In recent years, the digital landscape has seen a commendable evolution in terms of inclusivity. Leading the charge in many respects is Google. Committed to making its products useful for everyone, the tech giant has continuously rolled out accessibility features to ensure that even those with disabilities can seamlessly use its offerings.
Web Browsing Accessibility
Google Chrome: The latest WebAim Screenreader Survey revealed that Chrome was the most popular browser amongst screen reader users. The browser supports both screen readers and magnification tools. Users can also customize their web-viewing experience with different extensions to better suit their needs such as adjusting the colours and general styling of the page.
Voice Search: Now available across mobile and web, Voice search is the speech recognition tool that allows you to search the web using voice input. Available across many Google services, this tool allows users to conduct searches, compose messages, or give commands without typing, which is particularly helpful for users with motor impairments and cognitive impairments.
Live Caption: This feature uses machine learning to produce captions for videos in real-time while using Chrome. This benefits those who are hearing impaired when they encounter audible media that hasn’t had Closed Captioning added, for example when streaming live sports events.
Voice Access: For those who can’t touch a screen due to paralysis or other motor issues such as tremors that make operating a mobile device difficult, Voice Access offers full phone control using just spoken commands. This area of mobile accessibility needs work, as many users have reported bugs and delayed reactions. However Google seems to be committed to the improvement of it’s voice recognition technologies as they become ever more popular across users.
Sound Amplifier: By reducing background noise and enhancing the audio, this feature helps those with hearing impairments to hear more clearly.
Live Transcribe: This app transcribes real-world conversations in real-time, making them accessible for those with hearing impairments. This is particularly helpful in situations where there are group conversations happening. For example, if a person who is hard of hearing is sat at a table in a restaurant, they can use Live Transcribe to understand what multiple people are saying. It’s not perfect yet in terms of picking everything up, but a great tool for now while on the go.
Magnification and Font Adjustments: These features in Android allow users to zoom in or adjust the font size for easier viewing.
Switch Access: This lets users interact with their Android device using a switch device, which allows users with physical or cognitive impairments to use their mobiles without touching the screen.
Lookout: Using your phones camera, Lookout helps users to complete daily tasks like identifying food labels (including a nifty option to change the country if you’re travelling and looking at different languages) and announcing the text for you, such as reading documents in Lookout’s document mode, and describing images that don’t have alt text using Lookout’s image mode.
One other notable mention is the way Google Nest and Google Home are adding tools to improve accessibility. On a recent visit to the Google Accessibility labs, we were shown a ‘doorbell’ feature that works to alert people who are hard of hearing that they may have a delivery by using a light flashing on their device or haptic feedback on their other devices such as their mobile or wearables.
Google’s commitment to accessibility is evident in its suite of tools and features from wearables, to mobile, home and web based products that all work synchronously together. While some of their products still need refining, they rely heavily on the feedback they receive from users to improve and iterate their inclusive technology. Ultimately through this feedback and iteration process it should stand them in good stead for offering a top quality, holistic group of accessible products for the future.
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