Gmail has ended Basic HTML mode for screen reader users, what should I do?

Gmail User Interface

by Joe Lonergan

Since late January 2024, Gmail has discontinued basic HTML mode which many screen reader users loved because of its easy navigation with screen reader keystrokes. This forced users who use Gmail on a browser to use the standard version of Gmail which is not that screen reader friendly without adjusting some settings.

Now, my preferred way of reading and using my Gmail account is using an e-mail client such as Microsoft Outlook or the Apple Mail app. A client is an application installed on your laptop, PC, or mobile device that assists in sending and receiving emails, organising them into useful folders, and efficiently handling keystrokes.

For example, in Outlook  you can compose a new mail by pressing control + N

Reply to a mail using Control + R

Forward a mail with Control + F

So, you get the idea, a client is our preferred option, and if you need help setting up your e-mail client to receive your Gmail, send an e-mail to [email protected] or call 1800 911 110.

If you want to continue using Gmail in Standard View with the browser, you can make some adjustments to the standard view to make it easier for screen readers to navigate and make it feel a bit more like using the basic HTML view.

Turn on Compact View

This can be better for magnification and screen reader users.

In the top header, to open the “Quick settings” menu, tab to the “Settings” button and press Enter.

When “Quick settings” is open, tab to the radio buttons and choose “Compact”.

Well, that is a good start now everything looks a little bit more compacted and not as overloaded with information.

Turn off the Reading Pane

When you are navigating through your conversation list, the reading pane is turned on, but to improve responsiveness and navigation you might be better it off. To turn it off do the following:

While in Gmail, open Settings, tab or shift-tab until you hear more settings

In the Inbox tab:

  1. Tab to the “Enable reading pane” checkbox.
  2. Press Space to uncheck.

Turn off importance markers

If you leave importance markers on, the importance status is announced in Standard view and adds an extra checkbox to the conversation list. Since importance markers weren’t announced in the Basic HTML view due to default punctuation level reading, you may want to turn them off.

In the “Inbox” tab:

  1. Tab to the “Show markers” radio button.
  2. To select “No markers,” press the down arrow.

Save changes

After you update your Inbox settings, press Tab to the “Save changes” button and press Enter. Focus returns to the Gmail conversation list.

Now your Gmail experience on your browser should look similar to what you are used to in the basic HTML mode.

To summarise, our first and preferred option is to use an email client like Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail, but if that is not an option try adjusting the settings to your own personal preference in the Gmail settings as mentioned above.

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