Chromebooks aren't accessible - a five-year-old bug

by @edent | , , , | 5 comments | Read ~3,137 times.

I was in need of a new laptop, so I bought a cheap ChromeBook - mostly because Amazon could deliver it the same day. Sadly, the trackpad was broken. Before I sent it back, I thought I'd try using a mouse with it. That's when I discovered that accessibility is very much a second thought for all the young and healthy people Google employ.

I have RSI and use a vertical mouse. After decades of regular left-clicking, my index finger is worn out. So I use a thumb button to click. Changing the order of mouse buttons is supported in all modern operating systems. Evoluent - the manufacturer of my mouse - also provide a handy tool for Windows and Mac so that I can set the mouse buttons up just the way I like them. I've written a guide for how to do it on Linux.

But with a ChromeBook? No. The message being put out is that Google doesn't want unhealthy people using its products.

I plugged my mouse in, and tried to change the button order. There's no way to do so. No hidden flag, no extension, no catering for abnormal people.

This isn't a new problem. A bug was raised FIVE years ago.

My favourite responses from Googlers to that bug are:

Technically it's not hard, it's just a question of UI work.

So it'll come along quickly?

Chrome has always aimed to minimize UI, as these features add up.

Ugh! Such a hassle to create something useable!

It's clearly a power-user feature

Yay! My super-power is pain in my index finger. I'm sure Professor Xavier will invite me to his special school for mutants any day now...

It's 2019. It is unacceptable to release a product which isn't accessible. Google is one of the most powerful companies on the planet, it employs some of the most talented people I know. But there seems to be no way to prompt them into fixing old accessibility bugs. Perhaps a ranty blog post will push things along?

5 thoughts on “Chromebooks aren't accessible - a five-year-old bug

  1. Duggie says:

    I doubt your blog post will change things soon. 🙁 But... including a 45 second rant at the end of every talk you give might just have the desired effect in a more timely manner! 🙂

  2. npc says:

    Modify the mouse... Cut two traces and add two jumper wires. It gives you a reason to break out a soldering iron.

  3. Vegas Vic says:

    I've been programming since the Commodore PET.

    Supporting remapped buttons is trivial even in 8 bit assembly language.

    They're just lazy/incompetant.

    A good design would include it from the start.

  4. Nikki says:

    AMEN. In addition to this issue, my dealbreaker is that currently Chromebooks don’t come with a 17″, 17.3″ or larger screen….. I’ve had several eye problems since I was 6 years old. I’ve had to stick with a Windows laptop all this time. I guess I should say, “GO WINDOWS?!” (I even wish I could get something bigger that is affordable!)

    I went into progressive lens before age 40 briefly from using a 13″ laptop screen almost all day on my job! I had to quit that job for my health in no time flat. It’s a NO, NO, & a FLIPPING HELL NO!

  5. I can’t use a normal mouse any more, and I’ve just accepted that most of the buttons on my vertical mouse won’t work. Now I know that this is just a small technical issue.

    Where do I sign up to sue Google? @Google @ThinkwithGoogle @GoogleOSS @googlechrome @ChromebookHQ

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