If you haven’t opted into the new OSU Gmail account, now is the time. By the end of this calendar year, all ONID email addresses will be moved to Google Apps.

If you’ve set up your ONID email to forward, or have turned on the accessibility options that you prefer, you’ll have to adjust your settings on the new Google App as well. Our Assistive Technology Manager, Alex Axelsson, has put together a useful guide to accessibility in the new OSU Google Apps. For assistance in setting up your new account, please contact the Computer Help Desk (in person at the Valley Library, by phone at 541-737-3474, or via email at http://oregonstate.edu/is/tss/och/contact-get-help-osu-computer-helpdesk). You can also stop by the DAS office with questions about accessibility settings.


Guide to Google Apps Accessibility

The merger to Google Apps for students may affect accessibility. Here are some links from Google that covers the accessibility aspect for some of the Google Apps.



Google Mail for Oregon State University is not limited to the gmail web interface. A third party application can be used (e.g., Thunderbird, Outlook, Apple Mail).

How to set up your IMAP client using a 3rd party application:



If you wish to use the web interface it is recommended to take a moment to review the keyboard shortcuts that are available for gmail.

Gmail and screen reader setup (web interface):


Learn more about the keyboard shortcuts available:



Google Calendar:

This calendar is somewhat accessible using the web interface, but it is most accessible by using a third party application for your Calendar needs (e.g., Thunderbird, Outlook, Apple Mail).

If students do want to use the web based Calendar interface it is recommended to switch to “List mode” for best results.

How to set up your Calendar to sync with a 3rd party application: 

To sync your calendar with a third party application you will need to find the iCal address for your google calendar. To do this, follow these steps

1. Log in to your Google Calendar account.

2. Go to Settings – Select Settings in the drop down list.

3. Tab until you get to Calendars (next to General).

4. Navigate until you hear the calendar with your user name. Press Enter.

5. Tab until you hear iCal. Press enter. This will open up a new window. Tab until you hear the URL that represents your iCal address. Copy this address.

6. Start your 3rd party application (e.g., Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Mail, etc.)

7. In the application of your choice, find the option to import calendar. Select from internet or web address.

8. Paste the iCal address into the required field.

9. Your application should now sync with your Google Apps calendar.

Using the web interface and the calendar with a screen reader


List of keyboard shot cuts for Calendar using the web interface



Google Drive:

Google recommends users to use the Google screen reader (ChromeVox) in use with the Google Chrome web browser for best result in accessing Google Docs and Google sheets from an accessibility standpoint.

It is possible to use another screen reader with different web browsers but content may be limited.

How to use Google Docs (Word like) with you screen reader:


How to Use Google Sheets (Excel like) with your screen reader:


DAS has a new tool that may help improve your grades! We are testing a new product, Smartpen by Lifescribe. Students use the pen to take notes as usual but the pen links your notes with an audio of your lecture. The user writes in a special notebook with the pen, and the pen is capable of ‘remembering’ where your instructor was in his/her lecture at the moment you wrote the note, enabling you to read over your notes after class, and replay what the instructor said when the note was written. You are also able to download free software and upload the notes and lecture audio to the program. Then the program will show you the page of notes, and highlight what you were writing as the lecture plays over the computer speakers.

If you believe the Smartpen may be helpful for you, stop by the DAS office for a two week trial with one of our pens. To reserve your pen, please e-mail our office and set up a time to come in for a brief tutorial. We only have a few pens so act fast!


PDFs are more and more becoming the standard document structure used to disseminate documents.  In the creation of PDFs, it is important to consider accessibility.

How to go about creating accessible PDFs will depend on where you are starting: with a finished PDF you want to make accessible, if you have access to a document you want to convert to PDF, or if you are scanning and converting to PDF. Each process is more involved that I’ll write about here, plenty of information is available online on creating documents accessibly in each of these instances.

While not as common today, many PDFs still exist that are just scanned images of text, not actual text.  These documents are inaccessible from the start.  If you scan documents to make PDFs, or want to work on the quality of your documents, you should educate yourself on the benefits of OCR (optical character recognition) software. In Disability Access Services, we use ABBYY Fine Reader, but many different versions of OCR software exist – some might even be bundled with your scanner.

Here are a few really good resources about accessible PDF creation:
WebAIM PDF Accessibility
Adobe Accessibility

I really like the “Creating Accessible PDF Files from Word” document on the following page, as many of us convert to PDF from Word:
Adobe Accessibility Best Practices

Some of the basics to consider are:

  • Does the document use proper tagging and structure in the PDF format
  • If color is used, does it have proper contrast
  • If color is used, make sure the important content isn’t reliant on color (i.e. “important information is in red”)
  • Do images have proper Alt Text (you can check this using the “Touch Up Object Tool” in Acrobat Pro 9 or 10)
  • Do links within the document make sense out of context – are they descriptive
  • Are fonts at least readable for most people upon opening the document – are they 12pt or greater
  • Does the document have proper layout and reading order (check using the “Touch Up Reading Order Tool” in Acrobat Pro 9 or 10)
  • If the document is long, is there built in navigation (like a table of contents), is the structure tagged using headings to assist in this navigation
  • If there are forms in the document, are they coded properly
  • Are tables created in the most linear fashion possible – are tables coded properly
  • Is the language of the document set (so the screen reader software knows what language to speak)

Note that this is a fairly through, but not complete list.  Human evaluation is always the most important tool you have. You’ll need to education yourself and evaluate the document to determine if it is accessible. While Acrobat Pro now has a built in accessibility checker, and it helps quite a lot, no software exists that can replace a person actually checking a document and all of the intricacies we build into them.

If you don’t have Acrobat Pro 9 (or X) you’ll need it at a minimum to do a lot of the fixes I’ve listed above once the document is in PDF.  You can, and should, do this work in your original document if you own it, as it’s always better to build in accessibility from the beginning.

While most of you don’t have access to the most common screen reader software on the market, Adobe actually has built in screen reader software into Adobe Reader and Acrobat Pro!  One of the best things you can do to make sure your PDF document is accessible is to listen to it.  Activate this feature by going to View > Read Out Loud > Activate Read Out Loud.  Then use the controls and listen away.

To learn more, watch a webinar on accessible communication through IT that I gave recently, with an emphasis on document creation.


With the increase in the number of students using Mac computers on campus we’ve seen a growing need for Mac software to support e-text, specifically the format we use, Daisy.

There are currently three options I recommend for Mac computer users who receive e-text: Emerson-Reader (a free text to speech reader), VoiceOver (Apple software built into all Macs), and ReadHear (a $120 text to speech reader).

Emerson-Reader. This free reader is very simple and takes almost no time to learn how to use. If you use VoiceOver frequently, an FYI that VoiceOver does not work with Emerson-Reader. I recommend this software as the first option for most of you.

VoiceOver is Apple’s own screen reader software built into your Mac computer. Learn about VoiceOver. It takes some learning to use it most effectively, and is a great tool, but is probably more complicated than most of you want to spend the time learning about. There is also a very nice tutorial within VoiceOver, when you turn it on. You can use VoiceOver to access your e-text from DAS, but it takes more effort than the other two options because Microsoft Office software is not fully compatible with VoiceOver yet. You can use TextEdit, Apple’s built in word processing software, to access e-text with VoiceOver.

ReadHear is a very new text to speech product that is more advanced than the free Emerson-Reader. Similar to Emerson-Reader it takes almost no time to learn how to use, and it is compatible with VoiceOver. It is a nice product, and if you are a member of RFB&D (Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic) you can get it for free! Otherwise, the $120 cost makes it more prohibitive than the other two options for students. You can download a free 30 day demo on their website.

Hopefully this info helps. We will be creating a new DAS Tutorial for Mac e-text and will post it on our website when it is finished. I am more than happy to help anyone who wants to learn to use any of these software options, feel free to get in touch now or whenever you would like.