How Google Chrome OS can help students with disabilities at home

New Delhi: As nearly 1.5 billion students adjusting to learning from home globally, Google is leveraging Chromebook accessibility tools to help students with disabilities, who are finding this adjustment even more difficult without hands-on classroom instruction and support from teachers and learning specialists.

For educators and families using Chromebooks, there are a variety of built-in accessibility features to customise students’ learning experience and make them even more helpful.

To support students with low-vision, one can increase the size of the cursor, or increase text size for better visibility in Chrome OS.

“Add a highlighted circle around the cursor when moving the mouse, text caret when typing, or keyboard-focused item when tabbing. These colourful rings appear when the items are in motion to draw greater visual focus, and then fade away,” said Laura Allen, Programme Manager, Chrome and Chrome OS Accessibility at Google.

For students with light sensitivity or eye strain, parents can turn on high-contrast mode to invert colours across the Chromebook (or add this Chrome extension for web browsing in high contrast).

Features that read text out loud can be useful for students with visual impairments, learning and processing challenges, or even students learning a new language.

“Select-to-speak lets students hear the text they choose on-screen spoken out loud, with word-by-word visual highlighting for better audio and visual connection,” Allen said in a statement.

With ‘Chromevox’, the built-in screen reader for Chromebooks, students can navigate around the Chromebook interface using audio spoken feedback or braille.

“To hear whatever text is under the cursor, turn on Speak text under the mouse in ChromeVox options. This is most beneficial for students who have significant vision loss,” said Google.

Add the ‘Read&Write Chrome’ extension from Texthelp for spelling and grammar checks, talking and picture dictionaries, text-to-speech and additional reading and writing supports- all in one easy to use toolbar.

Students with dyslexia can try the ‘OpenDyslexic Font Chrome’ extension to replace web page fonts with a more readable font.

“Or use the BeeLine Reader Chrome extension to colour-code text to reduce eye strain and help students better track from one line of text to the next. You can also use the Thomas Jockin font in Google Docs, Sheets and Slides,’ informed Allen.

Students can use their voice to enter text by enabling dictation in Chromebook accessibility settings, which works in edit fields across the device.

If dictating longer assignments, students can also use voice typing in Google Docs to access a rich set of editing and formatting voice commands.

“Dictating writing assignments can also be very helpful for students who get a little stuck and want to get thoughts flowing by speaking instead of typing,” she noted.

Students with mobility impairments can use features like the on-screen keyboard to type using a mouse or pointer device, or automatic clicks to hover over items to click or scroll, said Google.

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