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Conclusion

In general, the grades for specific technologies interacting with GMail and Calendar were higher than they were for Google Documents, although there were still significant problems. The improvements are most likely due in part to the relative complexity of the applications. Google Docs is a highly complex application that uses unconventional methods for accepting and processing input, whereas GMail and Calendar are built using standard user interface elements. Assistive technologies tend to perform much better with standard user interfaces elements. Because GMail and Calendar can largely rely on these standard elements, Google could easily do much more to make the entire interface more accessible. Significant work still needs to be done for visually impaired users, especially screen reader users. Many of the problems encountered in this report could have been solved if standard user interface elements had been used in ways specified by the W3C through the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

Additionally, Google should not be satisfied with simply offering accessibly enhanced versions of the applications through different views. While these views might be more accessible than other views, for large numbers of users they still remain woefully inadequate. What is needed is a way for all people to have equitable access.

Finally, communication from Google about improvements they are making in accessibility is key for our campuses. We are not able to easily assess the accessibility of the application suite without doing a complete re-evaluation of it each time we want to know the status. Once we know a baseline of what is and what is not accessible, knowing what changes are being made or have been made will greatly aid us in giving accurate and timely information to our decision makers and stakeholders.

In order for some users to effectively use the core functions of GMail and Calendar, they may need to rely on third party tools that can interact directly with Google’s mail and calendar services. These third-party solutions are not an equivalent method for interacting with Google’s services, because much of the functionality is not available to these third-party tools. This suggestion is a way for some users to cope until Google’s services are equitably accessible.