Ten Chrome Extensions for Accessibility and Universal Design for Learning

Although I am primarily a Safari user, I have been very impressed with the variety of extensions you can add to customize the Chrome web browser from Google. I have been experimenting with a number of these extensions, and here are the ones I have found helpful and currently have installed:

  • ChromeVox: Google’s screen reader that is built into Chrome OS on Chromebooks or can be installed as an extension for the Chrome browser on Windows or Mac. A really nice interactive tutorial is available from Google to help new users get started with ChromeVox.
  • ChromeSpeak: This extension provides the same functionality that is available through a Speech service on the Mac but should be helpful to  Chrome OS users. You can select text on any web page, right-click and choose Speak to have the text read aloud using the text to speech engine built into the respective OS.
  • ChromeVis: This extension for low vision users allows you to select text and press a keyboard shortcut ( the number 0) to have the text appear magnified in a small window. You can customize this window (or lens) to have the text rendered in different color combinations, to change the text size, or to have the magnified text appear right next to the selection rather than at the top of the page. Navigation is performed through a series of keyboard shortcuts.
  • High Contrast: This extension allows you to add a high contrast theme on a  site by site basis. Options include:  high contrast, grayscale,  inverted, inverted grayscale and yellow on black.
  • Zoom :  This extension gives you more control over how Zoom works in your Chrome browser. You can use a slider or type in a value to set a custom zoom level.
  • Readability and Clearly: Both of these extensions will clean up the clutter on a  web page and present a simplified version that is perfect for using text to speech and reading without all of the distractions of ads and other irrelevant content. Both extensions provide options for customizing the appearance of the text (text size, background, etc.). With Clearly, you can also highlight right on the page and if you sign into your Evernote account these highlights will be saved into Evernote automatically.
  • Read&Write for Google: Read&Write is a premium extension for Chrome from TextHelp. It provides a number of supports that are helpful to students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia: text to speech with word highlighting, ability to highlight right on the page using a number of colors, a picture dictionary to make concepts more concrete, and an option for summarizing a page. A 30 day free trial is available, but even after the trial is over some of the features will continue to work. This includes the text to speech with word highlighting and the translation features.
  • Evernote Web Clipper and Diigo Web Collector:  Both of these extensions are great as supports for classroom research and reading.  With Evernote Web Clipper, you can save an entire web page to your Evernote account, or you can choose to clip a selection, take a screenshot, or just save a bookmark to the page. An option to save a simplified version is also available. This will save the current page without the ads and other distractions.  For a screenshot, you can add text annotations and stamps (great for highlighting critical features in diagrams, charts and other graphics).  Diigo does a lot of the same things as Evernote Web Clipper: you can save bookmarks to pages or screenshots with annotations. What I really like about Diigo is the ability to add highlights and sticky notes to any web page. This has made it my tool of choice for taking notes while I am doing research online.

Bonus: ChromeCast. This extension allows you to show any Chrome tab on your TV using the Chromecast HDMI dongle available from Google. This can be useful for showing websites and documents from Google Docs on a larger screen.

There are a number of extensions that I use for testing web pages for accessibility as well, including:

  • Web Developer Toolbar adds a number of handy tools for checking accessibility, such as options for disabling styles, displaying alt text for images and more.
  • Accessibility Developer Tools from Google adds an accessibility audit section to the Chrome Developer tools.
  • Color Contrast Checker can help you check an entire page or a portion of it for compliance with WCAG 2.0 requirements for color contrast.
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