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Using Google Drive with JAWS and NVDA

Tips for teaching individuals who are blind or visually impaired to use Google Drive with a screenreader, such as JAWS or NVDA

Google recommends Mozilla Firefox Internet browser for working with screen readers when using Google Apps. I have found it is the only browser which consistently works. When entering Google Drive online it is important to turn of the virtual cursor by pressing JAWS key + z or NVDA key + Spacebar  to turn focus mode on or off. If at any time the student loses access within the Google Drive press these keys again to gain focus. By turning the virtual cursor or focus mode off, the student can now use the Google shortcut keys for better navigation within Google Drive. I have listed some Google shortcut keys at the bottom of this post but there are many more available within Google Drive. For a complete list of Google shortcut keys to use with Google Drive go here:

For using all Google Apps with a screen reader start here for Google’s complete tutorials:
Google Apps User guide to accessibility screenshot

Organizing Google Drive

Google Drive bar screenshotI like to teach my students that the organization of the Google Drive is much the same as folders, documents and files on their computer. It is a good habit to organize files and documents within specific folders, instead of just a long list of documents and files, but this is a skill students need to work on with any technology. Files within the Google Drive can be confusing as the student might have copies of the same file in Microsoft Word format and in Google Docs format. I find it easier to open the document in Google Docs for online editing and saving. This still leaves the MS Word file on the Google Drive. I have the student only edit the Google Doc. To Create a new folder on Google Drive press Shift + f, for a new document press Shift + t. You can also have the student use the letter c to access all possible file types to create. To access the navigation tree view press letter g, then n. This will allow the student to move between My Drive, Shared with me, etc.
When the student first opens an MS Word file on Google Drive, it will open the MS Word file in the Google Doc viewer and then Tab to, “open with”, and choose Google Docs. The viewer appears visually as a document surrounded in black and with the screen reader it will give the name of the document but it will not interact with the document.
websites and other resources for literacy screenshot

Accessing Google Drive on a Computer

Let’s talk about the various ways to access Google Drive on a computer. One way is to locate the link from within Gmail, another to use the direct URL to Google drive and yet another way is to download the Google Drive application to the computer. Which way works best? Well, I will give you my bias but as with all technology you will have to find what works best for each student.
Ok, how do you access Google Drive from within Gmail? Remember the most important suggestion from Google is to use the Mozilla Firefox Internet browser. If the student uses basic HTML view just find the drive button and click it to open Google Drive. If the student uses the standard Gmail view, tab or arrow to, “link, collapsed, has pop-up apps.” Press space to open the menu and DOWN arrow to find Google Drive, then press the Spacebar to open the drive. Now having opened Google Drive the cursor should be on the folder or document list, which is call the Main Region. 
If the folders and files are in grid view the student will need to press all arrow keys, however if the folders and files are in list view they need only press the up and down arrows. To change to list or grid view press the letter v.
google drive screenshot
The student simply uses the up and down arrow to locate a folder or document. The owner of the folder or document will be announced as will the date and time of the last edit. The last edit does not mean anything was changed in the folder or document it might also just be the last time the folder or document was opened. To rename a file or folder move to it, press the letter n, type the new name and press the Enter key. If at any time the student needs to return to the Main region, use letter g then l. And when all else fails press F5 to refresh the entire web page.
The second way to open Google Drive is to type the URL, and the web page will be redirected and open Google Drive. If this is a shared computer with multiple Gmail accounts being accessed, the student will need to be signed in to Google or Gmail to open their Google Drive.  OK, that should be it.
The third way to access Google Drive is with the Google Drive computer application, which needs to be downloaded and installed on the student’s computer. To find the Google Drive computer application go to: My bias against the Google Drive computer application concerns the difficulty identifying different file types, which means the student might not be able to differentiate between a Google doc and a MS Word doc. If the student opens the MS Word doc it will not be automatically saved in Internet Google Drive, which makes sharing and editing more difficult. Once again this is a personal bias and the Google Drive computer application is recommended by other teachers, it is just not my suggestion.
google drive screenshot
OK, these are some ways to access Google Drive; next I will show you how to have students work with Google Docs. Find some of the Google shortcut keys for Google Drive below: 

Navigating Google Drive

  • Turn off virtual cursor in JAWS press the JAWS key + z or If using NVDA press the NVDA key + Spacebar to turn focus mode on or off to use the Google shortcuts.  If virtual cursor or browse mode is on, then the Google shortcuts won’t work. 
  • Press the letter g, then l to move to the drive list (Main Region)
  • Press the letter v to change to list view so you can use the up and down arrows.  If you keep the grid view, you have to use the up, down, left, right arrows
  • Use up and down arrows to select a file or folder, then press the Enter key to open
  • To Search for a file or folder, press / (backslash), then type folder or file name and press the Enter key.


Creating a new file: Google Shortcut Keys once in drive list

  • Shift + t: New text document. A blank document, named “Untitled document”, opens in a new tab.
  • Shift + p: New presentation. A blank presentation, named “Untitled presentation”, opens in a new tab.
  • Shift + s: New spreadsheet. A blank spreadsheet, named “Untitled spreadsheet”, opens in a new tab.
  • Shift + d: New drawing. A blank drawing, named “Untitled drawing”, opens in a new tab.
  • Shift + o: New form. A blank form, named “Untitled form”, opens in a new tab.
  • Shift + f: New folder. The Name folder dialog opens, and your cursor is in the text box. If you decide you don’t want to create a new folder, press Escape to dismiss the dialog. Otherwise, type a new name for your folder, then press the Enter key. Your focus returns to the Google Drive list view (main region), with the new folder selected.

Uploading a doc, file, or folder

To upload files or folders in Google Drive, follow these steps:
  • Press c to open the New menu.
  • Press the down arrow to navigate to “Upload files” or “Upload folder,” then press Enter.
  • Select the file or folder that you’d like to upload, then press Enter.
  • You’ll hear a confirmation after your file or folder has finished uploading. By default, the newly uploaded file or folder is in My Drive.
  • In the settings, I have the files to be uploaded in Google Doc format.
google drive settings screenshot

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