How to Enable and Use Chromebook Accessibility Features

Set up the Chrome OS accessibility settings

chromebook accessibility represented by a laptop with a magnifying glass in front of it

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For the visually impaired and users with limited ability to operate a keyboard or mouse, performing tasks on a computer can prove challenging. Thankfully, Google provides several helpful accessibility features in the Chrome operating system.

This functionality ranges from spoken audio feedback to a screen magnifier. The majority of these features are disabled by default and must be toggled on before they can be used.

Set Up Accessibility Settings on a Chromebook

This tutorial explains each pre-installed option and walks you through the process of enabling them, as well as how to install additional features.

  1. Select the Chrome menu button, represented by three horizontal lines in the upper-right corner of your browser window.

  2. Select Settings from the drop-down menu.

    The Settings interface can also be accessed via Chrome's taskbar menu, located in the lower-right corner of your screen.

  3. Scroll down and select Show advanced settings... Scroll down again until the Accessibility section is visible.

  4. You will notice a number of options accompanied by an empty checkbox, signifying that each of these features is currently disabled. To enable one or more, simply place a checkmark in its respective box by clicking on it once.

    chromebook accessibility screenshot

In the following steps of this tutorial, we'll describe each of the accessibility features.

Large Cursor, High Contrast, Sticky Keys, and ChromeVox

chromebook accessibility screenshot

Chrome OS's Accessibility settings contains multiple features that can be enabled via their accompanying checkbox. The first group is as follows:

  • Show accessibility options in the system menu: Several of Chrome OS's accessibility options can be accessed via the system menu, located by selecting the time/status bar in the lower-right corner.
  • Show large mouse cursor: When enabled, your Chromebook's mouse cursor will appear several times larger than its default size.
  • Use high contrast mode: The color scheme of your Chromebook is instantly inverted, making text and other items easier to read.
  • Enable sticky keys: Sticky keys provide the ability to utilize keyboard shortcuts by pressing each key sequentially, as opposed to all at the same time. For example, to type a capital letter you would normally have to hold down the Shift key and that letter simultaneously. With sticky keys enabled, you would first hit the Shift key and then the desired letter.
  • Enable ChromeVox: An integrated screen reader built upon popular open-source web technologies, ChromeVox makes it easier for visually impaired users to browse website content via audio feedback.

Magnifier, Tap Dragging, Mouse Pointer, and On-Screen Keyboard

chromebook accessibility screenshot

The following features, also available in Chrome OS's Accessibility settings, are disabled by default. They can be toggled on by selecting their respective checkboxes.

  • Enable screen magnifier: When toggled on, all items on the Chromebook screen are enlarged.
  • Enable tap dragging: When enabled, you can tap an icon or selection, and then drag it to a new location with your touchpad, eliminating the need for a mouse click.
  • Automatically click when the mouse pointer stops: When enabled, a single left-click of the mouse is simulated each time your mouse pointer ceases to move. The drop-down menu accompanying this feature allows you to specify the time interval between the mouse pointer stopping and the actual click taking place. It is broken down into the following durations: extremely short, very short (default), short, long, and very long.
  • Enable on-screen keyboard: When toggled on, a keyboard icon is added to the Chromebook's status bar, which is located at the bottom of the screen. Selecting the icon causes a fully functional on-screen keyboard to be displayed on the screen's bottom half.

Chrome Accessibility Plug-ins and Extensions

You will also notice a link at the top of the Accessibility section labeled Add additional accessibility features. Selecting this link will bring you to the accessibility section of the Chrome Web Store, which allows you to install the following apps and extensions.

  • Long Descriptions in Context Menu: longdesc or aria-describedat attributes, sometimes associated with images on a web page, contain long-form descriptions of the images themselves. Often utilized by screen reader software, these descriptions are intended to assist the visually impaired by offering details of what the image represents or depicts. This browser extension makes this descriptive text available via Chrome's context menu.
  • Caret Browsing: This extension allows users to navigate through web page text with the arrow keys, similar to a text editor or word processor. Caret Browsing also lets you move the cursor one word at a time and select blocks of text using keyboard shortcuts.
  • Image Alt Text Viewer: Alt text associated with an image usually contains a title or short description pertaining to the image itself, and is used for both SEO and accessibility purposes. With Image Alt Text Viewer, all images on a web page can be automatically replaced with their related alt text via a single mouse click.
  • High Contrast: This extension assists when the text on a website may be hard to decipher, due in part to the font or background colors on the page. It allows you to choose from several high contrast filters, toggled on and off by a designated keyboard shortcut.