In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), Google is unveiling a range of new accessibility features for its products and services. These enhancements are designed to make Google’s offerings more accessible to individuals with disabilities, ensuring inclusivity and equal access to information and technology. Let’s explore some of the key features introduced by Google.
Expanding Live Caption to Android Tablets
One of the most significant accessibility features introduced by Google is the expansion of Live Caption to more Android devices. Live Caption provides real-time captioning for audio content, including videos, podcasts, and phone calls. This feature proves especially beneficial for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as those who find themselves in noisy environments.
Starting this summer, Google will expand the availability of Live Caption to include Android tablets. This update will introduce a new captions box, enabling users to enjoy real-time captions across a wider range of devices. Furthermore, Live Caption will be compatible with phone calls, allowing users to type their responses and have them read back to the person on the other end. Initially available on the latest Pixel devices, this functionality will soon be extended to the Pixel 4, Pixel 5, and additional Android devices like Samsung Galaxy phones.
Enhancing Google Lookout for Digital Images
In a bid to assist the blind and low-vision community, Google is making improvements to Lookout, an application that utilizes a device’s camera to identify and describe objects using AI. The latest enhancement focuses on digital images, a task previously relying on alt text added to uploaded images. However, alt text is not consistently provided for all online images.
The updated Lookout app will introduce “Image Q&A mode,” allowing users to obtain descriptions and answers to questions about digital images. While currently in closed beta, Google has announced plans to expand access to this feature in the near future. This enhancement promises to provide visually impaired users with a more comprehensive and independent experience when engaging with digital content.
Identifying Accessible Places with Google Maps
Google is also improving the accessibility of Google Maps, making it easier for individuals with disabilities to locate accessible destinations. By default, Maps now displays accessible locations, enabling users to identify wheelchair-accessible businesses, venues with accessible parking, and other essential features for people with disabilities. This enhancement ensures that individuals can find and navigate to places that meet their accessibility needs more efficiently.
Better Text-to-Speech on Wear OS
As previously announced during Google I/O, Wear OS 4 is on its way, accompanied by a range of new features. Among these is an improved text-to-speech experience, promising faster and more reliable performance. This enhancement will benefit users who rely on text-to-speech capabilities, enhancing the overall accessibility and usability of Wear OS devices.
Preventing URL Typos with Chrome
Chrome on desktop now includes a feature that detects incorrect URLs and suggests the correct ones. This functionality, aimed at users with dyslexia, language disabilities, or those prone to making typos, helps prevent errors and improves the browsing experience. The capability is expected to roll out to mobile devices in the coming months, further enhancing accessibility across different platforms.
Furthermore, TalkBack on Chrome for Android has recently received new functionality, enabling users to easily manage and organize their browser tabs through a tab grid, bulk actions, and reordering features. These additions improve navigation and control for users with visual impairments or those who require assistive technologies.
Google’s Commitment to Accessibility
These new accessibility features highlight Google’s dedication to creating a more inclusive digital world. While specifically designed to support individuals with disabilities, these enhancements can also benefit able-bodied users, providing a more convenient and accessible experience for all. Google’s continued efforts to improve and advance these features demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and equal access to technology, ensuring that accessibility will remain a priority in the future.