Google Chrome Accessibility Options

This post is looking at the accessibility options given to users of Google Chrome. There are several extensions in development and some are better than others in terms of ease of use. However, I feel as though evaluating these tools as a person with no limiting disabilities does not give the tools justice, so I also took into consideration some of the comments left on these tools by other users.

The reason I am focusing on these extensions is because I plan to write my own Chrome extension that will hopefully improve on what already exists.


Scales the webpage to the size of the browser. It can scale it down to a minimum size, and the maximum appears to be the size of one’s monitor. It removes the whitespace in web browsers usually placed on the sides of a website.

The advantage of this is that it’s an easy way to enlarge websites. However, this does not allow further enlargement than the width of the monitor. This also doesn’t make the page any cleaner and keeps the same layout. So even though there is a kind of zoom, it’s very limited. And if the window is shrunken, the site shrinks as well. How often does someone want to make things smaller on their screen? Answer: not very.

Smooth Gestures

Allows users to create gestures for smoother browsing using only their mouse. This reduces the number of buttons that users need to click, which can be useful for users that have difficulty clicking on small buttons frequently such as forward and back. It also gives an alternative to keyboard shortcuts. In Google Chrome, there are many keyboard shortcuts for opening and closing tabs and links that many users are unaware of. Using smooth gestures, not only allows users the ability to learn that these actions exist, but also perform them without needing the keyboard shortcut. A simple mouse gesture can accomplish any of these tasks.

The good thing with this extension is that is allows users that have difficulty clicking small buttons the ability to ignore navigational buttons of the browser. However, when actually navigating sites, this does not help people with certain motor skills. It will be difficult to make gestures if the user has motor disabilities and cannot use a mouse properly.


Changes the style of websites to be simple. Users have the option to set the background and text colour as well as the link colours. It removes all background colours and formatting and only keeps the page layout intact. Since this extension strips all page styling, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate different parts of the web page. For example, if this is used on Gmail, the style is removed, but all the emails, contacts, and links are all in the same place. The only difference is that it is difficult to differentiate between sections. The background colour often shows where the navigational links are and where the content is.

For visually impaired users, this extension makes things easier to read since it is of higher contrast than most web sites. However, this makes it difficult to differentiate between sections of the web page. It can be difficult to read emails and navigate through web sites. Even i found it difficult to navigate through my emails with this application. One good thing about this application is that you can opt-out of using this extension for designated sites. This allows regular browsing for certain sites that have been flagged as ok.

ChromeVis – allows users to magnify passages of text and displays it at the top of the window in a high contrast text and background. You can also select text with a mouse or keyboard. You can also navigate pages and toggle the visualization on and off with the keyboard. This allows users with visual impairments to read passages of text more easily. It will appear at the top of the screen and in high contrasting colours.

The difficulty with this is navigating through the page. Users have to learn specific commands to move forward and back through sentences or use their mouse to highlight a passage they would like to read. If, users can read the passage to know that they want to read a certain passage, do they still need this tool? If they rely solely on the keyboard navigation of the tool, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right passages to be reading.

Keyboard Navigation

Lets users navigate the web using only their keyboard. Activating the extension with a simple press of a comma, this application gives an identifier to each link on the page. This goes for clickable images and links. The idea is so users can completely surf the internet with only their keyboard and nothing else.

This is good for people who find it easier to use a keyboard over a mouse, but some of those users may find it difficult to use a keyboard even. People with cognitive disabilities might also find it difficult to remember all the commands and complicated key combinations for navigating where it might be easier to simple enlarge and convert the entire site to high contrast visuals.


Renders web pages easier to read by extracting only text from the website. Settings are customizable and easy to escape from. It is an automatic rendering that users can opt out of. This allows them to select certain sites that are okay for viewing regularly. The tool is customizable through the options display but also as each page renders. A toolbar appears at the top and bottom of each page along with an escape button. This button is rather small so clicking on it might be difficult, but having the options on display at each page is useful. It lets users instantly change the size of text, colour scheme and page width. Since this tool extracts text, users don’t have to worry about navigation and can focus on reading the text at hand. If navigation is necessary, users can exit the TidyRead mode, and go to the regular site to navigate.

This is easy to use for visually impaired users. Set up is the simplest of all the tools I have looked at. The pages get rearranged into the style specified by the user and make it easy to read in a single column. This only solves one problem for users though. Since navigation is stripped away, users have to exit TidyRead mode to navigate. This can be difficult if the navigation if the original site has a terrible navigation bar.


One Response to Google Chrome Accessibility Options

  1. Blake Winton says:

    You should get me to introduce you to David Bolter, and possibly Marco Zehe, a couple of the accessibility developers for Firefox (and, to a lesser extent, Thunderbird). I bet they could show you a few of the things we do, and what sort of tools visually impaired people can use.


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