Accessibility Extensions for Chrome and Chrome OS (Google Chrome Tutorial)

Internet is the most effective communication tool nowadays, yet due to limitation in technologies, some people with varying degrees of accessibility issues may be unable to enjoy the internet as much as we do.  This article introduces a few accessibility extensions for Chrome and Chrome OS that helps these people to browse the web.

 

ChromeVis

Many info sites such as newspapers and blogs contain lot of words, to put as much information on the page as possible the texts are usually quite small.  ChromeVis is a a handy tool to address this issue.  It magnifies and highlights texts.  Simply choose an text, ChromeVis will display an enlarged version of it on top of the page.  You can choose the background and text colors to create a high contrast.

ChromeVis - Text Magnifier Extension for Chrome

ChromeVis in Chrome Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/halnfobaneppemjnonmmhngbfifnafgd

User Guide: http://google-axs-chrome.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/chromevis_tutorial/chromeVis_userManual.html

 

ChromeShades

ChromeShades is designed to help blind users.  It re-formats a web page in a way that simulates how a blind user would perceive it with a screen reader.  The final outcome is a much simplified web page without losing (most) interactive features.  For web developers who want to create accessible web pages, this tool helps them to identify issues before opening a screen reader or send it to a tester for testing (but it is not a full .  Below are a few illustrations I found in the user manual:

ChromeShades Example 1

ChromeShades Example 2

ChromeShades Example 3

 

ChromeShades in Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hlklboladblmgfpkenhlgbhoojdlfoao

User Guide: http://google-axs-chrome.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/chromeshades_docs/chromeshades_help.html

 

ChromeVox

ChromeVox takes one step further by directly reading out the texts on page.  There are many text-to-speech apps out there, what’s so special about this function?  Firstly, ChromeVox has a number of keyboard shortcuts to help users to navigate around the page.  For example, you can jump to the next heading directly.  Users can control the level of navigation, e.g. jumping between objects (for instance, bullet points), sentences, words and characters.

Secondly, this extension guides users by sound.  When finished loading the page, you hear a beep sound telling you that the page is ready for navigation.  It could read out the texts on the page and the menu items of Chrome.  Watch this video (with video descriptions) to know more:

 

 

ChromeVox in Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/kgejglhpjiefppelpmljglcjbhoiplfn

User guide: http://www.chromevox.com

 

Image source: Google

Citebite: Link Directly to Specific Quotes in Web Pages

I have introduced some link shorteners and simplifiers before.  They allow you to shorten long URLs and make web pages easier to read.  Citebite, the web app I’m going to introduce, works in a similar way but produce different results.  Instead of an easy to remember URL, it generates a new URL with a (seemingly) random string of characters.  It probably does not make URLs easier to remember or enter, but it helps you to quote a specific part of a web page for sharing and sending to friends.  It is very useful when you want to share a web site to others but want to highlight only a specific part of it.

 

Citebite: Link Directly to Specific Quotes in Web Pages

Citebite is very easy to use.  Just copy the URL of the site and the text you want to highlight, paste into Citebite, it will generate an URL for sharing.  I used a blog post in this blog as an example.

Citebite - Link directly to specific quotes in web pages

 

If your friends follow this link, they will see the web site with the specific part highlighted.  I found this very useful for sharing long web pages.

Citebite - Specific Quote Created

By default, Delicious, StumbleUpon and Digg icons are provided for fast sharing to these sites.  You can also manually copy the link and attach to email, tweets and updates in Google+ and Facebook.

Citebite has a Firefox extension (sorry, not for Chrome).  Users of other web browsers could use a bookmarklet instead.  Both of them are provided on the official site.

 

Official Site: http://www.citebite.com/

Firefox Extension: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/2567

Bookmarklet (see inside for how to use): http://www.citebite.com/bookmarklet

Use Google Currents Producer to Create Your Own Publication

Many people have already tried Google Currents on their smartphones and tablets.  It is obviously Google’s attempt to challenge the mobile reading market.  While many users opined that Google Currents is similar to its competitors like Flipboard, Pulse, Zite, etc. and did not really stand out from them.  However, ther is one less talked about feature that got my attention: Google Currents Producer.

Google Currents Producer is a tool for all content providers to create their publications for Google Currents users to read.  I said “all” because everyone can do it, even if you are a not-so-popular blog owner.  Let us see how this function works.

 

Google Currents Producer – Create Your First Edition

On the main page of Google Currents (http://www.google.com/producer/currents), click “Publish to Google Currents”.

Google Currents producer - Start Publishing

You would be asked to provide some basic information of your new “Edition”.  The easiest way to create an Edition is to import the RSS feed of your blog or web site.  You can also enter the name of your YouTube channel if you want to create a video-oriented Edition.

Google Currents producer - Create New Edition

You will then enter more details, including an icon and a custom splash image.  As the publisher you can choose to collect reader’s email address.  This means that people must opt-in by providing their email addresses before they could get your Edition.  You can also add Google Analytics code to track the traffic.  You can instantly preview the Edition as on Android phone, tablet, iPhone and iPad.

Google Currents producer - Customization

Your content could be divided into different sections.  Apart from RSS feed and YouTube video, you can put photos, articles, social updates (including your Google+ updates) as well.  The order of sections could be re-arranged.

Google Currents producer - Sections

When you are finished with customizing the Edition, click “Distribute”.  You can preview the Edition on your smartphones and tablet using logging in using the publishing account.  Click “Distribute to Google Currents” and choose a publishing date to pas it to the hands of your readers.  My Edition looks like this on Android phone:

Google Currents producer - Cloud High Club

While Google Currents in its existing form still needs improvements on performance, user interface, etc. I see Google Currents producer as a handy tool for individual publishers to extend their readership.  It could help bloggers to explore the market because they have an extra channel to be known.  The ability to import from RSS feeds, YouTube channels and Google+ updates makes publishing as simple as re-using existing content.

[chrome extension] Google Related finds more relevant info when you browse

Google released a browser extension, Google Related, that brings you relevant information to you when you browse web pages.  It is available as a Chrome extension and Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer.

Google Related: Find Relevant Map, News, Images, Videos

Once installed, this extension seeks to find out information that you may be interested in when browsing web pages.  These data are shown on a buttom bar.  For example, when you read the web page of a restaurant, Google Related may show you the Google Map location, restaurant reviews and news.  I ran a trial on the White House official site.  You can find a white information bar at the bottom of the page.  Let’s have a closer look of it:

Google Related - Map

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