Google has a variety of resources that discuss the accessibility of Gmail. The following page provides an overview of some of Gmail’s key features aimed to ensure email content is recognizable to screen readers.
Google offers two ways for users to look at an email: Gmail Standard HTML View and Gmail Basic HTML View. Both views are compatible with screen readers. However, each view has distinct features that may or may not benefit a screen reader user.
Standard HTML View
This is the default view for Gmail. This view enables various functions and features in Gmail such as spell checker, chat, keyboard function, and formatting emails. This view is compatible with screen readers; however, to enhance their access experience in this view, a screen reader user must enable Gmail keyboard shortcuts. In addition, depending on the browser used, some of the additional Gmail features may be difficult to use for screen reader users.
Basic HTML View
Basic HTML view is Gmail’s most simplistic view that is primarily useful for users who have use old web browsers. Basic HTML view removes the following Gmail features: keyboard shortcuts, rich formatting, chat, spell checker, and importing contacts. This view is also compatible with screen readers, and it is recommended for users with low vision because it strips out all the formatting and makes it easier to read and receive emails.
The following resources provide instructions on how to switch between Gmail views:
Google has developed google-specific keyboard shortcuts that allow for better navigation of Gmail inbox and messages and ensure a better reading experience with a screen reader. For instructions to turn on keyboard shortcuts and for a list of all shortcuts visit Keyboard shortcuts for Gmail.
Users can format their emails by adjusting the fonts, color, and other formatting options. When sending an email, the sender can emphasize text through bold, color or italics.
To format your email:
- On your computer, open Gmail.
- Click Compose.
- At the bottom of the message, click Formatting options
To learn how to format and set default styles in Gmail, go to the Formatting, fonts and colors page.
There are a variety of high contrast themes that may make it easier for users with visual impairments customize Gmail to suit their needs. Some themes even allow users to change the text background, images, or adjust the blur settings. Refer to the Gmail themes page for instructions on how to change themes.
Users can also change the button icons and symbols displayed in an inbox and email to text. This is helpful to users with low vision or users who have difficulties interpreting the icons. For instructions on how to change the icons and symbols go to Gmail’s Buttons in your Gmail toolbar page.
Google allows users to disable images that are automatically displayed in inboxes. This is beneficial for users that have a slow internet connection or who do not want to use their mobile data. Go to Choose whether to show images to learn how to disable images.