While May 18th may be Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Google constantly works towards digital access and inclusion for the more than one billion people with disabilities worldwide.
Google has launched updates to 5 apps with features that will help people with disabilities quickly and easily accomplish everyday tasks. These tasks include accessing walking directions on Maps, taking selfies, and quickly searching the web.
Look at the recently launched nine features designed for people with disabilities:
Google Rolls Out Nine Accessibility Features
Here are the nine fantastic accessibility features Google has recently rolled out:
1. Wheelchair-accessible information on Google Maps
Since 2020, people have been able to use the wheelchair icon to opt into the Accessible Places feature. They could use it to identify places with wheelchair-accessible entrances and thus avoid stairs or taking elevators.
The icon is now visible to everyone using Maps, even on walking routes. With this feature enabled from route options under the three dots menu, you know the ideal stair-free route to take when required.
This information proves helpful for those using wheelchairs, pushing strollers, and lugging suitcases.
Additional information like wheelchair-accessible seating, restrooms, and parking is available in the ‘About’ tab. And if Google misses providing accessibility information, you can now make contributions. All you need to do is scroll to the ‘About’ tab and select ‘Edit features’ on Android or ‘Update this place’ on IOS.
Thanks to contributions from business owners, the Maps community, and local guides, Google could provide wheelchair accessibility information for more than 40 million businesses internationally, letting users with disabilities plan visits confidently.
2. Google’s Live Caption
Google’s Live Caption is an AI-powered feature that provides real-time captions for all sounds. It has expanded its reach and enhanced its functionality with the latest updates.
Live Caption introduces support for more languages and is now available in French, German, and Italian. It is thus accessible to a broader range of users across the globe. This expansion demonstrates Google’s commitment to providing inclusive products that cater to multilingual audiences.
Enhanced Tablet Experience:
Live Caption now improves the user experience on Android tablets. A new captions box optimizes it and adapts to the larger screen size.
This improved layout ensures that captions remain visible and hidden, enhancing the tablet user experience.
Live Caption for Calls:
A new feature, Live Caption for Calls, makes phone calls more accessible. It allows users to type back responses during phone conversations. These typed responses are then read aloud to the other caller, enabling real-time communication for individuals with hearing impairments.
This feature is particularly beneficial for situations where speaking is difficult or impractical.
The updated Live Caption features are available on Pixel 4 and 5 devices and select Samsung Galaxy phones. Google continues to expand the availability of its accessibility features, ensuring that more people can benefit from the power of technology.
3. Chrome Browser Enhances Accessibility with Typology Detection and Improved TalkBack Features
Google Chrome is committed to providing an inclusive and accessible experience for all users. In a recent update, Chrome has introduced several new features that enhance accessibility for dyslexic individuals, language learners, and those frequently making typos.
- Typology Detection for Effortless Website Navigation
Chrome’s new typology detection feature automatically identifies and corrects typos in website URLs entered into the address bar. This feature simplifies website navigation for users struggling with spelling or keyboard accuracy.
Additionally, Chrome suggests alternative websites based on the corrected URL, further assisting users in reaching their intended destinations.
- Improved TalkBack Functionality for Enhanced Tab Management
Chrome users on Android devices who rely on TalkBack, a screen reader, now benefit from enhanced tab management capabilities. The updated TalkBack interface provides users with a tab grid, enabling them to quickly locate and switch between tabs.
Additionally, TalkBack users can now perform bulk tab actions, reorder tabs, and create tab groups, streamlining their browsing experience.
- Mobile Availability
While the typology detection feature is currently available on Chrome desktops, Google plans to introduce it to mobile devices in the coming months. This expansion will further enhance accessibility for users across all platforms.
Contact ADA Site Compliance today for all your website accessibility needs.
4. Optimized business profiles in Google Maps and Search
Google Maps and Search have a new attribute wherein customers get more details about businesses. With this update, merchants can now self-identify as disabled-owned in their business profile.
This update thus makes people with disabilities feel more comfortable. The respective icon appears on the existing business attributes on Maps and Search and builds upon the business attributes of Black, Latino, Asian, LGBTQ+, veteran, and women-owned businesses.
5. Optimal Use Of Alt Text Descriptions
Content creators generally add alt text descriptions to visuals so that the blind and those with low vision know about the digital image. This applies to images on a website or shared social media images.
However, most images have low-quality or no captions or alt text, making visual information inaccessible to many. AI and Lookout, however, have now resolved the problem.
Google’s Lookout app was designed in 2019 to assist individuals with visual impairments in completing everyday tasks. The new feature ‘Image Question and Answer’ now enhances it.
This feature, currently undergoing testing with a select group of users from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), utilizes advanced visual language models to provide detailed descriptions of images, even those without captions or alt text.
Users can interact with the feature through voice commands or typed questions, enabling them to understand the visual information presented better.
This feature empowers individuals with visual impairments to engage with images more effectively, expanding their ability to navigate the world around them.
- Overcoming Limitations of Captions and Alt Text
The ‘Image Question and Answer’ feature addresses the limitations of traditional image descriptions, such as captions and alt text. These limitations often fail to convey the full context and intricacies of images.
By leveraging advanced visual language models, Lookout can provide more comprehensive and nuanced descriptions. It thus enables users to grasp the essence of the image and ask follow-up questions for further clarification.
- Expanding Accessibility
Google is committed to making Lookout’s new feature widely accessible to the blind and low-vision community. After the initial testing phase, the company plans to roll out the feature to a broader user base. This move empowers more individuals with visual impairments to engage with and understand the visual world around them.
6. Lens on Maps – The New Live View on Maps
Google makes it easier for those with vision disabilities to access Search with Live View on Maps. It’s through added screen reader capabilities that AI and AR (augmented reality) work at helping users locate points of interest like grocery stores and clinics in new neighborhoods.
Users can use their phone’s camera for assistance in orienting with the map and for specific directions, guidance, and distance to the location. These added screen reader capabilities also provide auditory feedback to blind users or those with low vision.
All you need to do is ‘tap the camera icon in the search bar and lift your phone’ to get the name, category of place, and your live distance to your location.
While the feature is now available in iOS Maps, Android support will be ready later this year.
7. Google Unveils Customizable Assistant Routines Empowering Users with Diverse Needs
Google is expanding the capabilities of its Google Assistant, introducing new customization features for Assistant routines. These enhancements help users with cognitive differences and disabilities, providing a more personalized and accessible experience.
Action Blocks: A Gateway to Personalized Routines
At the heart of these customization options lies the introduction of Action Blocks. Action Blocks are modular elements that allow users to tailor Assistant routines to their specific preferences and needs.
With Action Blocks, users can:
- Select a Shortcut Style: Choose from various shortcut styles, like icons, images, or text labels, to suit their visual preferences and cognitive abilities.
- Customize with Personal Images: Replace default images with personal photographs or illustrations to enhance recognition and add a touch of individuality to their routines.
- Adjust Size for Home Screen Optimization: Resize Action Blocks to fit their home screen layout, ensuring easy accessibility and visibility.
These customization options address the diverse needs of individuals with cognitive differences, enabling them to create Assistant routines that align with their unique preferences and abilities.
For instance, users with visual impairments can opt for larger Action Blocks with high-contrast icons or text labels. Similarly, those with learning disabilities can utilize personalized images to enhance recognition and recall.
The introduction of Action Blocks extends beyond accessibility. It provides a valuable tool for all users to personalize their Assistant routines. By offering a range of customization options, Google empowers users to express their individuality and create routines that seamlessly integrate into their daily lives.
8. Pixel Phones Now Come With A New Magnifier App
Google now has a new Magnifier app for Pixel phones. With this feature, members of the low-vision community can use the phone camera to zoom in and see something better. Just as if they were using a physical magnifying glass.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People and the National Federation of the Blind developed the app to help members of the low-vision community in many ways.
It helps users:
- Read small text on menus and documents.
- View street signs from a distance.
- Adjust color filter controls, brightness, and contrast for better legibility of images.
- Watch distant onstage performers.
- Read continuously changing signs like flight information by freezing images.
The app is available on the Google Play Store for Pixel 5 and newer models, while Pixel 6 or newer phone users use Guided Frame. This is a feature where low-vision community members can take pictures with the help of audio cues, high-contrast animations, and haptic (tactile) feedback.
The Guided Frame also recognizes more than human faces, letting you use your front and rear cameras to click photos of pets, dinner, and even text on documents.
9. Wear Os 4 To Get New Accessibility Updates
You can now gear up for enhanced accessibility features with the upcoming Wear OS 4 update. Building on the recent introduction of two new sound and display modes, Wear OS 4 promises an even more seamless experience with a faster, more reliable text-to-speech feature.
Google’s Continual Commitment to Inclusive Technology
These enhancements are part of Google’s ongoing commitment to creating inclusive products that empower people with disabilities to quickly and confidently navigate the digital world.
Google’s commitment to accessibility extends beyond these specific features. The company continuously invests in research and development to identify and address accessibility barriers, ensuring its products and services are accessible to the broadest possible audience.
Moreover, Google actively engages with the disability community, collaborating with individuals and organizations to gather feedback and incorporate it into its product development process.
This collaborative approach ensures that the accessibility features created by Google genuinely address the needs and preferences of the disability community.
Contact ADA Site Compliance today for all your website accessibility needs.
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The ADA prohibits any private businesses that provide goods or services to the public, referred to as “public accommodations,” from discriminating against those with disabilities. Federal courts have ruled that the ADA includes websites in the definition of public accommodation. As such, websites must offer auxiliary aids and services to low-vision, hearing-impaired, and physically disabled persons, in the same way a business facility must offer wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and sign language interpreters, among other forms of assistance.
All websites must be properly coded for use by electronic screen readers that read aloud to sight-impaired users the visual elements of a webpage. Additionally, all live and pre-recorded audio content must have synchronous captioning for hearing-impaired users.
Websites must accommodate hundreds of keyboard combinations, such as Ctrl + P to print, that people with disabilities depend on to navigate the Internet.
Litigation continues to increase substantially. All business and governmental entities are potential targets for lawsuits and demand letters. Recent actions by the Department of Justice targeting businesses with inaccessible websites will likely create a dramatic increase of litigation risk.
Big box retailer Target Corp. was ordered to pay $6 million – plus $3.7 million more in legal costs – to settle a landmark class action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind. Other recent defendants in these cases have included McDonald’s, Carnival Cruise Lines, Netflix, Harvard University, Foot Locker, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with these large companies, thousands of small businesses have been subject to ADA website litigation.
Defendants in ADA lawsuits typically pay plaintiff's legal fees, their own legal fees for defending the litigation, and potential additional costs. In all, the average cost can range from tens of thousands of dollars, to above six figures. There are also high intangible costs, such as added stress, time and human capital, as well as reputational damage. Furthermore, if the remediation is incomplete, copycat suits and serial filers can follow, meaning double or triple the outlay. It's vital to implement a long-term strategy for ensuring your website is accessible and legally compliant.