[Athen] Google Forms and JAWS 18

Amy Beth Netzel netzela at durhamtech.edu
Wed Mar 15 12:10:49 PDT 2017

Greetings colleagues,

I recently fielded a question about whether or not it is possible to add alternative text to an image in a Google form. This is certainly possible, but it got me thinking that it's been awhile since I looked into the accessibility of Google Drive products (Docs, Sheets, Forms, etc.). Generally speaking, a few years ago, my impression was that the accessibility of these products seemed to be somewhat lacking, and I was curious to see if this still held true. I focused on testing Google Forms. The results were interesting and led to a bit of an interdepartmental discussion on the wide use of Google products across colleges and universities and how they might approach the particular conundrum I encountered.

I tested a simple Google form<https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdhUzPXcTe3Yk1lpzGL9zQUPmz2Gy3IhsddLlnacqQ6e-NHxw/viewform> [http://bit.ly/2nocOnS] with NVDA and JAWS 18 in IE11, Firefox v45.8.0, and Chrome v54.0.2840.59. I could access all parts of the form (including the question text, image alt text, and form fields) with NVDA, but JAWS could not access any text other than the headings when I specifically brought up the Headings dialog box. I could jump to a selected heading, but could not get JAWS to read the text below each heading, and I could not access the image. If I navigated via the Headings dialog box, I could Tab to a form field, but without access to the text above the form field, one doesn't know what to type in the field.

In reviewing Freedom Scientific's New Features for JAWS 18 [https://www.freedomscientific.com/downloads/JAWS/JAWSWhatsNew], more functionality in Google Docs and Sheets is mentioned, but Forms is not mentioned. I went back as far as JAWS 16 to see if I could find any documentation on Google Forms, but wasn't able to find anything from Freedom Scientific that specifically addresses it:

* New Features in JAWS 17
* New Features in JAWS 16

I cross referenced this information with a Google Accessibility Group search, and about a year ago, users were indicating that JAWS (16) was no longer working with Google Forms in IE11 [https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/accessible/9iZ63skXxMQ]. The Group discussion turned to the inequity of requiring long-time JAWS users to switch to or possibly use NVDA in conjunction with JAWS.

So, here's a few questions I'd like to extend to the community:

* Technically speaking, in going back to the original request that I was asked to look into, one can add an alternative text to an image in a Google Form. So, as an institution of higher education, we are following that WCAG 2.0 guideline (providing text equivalents); however, how useful is that alt text if a JAWS user is unable to access it? Should it be up to us to make sure products work with both JAWS and NVDA?
* Is it fair to ask JAWS users to use NVDA when they need to access a Google Form that's been provided by the institution? Should the institution provide equivalent access by sending screen reader users to another form (at the moment, I'm not sure how or what product would provide that access...)?
* I think it would be fair to suggest that there are many institutions using Google Forms. Has this issue come up in your neck of the woods? What are your thoughts? What would you suggest?
Thank you so much for your consideration.

Amy Netzel, M.A.Ed.

Instructional Designer/Web Accessibility Specialist

Instructional Technologies

netzela at durhamtech.edu<mailto:netzela at durhamtech.edu>

919-536-7213 x5902


Durham Technical Community College

1637 Lawson Street
Durham, NC 27703

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