Adaptive & Assistive Features on Chromebooks/Chrome OS

Students at Blytheville High School: New Tech are issued a Chromebook to use in a one-to-one technology, project-based learning environment.  According to legislation entitled Universal Design of Learning (UDL), technology must “give all individuals equal opportunities to learn” (Roblyer, 2016, p. 405).  The Chrome operating system used by each Chromebook offers many accessibility features to users that supports their abilities to see, hear, and manipulate information.  In these ways, the learning opportunities for students with cognitive, physical, and sensory disabilities (Roblyer, 2016, p. 408) are more equitable.

For students with mild cognitive disabilities, Chrome offers spoken response through ChromeVox to support users.  ChromeVox will audibly describe and read the content present on the screen to students.  Students can use this feature to have text read out loud to them.  With the installation of a few extensions, such as Read&Write, students will also gain the ability to use voice recognition and word prediction within a word processing document or the Chrome browser.  This software would also provide support to English Language Learners.  For students that struggle with focusing on the words while they are reading, the Readability extension can be used to strip an online reading source of distracting ads or images.

Some students may have difficulties using a keyboard, mouse, or trackpad on their Chromebook.  To overcome these physical disabilities, the Chrome OS offers a few settings and features to users.  Sticky keys and an on-screen keyboard are two options to overcome difficulties with keyboard usage.  Sticky keys allows students to use shortcuts without having to hold all of the keys at once.  Instead, shortcuts can simply be typed in sequence.  Students may also use an on-screen keyboard to type by clicking a mouse, trackpad, or trackball.  Students that have difficulty pushing the button on a pointing device may set up their cursor so that it automatically clicks when it stops moving.  Conversely, students may have more success using a keyboard rather than a pointing device.  Chrome extensions such as Keyboard Navigation and MetalMouth Voice Browser enables arrow key or voice command navigation.

Users with a sensory disability also receive support from the Chrome OS.  Students that are visually impaired may enlarge their cursor size, magnify portions of the screen, or enable ChromeVox.  If students have difficulty seeing because of color contrast, a high contrast mode is available.  The Chrome OS may also output to Braille displays for student who are blind.

One last note to make is the accessibility category available in the Chrome Store.  There are many more resources through apps or extensions to improve accessibility to students.  Some of these solutions address even more disabilities present in some users, while other solutions simply raise awareness of possible problems to student accessibility.

For more information on Chrome OS accessibility features, click here.


Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching (Seventh ed., pp. 405-408). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.


2 thoughts on “Adaptive & Assistive Features on Chromebooks/Chrome OS

  1. Hi Tyler,

    Google has always, in my mind, led the way for making sure technology is accessible to everyone. In fact they have recently (Dec 2014) updated their speech to text app called VoiceNote. Apparently, it is getting some rave reviews. A lot of these features are also on OSX and seem to be the same idea. Congrats to these companies for making this available.


  2. I chose to reply on your blog because I wanted to get a wide range of ideas to use with my students. Another student posted about chrome browser, I posted about iphones, and it was great to be able to make this come full circle with chromebooks. My school currently has chromebooks that are now shared with 36 chromebooks to 5 teachers. I have never heard of ChromeVox before. It will be great to have my students use audibility for the content on screens. They have difficulty with reading and writing skills. They are usually over 5+ years behind in their abilities. I like how you talk about how it will work with English Language Learners as well. I always say, that if all of my students were to take the CELDT (in California) English Language Learner test, because of their disabilities, they would probably be classified as EL even if they aren’t. Many strategies that work for special education students also work for EL students. I also didn’t know about all of the physical disability tools. I have several students that just have issues using calculators because the keypad is so small. These tools will help my students tremendously. I will make the accessibility category available! Thank you!


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