How To Use Google Docs On Your Computer With Screen Readers And Braille Devices

Published June 21, 2023

Google Docs offers a convenient way to create, edit, and share documents, spreadsheets, forms, and drawings online. One of the best aspects of Google Docs is that it is compatible with assistive tools like screen readers and braille devices, making it more accessible to more users. 

Here is a short guide on how to use Google Docs on your computer with screen readers and Braille devices. 

Using Google Docs with a screen reader

Google Docs has built-in screen reader support, which must be enabled before your screen reader software can access documents and read text. To enable it, click on the “Tools” menu, select “Accessibility”, select “Turn on screen reader support,” and click “OK.” 

Once enabled, you should hear the phrase “screen reader support enabled” when you open a Google Docs file. Additionally, you might have to adjust your screen reader’s settings for an optimal experience. 


If you use the NVDA screen reader, adjust the following settings: 

  • Press NVDA + Ctrl + k and turn off “Speak Typed Characters” and “Speak Typed Words.” 
  • The default keyboard shortcuts in NVDA might conflict with the shortcuts used in Google Docs, so it may be beneficial to change them beforehand. To do so, open “Properties” and edit the “Shortcut” key to prevent conflicts. 


If you use the JAWS screen reader and Firefox browser, adjust the following settings: 

  • Turn off the key echoing option by pressing JAWS + 2 until you hear “None.” 
  • Turn off the virtual cursor option by pressing JAWS + z until you hear “Use virtual PC cursor off.” Once disabled, press JAWS + z + z until you hear “The virtual cursor will be turned off for all applications.” 
  • Press JAWS + v to open the Quick Settings window, uncheck “Auto forms mode” and “Forms mode off when new page loads,” and click “OK.” 


If you use the VoiceOver screen reader, adjust the following settings: 

  • Press the left and right arrows simultaneously and turn off the Quick Nav feature. 
  • Turn on “Automatically speak the webpage” to hear the screen reader. 
  • As is the case with other screen readers, the default keyboard shortcuts in VoiceOver might conflict with the shortcuts commonly used in Google Docs. To avoid this problem, press Ctrl + Option + Tab and type the menu shortcuts you want to access. 

Editing Google Docs using a screen reader 

There are several Google Docs keyboard shortcuts for navigating and editing your document

For example, use the Ctrl + Alt + n combination to move forward and use the Ctrl + Alt + p combination to move backward. Ctrl + Alt + n followed by h will take you to the next heading, while Ctrl + Alt + p followed by h will take you to the previous heading. 

To take specific actions, press Alt + / and type the required command. For example, if you want to insert something, type “Insert,” press the down arrow to listen to the options available, and choose the appropriate option by pressing “Enter.” 

Using Google Docs with a Braille device

To enable Google Docs’ built-in braille support, go to the “Tools” menu, choose “Accessibility Settings,” check “Turn on Screen Reader Support,” and check “Turn on braille support.” 

Once enabled, use the cursor routing buttons on the braille display to move the cursor around the document. Enabling braille support also speeds up screen reader typing echo and improves whitespace and punctuation announcements. You can use the default keyboard shortcuts as well as screen reader shortcuts to navigate and edit the document. 

If you want to disable the braille option, go to the “Tools” menu, choose “Accessibility”, and uncheck “Turn on braille support.” 

Using Google Docs with assistive devices is easier than ever

Google constantly tweaks the built-in features in Google Docs and adds new features to make it more accessible to people with disabilities. By taking the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to access, use, create, edit, and share Google Docs efficiently.


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