What is Grackle and How Can Districts Use It to Increase Accessibility

(Image credit: Grackle)

Grackle is a software designed to help make digital files more accessible. It makes sharing files easier and everyone will be able to open and see anything they're sent.

Grackle Suite is made up of several add-ons that work with Google. These are Grackle Docs, Grackle Sheets, and Grackle Slides. For this reason, Grackle is really useful for an districts or schools that are using G Suite for Education and want to ensure accessibility beyond that platform. That means even those that don't use the Google suite of software will have access.

Grackle will work to make sure everyone can understand a file, including those who require things such as alt-text on images to understand what is being displayed, for example. Grackle also meets many legal requirements for accessibility, but more on that below.

So what is Grackle Suite and how does it work?

What is Grackle Suite?

Grackle Suite is the overarching name for the whole offering. Think of it as Google Drive, and each sub-software as Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Each part is used as an Add-on in Google. So Grackles Docs, works in Google Docs; Grackle Sheets in Google Sheets; and Grackles Slides in - you guessed it - Google Slides. 

From a user perspective though, this will just appear to be working within the software. So you'll open Google Docs as usual to create or edit a document, and Grackle will simply be there working within the usual layout.

In addition to accessibility, having a platform such as Grackle can mitigate the risk of OCR (Office of Civil Rights) complaints in non-government institutions, making it ideal for schools. It does this by meeting the legal requirements for Sections 504, 508, ADA, and Title II compliance in the U.S.

How does Grackle work?

Grackle will highlight any potential accessibility issues and offer ways to fix that problem. This includes multiple checks that happen live in a document as it's being created or as it is opened.

Grackle offers the ability to export to different formats so the file can be opened by another software type. For example, you can create a Google Sheet and export that to HTML so that it can be opened by most web browsers on a computer or even smartphone.

You may load an image, for example, but not add any alt-text. If someone with sight issues were to open the file, there would be no text read out as an audio description alternative. Grackle aims to fix this and many similar issues. 

While Grackle works within Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, it can also be used in Google Drive for a broad audit of all the files stored there with analysis and reporting. 


(Image credit: Grackle)

How does Grackle Docs work?

Grackle Docs will install as an Add-on, which allows you to use it within Google Docs. By doing this, it will automatically carry out 22 different types of check on the document being used. 

The user is then walked through the accessibility issues, similar to how running a spell-checker might flow, before being given ways to fix those problems. Since you're working through the issues with a simple click-and-fix style, you can see and eventually recognize common problems. In the longer term then, there should be fewer issues as the user learns to work in a more accessibility-friendly way.

Common issues include: "Headings should be used," "Tables should be tagged or marked for layout only,"  and "Equations should be described."

How does Grackle Sheets work?

Grackle Sheets works in much the same way, only this time carrying out 12 checks across any work. Table ranges are also automatically defined to ensure the most accessible end result.

Adding alt-text for charts, graphs, or images is made easy. It works across tabs and takes you right to the issue, making it quick and easy to fix problems on even more complex Sheets. 

Common examples of tips are "Tables should have headers," "The use of merged cells is not recommended," and "Charts should have alternate text," to name just a few examples.

How does Grackle Slides work?

The Google Slides Add-on of Grackle will perform 13 checks across files while in editing mode. This expands to image-focused issues such as color contrast, fine print, and individual title as well as alternative text. All that should help to make a Slide more visually and audibly accessible to all.

For group presentations, Grackle works well as it retains all the accessibility in live editing situations that Google Sheets supports. 


(Image credit: Grackle)

How much does Grackle cost?

The Grackle price is broken down into either monthly or yearly charges. This works on a cost per user basis and includes the entire Grackle Suite with Docs, Sheets, and Slides. You also get email support, unlimited access, and team drive support.

Grackle Suite is either $25 per user per month or $180 per user per year.

However, for education specifically, there is a group-licensing option. This offers unlimited user access across a domain and is charged at a flat $500 fee per year.

Luke Edwards is a freelance writer and editor with more than two decades of experience covering tech, science, and health. He writes for many publications covering health tech, software and apps, digital teaching tools, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and much more.