Google unveiled a series of accessibility products and feature updates on Thursday to commemorate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). The day involves raising awareness about digital accessibility, which means that individuals with “a disability must be able to experience web-based services, content and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities.” The Mountain View, California-based tech giant said that the products and features introduced were built by and for people with disabilities.
Among the new features and updates introduced, is Live Captions being made accessible widely. More users can now use Live Captions on Chrome, Android, and Google Meet applications to generate real-time captions. Live Captions for calls will also enable users to type their responses on call, that will then be read aloud to the other caller. The company is also testing a “caption box” feature for Android tablets.
The company has combined AI and DeepMind to update the Lookout app that was launched in 2019 to help the visually impaired community by allowing users to add alt text to images. The Image Q&A feature will be capable of describing images whether the original content contains alt texts and captions or not.
With the Lookout update, users can also ask for additional information about the image by either typing or using voice commands. Google is also testing the feature with a limited number of people from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and is planning to roll it out widely by the end of the year.
Chrome for Android can now detect typos in URLs and make relevant suggestions with the latest update. Already available for Chrome desktop users, this feature will gradually roll out to Android users over the next few months. With a new update to the Google TalkBack feature, Chrome for Android will aim to make managing tabs easier for people with disabilities. The feature can now help in organising tab lists in grid formats, and also allow functions like reordering, bulk tab actions, and tab groups.
Google Maps also received a Wheelchair-accessibility update, which makes the wheelchair accessibility icon more prominent by default. To further enhance this feature, Google is collaborating with business owners, local guides, and the Maps community all over the world. The new updates also include a faster and more reliable text-to-speech feature that will be a part of Wear OS 4, which was announced at the Google I/O 2023 event.