The accessibility team at Google at the 28th annual CSUN International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference this week --shared a few of the improvements and updates made to Google Apps, Chrome and Android to create a better overall experience for blind and low-vision users.
"We're focused on the use of accessibility APIs that will make it easier for third-party developers to create accessible web applications, as well as pushing the state of the art forward with technologies like speech recognition and text-to-speech," wrote Engineering Lead, at Google Accessibility.
Here's what's new:
Chrome and Google Apps
- Chrome OS now supports text-to-speech voice (U.S. English). Additionally, Google also made Chromebook and Chromebox setup easier for users with accessibility needs with making the "spoken feedback, along with screen magnification and high-contrast mode" available out-of-the-box.
- Latest Chrome stable now support Web Search API. Also, demostrated at the CSUN, is ReadNow--a fully integrated ebook reader for users with print disabilities using the API.
- Gmail's new HTML5 ARIA backed navigation interface enables blind and low-vision users to effectively navigate using a set of keyboard commands.
- Content can be accessed by using a keyboard in Google Drive--"for example, you can navigate a list of files with just the arrow keys. In Docs, you can access features using the keyboard, with a new way to search menu and toolbar options. New keyboard shortcuts and verbalization improvements also make it easier to use Docs, Sheets and Slides with a screenreader," explains Google.
- Finally, a new Help Center Guide for blind and low-vision users ease the transition to using Google Apps.
New in Android:
- Android 4.1 Jelly Bean adds Braille support, making it easier to read and edit documents, and TalkBack with Docs and Sheets to edit on the go.
(Note, Latest release of TalkBack includes several highly-requested features like structured browsing of web content and the ability to easily suspend/resume TalkBack via an easy-to-use radial menu.)
- Jelly Beans' Gesture Mode lets you navigate the UI using touch and swipe gestures in combination with speech output.
- Android 4.2 has in-built screen magnification--enabl "Magnification gestures," then triple tap to enter full screen magnification.
In other Google news, Google Translate now support "drag and drop" links--"a big yellow box at the bottom of the Translate page received the link for translation.
In addition, using Chrome you can even drag and drop pages that are already loaded in a different tab. Additionally, you can select some text from a page and drag it to the input box. If instant translation is enabled, you don't even need to click "Translate".
Finally, Google Translate also has some cool features "not yet publicly released" that include: "a text-to-speech" feature that allow you to select the dialect for languages like English, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese; "a phrasebook" feature that help you learn some useful phrases and words in a variety of foreign languages; and the "dictionary view."
Update 03/02: Google begun rolling out two new accessibility improvements in Hangouts:
a Sign Language Interpreter app, and a fuller set of keyboard shortcuts.
a Sign Language Interpreter app, helps deaf or hard of hearing users who prefer sign language can invite interpreters to speak and sign for them during a Hangout. "They'll always see their interpreter at the top right of the window, and they'll become the focus of the Hangout whenever their interpreter speaks for them," informs Google in a G+ post.
The app is available at this link.
a fuller set of Keyboard shortcuts are now available in Hangouts -- are great for people who can't or don't want to use a mouse during the video chat. "For example: muting your microphone is now as simple as Ctrl+D (PC) or Command+D (Mac), and you can start chatting with Ctrl+B (PC) or Command+B (Mac)," google explains.
To view the full list of keyboard shortcuts just type '?' while in a Hangout, or visit this page.