blue and white Free button.

Prior to installing a new accessibility extension, you must first select the Add button on the confirmation window. It is important that you read what type of access an extension has before completing this step.

For example, Caret Browsing has the ability to both read and change all data on websites which you visit. While this particular extension requires this access to function as expected, you may not be comfortable granting some types of access to third-party programs. If you find yourself in this situation, simply select the Cancel button to abort the installation process.

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