Chris Ashton

dai11y 09/09/2021

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Google Announces Seismic Change to Docs

  • A WebAIM article talking about the May announcement by Google that it would switch to canvas-based rendering for Google Docs. The “current HTML-based rendering approach” has inconsistencies across platforms, and performance issues, which can be addressed by switching to canvas.
  • Google claims “compatibility for supported assistive technologies such as screen readers, braille devices, and screen magnification features, will not be impacted by the canvas-based rendering change”. No technical approach is outlined in the announcement, but there have been discussions of leveraging a “hidden” DOM through the Accessibility Object Model (AOM).
  • The WebAIM article has a section on “Accessibility Community Feedback” which highlights concerns from the community. An interesting point is that developers look up to Google and try to emulate how they do things, so this change could cause third party sites to switch to canvas based rendering with little regard for the screen reader experience.
  • As of mid August, there is no update on a timeline for when the changes will be rolled out. The proof of concept released by Google has only “rudimentary assistive technology support” and “significant improvements” will be needed before it is up to par.

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