Google Chrome Accessibility

Posted on Wednesday, 3 September 2008 by Steve Faulkner

Refer to Google Chrome accessibility update (07/12)

Google have launched their new browser, I like many other people have been very keen to install and use it. My first impression is it seems very slick, fast, has cool features such as speed dial and its intuitive to use for mouse users. I noticed yesterday that people on the Window Eyes user mailing list were discussing it and whether they could use it. And David Bolter asked the question “Is Chrome accessible?” So I decided to do some testing of Google Chrome. Here is a quick rundown of the accessibility support I found in Google Chrome.

Keyboard Operability

Google Chrome has many keyboard shortcuts to allow use of the application with the keyboard alone. There appears to be no direct method to open and navigate the ‘control current page’ and ‘customize and control Google Chrome’ menus. So features such as ‘help’ and ‘options’ cannot be accessed with the keyboard.

OS Accessibility Options Support

Operating Systems such as Windows have built in accessibility features like ‘high contrast mode’ and the ability to increase default font size. Google Chrome does not currently support high contrast mode, but it does inherit font size settings.

The image below shows a screenshot of Google Chrome (top) and Firefox (bottom) with Windows high contrast mode enabled.

The Google Chrome Interface and HTML document displayed show little change in foreground and background colours. The Firefox interface and HTML document displayed have a black background and mainly white foreground.

The image below is a screenshot of the Google Chrome ‘Options Dialog’. While high contrast foreground and background colours are inherited, the majority of the text becomes unreadable.

Options Dialog

Exposure of Name,Role and State information

Google Chrome Interface

In order for software user interfaces to be accessible to assistive technology users programatically defined information about the interface elements neeeds to be provided. Many of the Google Chrome interface elements do not provide parts of this information.

Example of accessibility information provided by a typical control in Google Chrome.

The google chrome 'find in page' widget with the 'next' button outlined

Property Value
Name none
Role Client (incorrect – should be push button)
State focused,focusable
Description none
Example of accessibility information provided by a typical control in Firefox.

The firefox 'find' widget with the 'next' button outlined

Property Value
Name Next
Role push button
State focused,focusable
Description 4 of 8

Google Chrome Document Pane

Access to information about content in the HTML document being displayed in the browser is also required by assistive technology, so it can be conveyed to users. Although information is exposed for controls, from a quick test with the NVDA screen reader, no information is announced about plain text or focusable elements such as links in a web page displayed in Google Chrome. Although some rudimentary information is exposed about controls, but not links, this information is not being picked up by NVDA.

Example of accessibility information provided by a HTML link in Google Chrome.

example link

Property Value
Name none
Role grouping (incorrect)
State focused,focusable
Value none
Example of accessibility information provided by a HTML link in Firefox.

example link

Property Value
Name Example link
Role link
State focused,focusable,linked
Value http://www.paciellogroup.com/

WAI ARIA Support?

It does not appear that any information conveyed through the use of WAI-ARIA attributes is exposed, but that is not surprising as indicated above, even basic informtion about native HTML controls is not exposed.

Conclusion

This release of Google Chrome does not appear to have been developed with the needs of users with disabilites taken into account, apart from limited keyboard shortcuts, basic support required for accessibility is absent.


About Steve Faulkner

Steven is the Senior Web Accessibility Consultant and Technical Director, TPG Europe. He joined The Paciello Group in 2006 and was previously a Senior Web Accessibility Consultant at vision australia. He is the creator and lead developer of the Web Accessibility Toolbar accessibility testing tool. Steve is a member of several groups, including the W3C HTML Working Group and the W3C Protocols and Formats Working Group. He is an editor of several specifications at the W3C including HTML 5.1, Using WAI-ARIA in HTML and HTML5: Techniques for providing useful text alternatives. He also develops and maintains www.HTML5accessibility.com

Comments

  1. Steve said:
    >This release of Google Chrome does not appear to have been developed with the needs of users >with disabilites taken into account, apart from limited keyboard shortcuts, basic support required for >accessibility is absent.

    This is my conclusion also from the testing I did with JAWS 9 and WInEYES on Win XP..

  2. Steve, excellent answer to my question thanks! I am sort of slack-jawed… even Windows High-Contrast Mode is bad! Crazy. I’m hearing lots of bad news from other people trying WE and Jaws. I have to believe Google has an a11y plan here. Hopefully we’ll hear about it soon.

  3. Thanks for the article! I’ve googling for the information about a11y in Chrome since I’ve downloaded it this morning. It seems that a11y is, again in the case of Google, the optional feature not worth bothering at the beginning. In the Google Web Toolkit, for example, they treat a11y as “a cool thing to have” and claim to have the accessibility support “mostly done” while my research during internship shows that it’s scarcely done. Nevertheless, I hope it will improve soon.

  4. @Josh, its the same as what I have been reading on the various AT user mailing lists, but is unsurprising as AT such as JAWS and Window Eyes need work to make them compatible with each particular browser, but if the basic accessibility info is not exposed as appears the case with Goggle Chrome, then the AT vendors job is going to be a whole lot harder I imagine.

    @David, I too hope that they start to think about developing a plan to make Chrome accessible.

    @Matt, haven’t had a chance to do ZoomText testing as yet.

  5. I can’t say I am surprised this this wasn’t at the top of their priority list. I am appreciative that you are highlighting these shortcomings to help pressure them to fix this stuff in later releases.

  6. Keyboard shortcuts: I feel they’ve missed a key one: ctrl+s for saving a web page doesn’t exist. That would annoy me.
    I just hope they allow for addons like firefox does. My response to this is: I have 13 browsers installed for testing…why would I want another??

  7. So it looks like it’s not going to become more popular than Firefox. How does it compare to Internet Explorer 8?

    Btw, not sure if this is an issue with the comments box but when i was typing this, half of the word ‘Internet’ disappeared out of the textarea as it moved to the second line. I’m using Google Chrome lol.

  8. “While it is important to remember that the browser is still in beta…”

    It is also important to remember that Google uses the term “Beta” forever as an excuse for any problems that crop up. For example, gmail has been out for over 4 years, but is still in Beta.

  9. Great Eval!

    I’ve received a few requests for opinion this week. You have saved me a lot of writing them up!
    Also, Normal tabbing focus seems lacking in a visual context to the Control and Options icons as well as the ability of having the icons rendered as text.
    I don’t see where the UAAG, or even the minimalist Sect. 508 requirements are even close to being met.

    It’s nice and fast though, if you can use a mouse.

  10. It’s important to remember Chrome is still in BETA and I think Google have released a bit to early. Due to having issues with my eyes in the past I am all for supporting Accessibility, WIA and ARIA, and if Google are not supporting this – to put it frank – its a useless browser.

    I will keep my fingers crossed, and hope for the best.

    Can Google pull off a web browser or are they swimming a bit to deep? and ARIA

  11. Google Chrome, our new Open Source browser released on Tuesday, strives to innovate and drive development on the web. This certainly extends to all of our users, and the issue of accessibility is no different.

    In the spirit of releasing early and iterating, this version of Chrome has focused on basic support for keyboard navigation and shortcuts,
    as well as a clean user interface that is simple for all users to navigate. At the same time, we have laid the foundations in place for exposing the appropriate information through the Windows Accessibility APIs (used by screen readers, etc.), as well as support for WAI-ARIA. Users can expect rapid improvements in both of these areas in releases to come.

    Accessibility is important to us, and we have for some time worked on its implementation. We look forward to releasing this, and making further improvements for our users.

    Sincerely,
    Jonas Klink
    Software Engineer – Accessibility
    Google Inc.

  12. @Jonas, it’s good to hear that Google have plans for rapid improvements in the accessibility of Google Chrome. Providing a simple user interface is definitely a usability improvement that potentially benefits all users, but at present for many people with disabilities Google Chrome is simply unusable.

    Here at TPG we work with many companies that use web browsers as a software platform and we have already been contacted by clients who want to take advantage of the potential Google Chrome holds for the delivery of better performing more robust accessible rich internet applications, but will not be able to do so until Google Chrome provides the required support.

    It would be a real step forward for accessibility on the web if Google made a public commitment to make Google Chrome conformant with the W3C’s User Agent Accessibility Guidelines, and, like the Mozilla Foundation, work with users with disabilities and Assistive Technology vendors to ensure that Google Chrome is the most accessible browser available.

  13. they must make Chrome accessible they say that ther brouser will be bigger then FF or IE are they kidding? as i said on the feed back page if they want blind users to look at this crome they must fix this. people say to me it’s only a beater i don’t care crome should have been made accessible from the outset

  14. Would love to see a ‘BROWSER War,’ where the ‘WAR’ was over who has the MOST ACCESSIBLE BROWSER and the neatest ways to serve that community, with the prize being the most used Browser by that community and positive posts to blogs and not negative ones. As they say at the Olympics, and in honor of the Para Olympics that just started: “Let the GAMES Begin!” In this case, the “games” are the efforts to take of the challenge of MOST ACCESSIBLE, and TPG can award the Medals of Gold, Silver, and Bronze later! Dan Bart, President and CEO, Valley View Corporation

  15. @Kevin, Jonas Klink from Google has stated that Google:

    …have laid the foundations in place for exposing the appropriate information through the Windows Accessibility APIs (used by screen readers, etc.), as well as support for WAI-ARIA. Users can expect rapid improvements in both of these areas in releases to come.

    So lets hope that improvement is evident in future releases.

  16. BTW- THANK YOU STEVE!!! Great job for many folks to view and I did see just now what Jonas Klink had to say about accessibility implementation. Thanks!

  17. Thanks for the artical. It was no surprise to me when Chrome came out and I figured it wouldn’t have any (or little) useful accessibility features. What is more often than not these days, the screen reading/magnification company has to make a bunch of adjustments to their product and then they slowly improve on it through seven versions of the assistive technology so they get rich, and by then, the software (Chrome in this case) will be much more developed, and the adaptations made by the AT company will do nothing (except fill their leather jacket pockets). Mozilla, seems to be the best and most stable browser; they even have an accessibility team! What a concept! I’ll be surprised if Chrome wins us over in the assistive tech world. Long story short, I’ll wait to test Chrome until I get news that it actually works WELL by others using JAWS etc.

  18. Thanks for the artical. It was no surprise to me when Chrome came out and I figured it wouldn’t have any (or little) useful accessibility features. What is more often than not these days, the screen reading/magnification company has to make a bunch of adjustments to their product and then they slowly improve on it through seven

  19. I hope that Google will increase the Accessibility features of Chrome at some point. I really like the browser’s features, but its usability for persons with disabilities is severely lacking. At the very least, an end user’s ability to disable site styles would be a huge improvement.

  20. If Google’s Web browser has almost neglected the persons with disabilities after all, will they make the disabled deprived of totally Googlizing themselves with their revolutionizing Google Crome OS?:S:S

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