For the past six months, I’ve been using a Samsung Chromebook Plus and I am still impressed with this great accessible device.
One note, my comments and use are based on someone who is blind. A Chromebook is also very useful to others, especially someone who doesn’t need the complexity of a Windows PC. A Chromebook has Accessibility built in, but if it isn’t needed, you don’t have to turn it on.
First, its not for everyone. For those who might not know, a Chromebook is a small laptop that is running a version of Google’s Chrome browser as its operating system, ChromeOS.
It also runs Android apps, which just adds to the many things one can do with a Chromebook. For the Android apps, it uses Android’s screen reader, Talkback. ChromeOS has its own built-in screen reader, ChromeVox.
Both are easy to use on a Chromebook and its easy to get, or interact with a list of keyboard commands.
These aren’t the same commands that one might use with PC screen readers such as NVDA or Jaws, but that is because this is a Chromebook and not a computer running Windows.
This is why there is a learning curve involved but there always are things to learn with a new or different device. The keystrokes are very logical and easy to use.
One item that is different is the modifier key. On a Windows PC using NVDA for example, you would hold the insert key then press another key. In ChromeVox it is the search key, which you might know better on a regular keyboard for a PC as the caps lock key.
One easy method for navigating a web page using ChromeVox is to hold the search key and use the 4 arrow, or cursor keys. Yes, those keys exist on a Chromebook too. One can simply navigate by heading by pressing search and h. You can move to the next button on a web page with search b. Pressing search shift and h will move you to the previous heading, search shift b will move you to the previous button. This is what I mean by saying the keyboard shortcuts are logical.
If you forget the shortcut or just want to explore the list of ChromeVox shortcuts, press search and period. You’ll be in a list you can explore and will hear what the keyboard shortcut does, along with the keys to press. You can also just hit enter on an item in the list to perform that shortcut. That option is great for those times you remember that there is a shortcut that does what you want, but its one of those things you don’t need to do often enough to remember the command.
I have changed how I use my Chromebook since I got it & took it out of the box. At first I wanted to try different Android apps and experience the differences in using an app on the Chromebook versus using the same Android app on my phone. As time passed and I got more comfortable using a Chromebook, I uninstalled some of the apps for Twitter, email, and other social type apps. My Chromebook has now turned into a device I can go to when I need or want time away from news, tweets, and just have some me time. I can of course go to gmail.com in the Chrome browser to read or send mail, there’s just nothing bothering me that I have five new email messages or three new mentions. When I’m using my Chromebook with headphones or a headset plugged in, all of that stuff can just wait.
Just like many things I can choose how I do things. Using the Chrome browser I can go to Netflix and watch a show. I can also install the Android Netflix app and watch something that way. It gives me freedom to do things my way, after all, as I mentioned earlier, its a great way to have some me time.
The Samsung Chromebook Plus has two USB C ports, a standard headphone jack, and a MicroSD card slot. It has built in WiFi and thanks to the variety of things one can do with a USB C port, I use a Ethernet or wired network connection. There are many things you can add using USB C to add options to how you use a Chromebook. I also have a hub which has three standard USB ports and a Ethernet port. That makes it easy to use a wired USB headset and connect a flash drive, external hard drive or other devices and only use one of the two USB C ports on this Chromebook.
So if there are things you usually do or are willing to do in a browser, a Chromebook might be for you. The same extensions for Chrome on your PC are available for Chrome on a Chromebook. I use LastPass, U Block Orgin, and other extensions on the Chromebook too. One of the nice features, if you use Chrome on your PC, its super easy to sync your settings, extensions, and bookmarks between the two devices.
I’m very happy with the accessibility, general use and features of this Chromebook. It gets frequent updates to the OS, doesn’t have the problem of a virus or malware one might get on a PC and if should anything ever mess up your Chromebook it has a Power Wash feature which very quickly resets your Chromebook to factory defaults. Once you sign in again, all of your settings are there.
You can have multiple users, each person can have things their way, without it messing with anyone Else’s perfect layout and preferences.
There are allot of online tutorials, guides, and support for Chromebooks. Lots of other Chromebook users willing to help. So even though you might use a Chromebook for “my time” you don’t have to be alone if you need some help.
There are many great resources online, a simple Google search will likely find what you need, but here is one of many places to help you get started.