Skip to content Skip to navigation

ATHEN Report on the Accessibility of Google Documents

Publication Date: October 18, 2011

Executive Summary

Google Inc. is in the process of improving its Google Application suite to make it more accessible for people with disabilities. To date, many improvements have been made, but the efforts have largely targeted screen reader users and not considered people with other types of disabilities. In order to begin to assess the accessibility of the application suite for a variety of disability types, the Access Technology Higher Education Network (ATHEN) performed functional tests (described in detail below) on two applications: the Google Docs Document List (hereafter referred to as “Document List”) and the Documents portion of Google Docs (hereafter referred to as “Documents”).

These tests show that many people with disabilities are currently unable to successfully use these applications. No assistive technology tested was able to fully perform every function within these applications, and the level of support for assistive technologies ranged from being able to perform many, but not all of the functions to not being able to use the applications at all. Some of the major problems include:

  • speech recognition software users cannot dictate text into, or interact with the application
  • keyboard-only users often cannot access the application menu, and thus, much of the functionality of the application
  • high contrast users cannot see many of the toolbar buttons and other user interface elements
  • screen reader users cannot interact with the application reliably and effectively, reach and perform the desired functions, and cannot always determine what is being asked in "popup" windows

Because of these and many other problems, which prevent entire populations of people from fully or sometimes even partially using the software, Documents and the Document List cannot be considered accessible.