Setting Up Google Drive for Use with JAWS, NVDA or Chromevox

Laptop computer displaying logo of Google Drive, a file storage and synchronization service developed by Google

Don’t want to read?

Written By Cody Laplante

Cody M. Laplante is a certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments located in the capital region of the United States. With a Master’s Degree and Graduate Certificate in Assistive Technology, Cody founded eye.t to provide live and asynchronous training options to children, adults, professionals and parents to ensure that all people with visual impairments can have access to a computer.

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Published on

March 1, 2022

For our students who read braille, there is so much that we need to figure out. How do we teach them everything they need to know? How do we communicate with their teachers every day? And of course, how can I efficiently braille all of their assignments?

On that point, I would ask you, do you use Google Drive?

It may seem unrelated but Google Drive is one of the most helpful tools to make files accessible to our students. 

Let’s say that you have a new student, your car breaks down, for whatever reason, you cannot be at your students’ school today, and the teacher gives out new homework, something that he didn’t plan on. What happens then? Well, the student doesn’t get the homework right? Learning lost.

Well, with Google Drive, not only can you get that accessible file to your student but… you won’t have to braille it! That’s right, if your learner knows how to use Google Drive, just convert it into a Google Doc and in 5 minutes you can move on to whatever you need to do. Case and point: Google Drive will help you throw off the chains of Duxbury, give your student instant access to materials that were handed out TODAY.

Here’s the kicker. You have to teach your learner how to use Google Drive as well as Docs, Sheets and Slides. And that’s what we are dedicating this month to covering. In this first email, we will be showing you the skills you will need to navigate Google Drive with a screen reader. Remember, just like Gmail all of these will be Google-specific key commands so this will work with any screen reader.

What is Google Drive?

Just like those flash drives we used back in the day (chuckle), Google Drive is a system that we can use to transfer files from one computer to computer and from person to person. With shared drives, we can share an entire folder system with our learner as well as all of her teachers so that everyone can access their work from one place.

Your First Time on Drive

Before we do anything, take a look at your learner’s Drive. In the central main content area, your learner’s files will either be in a grid or in a list. Having files in a grid makes everything a bit harder, so my recommendation is to change that layout to a list.

Change between gridview and list-view: v

So now, let’s talk about how Drive is organized. We have 3 main areas in drive.

  1. Navigation: The navigation panel is on the left side of the page and contains all of the main sections of Drive such as “My Drive” and “Shared Drives”.
  2. List: This is the main content area of Drive. This includes all of your files and folders.
  3. Details: When a file is selected, this panel shows all of the details of that file such as when it was created, who modified it last and who is the owner.

Now, let’s learn how to move between these 3 sections. Remember, if this does not work, switch your screen reader’s mode. Also, remember that these are all layered key commands which means you will press one key and let go and then very quickly press the other key and let go. Anytime you see a keyboard command without a plus sign, it is a layered key command.

  • Go to Navigation: g n
  • Go to List: g l
  • Go to Details: g d

To move through each section use up and down arrow keys.

Creating a File or Folder

Of course if we are going to use Drive, we will need to know how to create things within our Drive folders. 

To create a new folder, or document or even to upload a file or folder from your computer, you need to use the “New” or “Create” menu. First, go to the location in Drive in which you want to create the item.

Then, open the Create Menu: c

Navigate the menu with up and down arrow keys to select what you would like to create.


Finally, let’s say that you’d like to move a file, or rename it or share it with someone right from Drive. Well, for this you will need the “action” or “context” menu. 

First, focus on a file that you want to move or rename

Then open the “action” menu: a

Finally, navigate the menu with up and down arrow keys to select the option you want.

For Help

Like Gmail, I don’t want to leave you without a place to go for help. If you are in Drive and forget a key command or simply want to learn more, open the keyboard help dialog with the key command Ctrl + /. This will open a dialog box with every key command Drive has to offer.

And with that, you should be ready to get started using Google Drive.

take a look at some

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