Google’s business practices have typically been very inclusive, and it’s in that spirit that the company has written a blog post highlighting a number of new accessibility features for Chrome OS, Android, and several of its web apps.
“It’s so important to build tools to make technology accessible to everyone,” writes Google. “From people with visual impairments who need screen readers or larger text, to people with motor restrictions that prevent them from interacting with a touch screen, to people with hearing impairments who cannot hear their device’s sounds.”
Here’s a quick rundown through some of those features that Google highlighted.
Developers can now take advantage of the new Accessibility Scanner to test their own applications for accessibility. The tool will offer suggestions for how developers could improve their applications, like adding larger buttons where applicable, or increasing the contrast between text for those with visual impairments. You can even download the application from the Google Play Store to see whether the apps you've installed on your device meet the accessibility criteria.
Those of you running the Android N developer preview can test out the new Vision Settings, which pops up on the Welcome screen of a freshly reset Android device. The Vision Settings let you control screen magnification, font and display size, and TalkBack, the feature that literally dictates every tap and swipe you make with your Android device.
Lastly on Android, there’s the Voice Access Beta, which allows users with difficulty touching a touchscreen to control their Android device with just their voice. It sounds impressive. Google says you can speak commands like “open Chrome” or “go Home” to navigate around the interface. You can even tell the device to “click next” or “scroll down.” Theoretically you can sign up for the beta here, but it’s currently at capacity.
Chromebook users can now opt into the ChromeVox Next Beta to see what’s up and coming with Chrome’s built-in screen reader. The new version include a simplified keyboard shortcut model, a new caption panel to display speech and Braille output, and a new set of navigation sounds. You can install it and try it out for yourself here.
On the web, you can try out the new typing, editing, and voice formatting abilities for Google Docs. This makes it easier for those who can’t use a touchscreen to edit documents, but it’s also useful if you’re particularly keen on dictation to pen your prose.
Why this matters: Accessibility in technology means designing to accommodate all users, regardless of their physical abilities. Google has been a major proponent of user accessibility from the beginning, but it’s been particularly focused on the subject since December, when the company announced the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities. Today’s announcement is likely an update on what’s been going on behind the scenes to ensure that this particular Impact Challenge is met.