Saturday, October 8, 2016

21 Chrome Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs

Technology can be a powerful tool to assist students with special needs or any sort of learning challenge. In particular the Chrome web browser allows users to install a wide variety of web extensions that provide tools that can help all learners, regardless of ability level.

In this blog post we will take a look at 21 Chrome web extensions that can assist students in five main categories:
  • Text to Speech
  • Readability
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Focus
  • Navigation

Some of the tools fit into more than one topic, but each is only listed once. Certainly this list does not cover all of the useful web extensions available for struggling learners, but it is a great place to begin. In addition to the list of extension, I have also linked in the video and help guide from a webinar I did a while back on "Google Tools for Special Needs".

Text to Speech extensions

1) Read&Write for Google Chrome
Chrome web extension link
The "Swiss Army Knife" of extensions with tools including word prediction, dictionary, picture dictionary, text to speech, screenshot reader, speech maker, screen mask, translator, highlighters, voice note, and more. Works on webpages, PDFs, Google Docs, and Google Slides.
Note: There is a paid version with all the tools and a free version with a subset of the tools. Educators can get the paid version for a year at no cost by filling out the form at:

2) SpeakIt!
Chrome web extension link
This text to speech tool will read aloud any selected text from a website, with the options to adjust the voice, speed, and volume.

3) Announcify
Chrome web extension link
This is another text to speech tool that not only reads a webpage, but also removes distracting elements from the site. The only drawback is the inability to select specific text to read, as the entire page is read aloud.

Readability extensions

4) Readability
Chrome web extension link
Make any website easier to read by removing ads, comments, and all other distractions, so just the core content remains. Users can also adjust the font size and color scheme of the new text.

5) OpenDyslexic
Chrome web extension link
Override all fonts on a webpage with the OpenDyslexic font, making the text more easily readable.

6) BeeLine Reader
Chrome web extension link
This tool creates a more readable version of a web page by removing all the ads, comments, and other extra distracting items, and then applies a color gradient to the page text guide your eye from one line to the next. (Limit of 5 articles per day for free version.)

7) ATbar
Chrome web extension link
Toolbar with features including color overlays for webpages, dictionary, text to speech, word prediction, and more.

8) MagicScroll Web Reader
Chrome web extension link
Turn web pages into a flippable e-book with easy clickable or keyboard control, as well as control over font size and page color as well.

9) Readline
Chrome web extension link
Although originally designed as a speed reading tool, you can slow the WPM rate down so students can use this to focus on one word at a time when reading to not lose their place.

10) Visor
Chrome web extension link
This screen overlay tool darkens out the page except for a horizontal band you can move up and down as you read, helping the student focus.

11) High Contrast
Chrome web extension link
This tool can make webpages easier to read by changing the colors to increase contrast, invert the colors, or switch to gray-scale.

12) Color Enhancer
Chrome web extension link
For people who are partially color-blind, this tool can help adjust and improve webpage colors.

Reading Comprehension extensions

13) Google Dictionary
Chrome web extension link
Don't get stuck on an unknown word. Double-click on any word to get a pop-up definition, as well as spoken pronunciation for many words.

14) sentiSum:Smart Summarizer
Chrome web extension link
This extension takes an entire webpage and create a short summary in a few sentences to give the reader a quick overview of the content.

Focus extensions

15) Simple Blocker
Chrome web extension link
This tool helps students to stay focused on their work by blocking distracting websites. The user can choose the sites to block, how long to block them, and optional password protection.

16) uBlock Origin
Chrome web extension link
A simple but powerful ad-blocking extension to help remove distracting ads from websites, making pages less cluttered and easier to read.

17) Move It
Chrome web extension link
For students who need a break, this extension can be set to periodically have them stop working and do something physical for a moment.

Navigation extensions

18) Click-free Browsing
Chrome web extension link
For users who have a difficulty clicking a mouse, this extension adds on-screen navigation buttons the user can simply hover over to use.

19) Vimium
Chrome web extension link
Provides keyboard shortcuts for navigation and control for someone with difficulty using a mouse.

20) CrxMouse
Chrome web extension link
Use mouse gestures to navigate including forward, backward, scrolling, refreshing, switching tabs, and more. The user can even program their own custom mouse gestures to open programs and perform other tasks.

21) Caret Browsing
Chrome web extension link
This extension gives you a movable cursor in any web page, allowing you to move through the text with your arrows keys and select text with the keyboard.

Additional Resources

Video training webinar (1 hour)

Help Guide - "Google Tools for Special Needs" - Google Document link

What other Chrome web extensions have you found that can assist students with special needs and struggling learners? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at and on Google+ at


  1. Unfortunately, Readability closed last month. I miss it every time I hit the backtick (`) key.

    1. Ryan, Readability only shut down their bookmarking service, not the page clean up feature, which I am featuring in the post. Here's their statement "First, the Readability Reader API, which saves bookmark information for reading later, and which almost no one uses, will be shut down at the end of September. Second, the vastly more popular Readability Parser API, which extracts article content from web pages, will continue to run and will improve."

    2. Awesome! I uninstalled the extension when I read the announcement. Reading comprehension failure for me...

  2. Fabulous list. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Fabulous list. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thanks for sharing such unique information

  5. I'm going to share with our Tech.Teacher and our Special Ed.Teachers!!

  6. Great list. Can't wait to implement some of these extensions. Thank you so much for compiling and sharing.

  7. I signed up for the teacher's free year, but how do I get it for my students? Last year we used the 30 day sampler, and the kids loved it!

  8. A perfect tool for those people who have some disabilities that they can still do some tasks that normal human being can also do. From this, they will still be productive into their work or into their studies.

  9. I am desperately looking for an app for math. I want something where the student can use the Chromebook as math paper but do NOT want the app to do the computation. This would be for students with writing and motor impairments. I have seen older programs that I can no longer get or apps for apple products but can't seem to find one for Chrome! Help please! Thanks.