Challenge Solutions: Google Docs with VoiceOver on iOS

As of 2021, approximately 150 million users use Google Classroom. How does a student who uses a screen reader use Google Docs on an iPad? Macy, with Challenge Solutions, created this easy-to-follow video tutorial. Challenge Solutions is a website created and maintained by a group of blind students for other blind students and their teachers. 

In her video tutorial, Macy does a terrific job of clearly describing what she is doing as she goes through different Google Docs features and demonstrations. She also shares helpful hints, such as when editing a document, Docs does not announce what is being deleted and when navigating by character, Docs does not specifically announce a space.

Included in the video:

  • Navigating Docs
  • Creating and editing a Google Doc
  • Create and navigate a table
  • Changing font size & color
  • Explanation of buttons and menus and how to use them
  • Collaboration with others (including how to read comments by others and add comments)
  • Commands including navigating by character or word, selecting text, etc.

Teaching Hints

What makes a BLV student a "power" tech user? Knowing the layout on the screen, the commands to quickly navigate to desired areas and being familiar with all the features, buttons and menus! Macy closely listens to VoiceOver announcements and used the information as she navigated and interacted with Docs. Macy has fearlessly explored the various options and features within Google Docs.

In the video, Macy mainly used finger gestures to navigate Google Docs. Gestures are easy and typically taught before Bluetooth keyboard or braille display commands. Throughout the video, Macy clearly stated where things were located such as first item on the screen (top left) or the collaboration comments on the right. She aso quickly navigated to the desired area, e.g. 4-finger tap at the top of the screen navigates to the first item. 

Macy also discussed using Bluetooth keyboard commands to navigate by character or word and to select text. She easily flowed back and forth between gestures and keyboard commands, depending on what she wanted to do. As she mentioned, navigating by character or word is possible with gestures using the rotor, but it requires multiple steps and is not efficient. Note: Macy could have used the keyboard for everything, as there is a keyboard command for every gesture. There are actually more things that can be done with a keyboard than gestures!

Reminder: Apps do evolve! When teaching students about apps, the student should focus on terms used (e.g. "Action" button) and how features are organized. Apps like Docs will be updated! New features will be added and features may be moved. If the student knows the term, he/she can quickly explore any changes and find the desired feature in the new layout. Do not memorize the sequence of the gestures (e.g. Two right swipes and double tap); instead, learn to listen for the specific term while navigating and then select.

Alignment with AT Scope and Sequence

Assistive Technology Scope and Sequence Chart is aligned with the National Technology Scope and Sequence. Note the chart starts in kindergarten: preschool is not included.

Introduce in Kindergarten, Reinforce in First Grade, and Master in Second Grade

Use a word processing application to write, edit, print and save simple assignments

  • Delete using keyboard and braille display commands
  • Use rotor to navigate by character, word, line paragraph (gesture/keyboard/braille display)
  • Commands to navigate to the beginning and end of document; first and last item on screen

Use keyboard commands to navigate to beginning/end of word or line

Understand and use spatial relationships on the physical iPad screen

  • Name positional areas (e.g. top, bottom, left, right, middle)
  • Develop a mental map of the various screens (e.g. Home screen, specific apps)

Learn and use screen reader commands (gestures/keyboard/braille display)

Note: Spreadsheets are introduced 2nd grade, but charts, graphs, rows, columns, etc. are introduced in Kindergarten. 

Identify and explain terms and concepts related to spreadsheets (i.e. cell, column, row, values, labels, chart graph)

  • Be exposed to and create tactile charts and graphs (Introduce in K)
  • Transition from tactile charts and graphs to digital charts and graphs (Introduce in K)

Intro in First Grade, Reinforce in Second Grade, Master in Third grade

Highlight text, copy and paste text

  • Use menu/tool bar functions (e.g. font/size/style, line spacing, margins) to format, edit and print a document
  • Copy and paste images within the document and from outside sources

Use BTK and braille display commands to navigate by row or column (Introduce in 1st)