Screen reader considerations when choosing between Google at IU My Drive and Microsoft OneDrive at IU

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Overview

The choice between Google at IU My Drive and Microsoft OneDrive at IU isn't simple when considering screen reader accessibility. There are pros and cons to both, which can differ depending on the screen reader and browser combination used.

Also, keep in mind that no matter what your own personal choice is for data storage at IU, you will have to interact with documents that use the other system.

For gathering these considerations, we looked at four simple use cases:

  • Locating files
  • Sharing files, including determining and configuring access
  • Performing collaborative word processing
  • Using the comments feature to read, add, and respond to comments
Note:
For those who need to use spreadsheets or presentation slide decks, download the file to a local machine and use the appropriate Microsoft desktop application.

Summary table

Microsoft OneDrive and Word Online
Google My Drive and Google Docs
Compatibility with Windows screen readers
Mostly works. See below for details.
Mostly works. See below for details.
Compatibility with macOS VoiceOver
Requires setup. Some conflicting keyboard shortcuts; alternate methods may be needed for some tasks.
Requires setup. Some conflicting keyboard shortcuts, but these can be invoked by first using the "passthrough" VoiceOver key command. Works best with Chrome.
Learning curve
Some keyboard shortcuts may be familiar from Microsoft Office. Documentation is written for Windows, requiring translation for macOS if using VoiceOver.
Requires learning specialized keyboard shortcuts, but fewer are needed than in Microsoft OneDrive and Word Online.
File access and sharing
Locating and sharing files does not require special keyboard navigation -- possible with usual website navigation methods. Sharing permissions allow either editing or viewing.
Locating and sharing files is easy with the custom keyboard commands. Sharing permissions allow editing, viewing, or commenting.
Commenting: Comment context
The presence of a comment is announced in-line with the body text of the document if the text cursor lands on the selected text. Selected text is not announced when reading comments in the comments pane.
The presence of a comment is announced in-line with the body text of the document, including start and end of the selected text. The selected text is also announced when reading comments in the comments pane.
Commenting: Reading comment contents
Comment contents are available when using NVDA with Firefox, VoiceOver with Safari or the advanced “Jaws” cursor in JAWS with either Chrome or Firefox.
Comment contents are not available when using either NVDA or VoiceOver with Chrome.
Comment contents are available when using VoiceOver with either Chrome or Safari and when using NVDA in browse mode with either Firefox or Chrome.
Comment contents are not available with JAWS.
Offline collaboration
A document can be opened in either Word Online or the desktop Work application. Changes made offline will update to the cloud-based document after saving.
No true desktop experience, but documents can be edited offline if offline editing has been enabled. Changes will be saved to the cloud-based document when the offline document syncs with the online document.
Local documents
Downloaded documents are compatible with Microsoft Office's desktop applications and should retain most formatting.
Documents downloaded from Google My Drive may require edits to formatting when opened in a desktop application. Most formatting edits should be cosmetic.

Consideration 1: Screen reader compatibility details

Functionality is highly dependent on the screen reader used, and Google Docs requires enabling screen reader support in your account settings.

Windows screen readers

Windows-based screen readers (JAWS, NVDA, Narrator) work similarly well with either cloud storage system.

VoiceOver

Both products require some setup in order to effectively navigate with VoiceOver. Both require turning off quick nav by pressing the left and right arrow keys at the same time.

Microsoft Word Online has a number of keyboard interactions that may conflict with the keyboard commands used with VoiceOver. Alternate methods of doing those tasks may need to be used, such as navigating through the ribbon rather than using the keyboard shortcut.

Google My Drive and associated applications also have keyboard interactions that conflict with the keyboard commands used with VoiceOver. These can be used by ignoring the next key press by using Ctrl-Opt-Tab first, allowing the keyboard command to be activated without VoiceOver interference.

Consideration 2: Learning curve details

All of the products require specialized keyboard shortcuts to effectively use them with any screen reader. It will take some time to become familiar with when to use those specialized keyboard shortcuts versus standard screen reader navigation methods.

For Word Online, keyboard shortcuts may be familiar to users of the desktop versions of Word. Other commands, such as those used to add and access comments, may be less familiar.

Google My Drive and Google Docs have their own custom keyboard shortcuts, which may be less familiar to some people. However, fewer shortcuts are needed overall, when compared to Microsoft OneDrive and Word Online.

VoiceOver

Documentation of the Word Online keyboard shortcuts is written for Windows, so anyone using VoiceOver will need to translate them for OSX.

Consideration 3: File access and sharing permissions details

Locating and sharing files while using a screen reader is fairly straightforward in both Microsoft OneDrive and Google My Drive. Files can be shared and document permission settings can be identified and changed from the cloud drive (Microsoft OneDrive or Google My Drive) and from within a document (Word Online or Google Docs).

Document sharing and permissions

One difference between the Microsoft and Google options is the type of sharing permissions. Microsoft offers only editing or viewing permissions while Google allows editing, viewing, or commenting options.

Consideration 4: Commenting feature details

The commenting features in Word Online and Google Docs behave differently in the two platforms when using a screen reader.

Windows screen readers

Word Online commenting

  • Comments are handled similarly in JAWS and NVDA on Windows, in that the commenter's name and the date and time of commenting are announced.
  • With NVDA and FireFox, the comment contents are announced from within the comments pane. However, the contents of comments are not readable with NVDA and Chrome. With JAWS using either browser, comment content can be accessed in the comment pane using the advanced feature "Jaws" cursor.

Google Docs commenting

  • NVDA allows the user to read the contents of comments when in browse mode (toggle with NVDA-Spacebar).
  • JAWS does not currently allow the user to read the contents of comments from within the comments pane.
  • Both JAWS and NVDA Windows screen readers announce the presence of comments in-line with the body text of the document, including at the beginning of list items and paragraphs.
  • While JAWS announces the number and order of comments in the comments pane (for example, "1 of 2 comments"), NVDA does not. Both screen readers announce the number of replies to a particular comment. As stated, both screen readers do not allow the user to read the comment contents.

VoiceOver

Word Online commenting

  • The presence of a comment is announced while reading a document, but only if the text cursor lands directly in the selected text. A comment attached to a phrase within a paragraph won’t be indicated while reading the paragraph.
  • There is direct access to a comment from the selected text. This allows the comment to be read with the context.
  • Comments may also be accessed in the comment pane. The selected body text is not announced when using the comment pane, removing the comment contents from their context.
  • The name of the commenter and date and time of the comment are announced. Comment contents are read by VoiceOver when using Safari but not when using Chrome.

Google Docs commenting

  • The presence of a comment is announced while reading the document text. Comment start and comment end are both indicated, defining the start and end of the selected text.
  • There is direct access to a comment from the selected text, or the comment pane can be opened, and then keyboard shortcuts used to navigate through the comments.
  • While navigating through the comment pane, the name of the commenter, number of replies and the selected body text are announced. This allows the screen reader user to find the desired selected body text, then choose to read the related comment(s).

Consideration 5: Offline collaboration details

Both services allow some form of offline editing.

Word Online

Microsoft OneDrive allows documents to be opened in the desktop version of the software, which may be the preferred method for some screen reader users. For example, a Word document can be opened either with Word Online or the desktop Word application.

  • If multiple people are collaborating on the same document, changes made in the desktop application are updated in the cloud-based document after saving. The cloud-based document will need to be refreshed to show the changes.
  • Similarly, changes made using Word Online will update to the local desktop document after the desktop document has been saved.
  • If multiple people are working in the same document with one or more using the desktop application, all changes will be merged as the document in the desktop application is saved. Note that any conflicting changes will result in an error when saving the desktop version. The conflicting changes will need to be removed or approved before the changes are merged.

Google Docs

Google My Drive doesn't offer a true desktop experience; however, you can work on documents offline if they have previously been set up for offline editing. This is useful if you may be working somewhere with limited or no internet access. Once you are reconnected to the internet, your changes will be saved to the online version of the document.

  • If multiple people have been working on the same document while at least one person was working offline, all the changes will be merged when the offline document syncs with the online version of the document.
  • Changes are merged in the order they were made.

Consideration 6: Local documents details

While not strictly a screen reader issue, the transferability of documents from a cloud storage service to a local copy may also be important if you frequently download documents from cloud storage to your local machine. Transferability in this case specifically refers to downloading a local copy to your preferred word processing or other application.

Documents downloaded with Microsoft OneDrive are compatible with Microsoft Office applications, and should retain most formatting. Documents downloaded from Google My Drive may require edits to the formatting once opened in a desktop application. Most of the formatting edits will likely be cosmetic.

Accessibility documentation for Microsoft OneDrive and Google My Drive

Microsoft OneDrive

Microsoft Word Online

Google My Drive

Google Docs

This is document bgdz in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2020-07-21 15:31:23.

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