Google adds accessibility touches to Chrome OS and Android

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Google Android Both the internet and touchscreen tablets have empowered millions of people across the world, providing them with unparalleled access to information and opportunities to connect with peers. But it's not so revolutionary for those with visual impairments. 

This is not an issue that's escaped the attention of search giant Google. It has been showing off some of its efforts that the Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego, this week.

It has said that its Chrome OS, which is used to power its range of Chromebook machines, now supports text-to-speech capabilities – at least for English speakers to begin with – along with a slew of adjustments to make the screen legible for those with less-than perfect eyesight.

Meanwhile, Google had added Braille support to its Android 4.1 smartphone OS, and has recently expanded support for Braille in Google Drive for Android, ensuring visually impaired users can read and edit documents on the go.

Elsewhere, a forthcoming release of its Talkback app, which adds spoken audible and vibration feedback to let vision-impaired users get more from their handsets, will be beefing up its support for structured browsing of web content.

“These updates to Chrome, Google Apps, and Android will help create a better overall experience for our blind and low-vision users,” wrote engineering lead T.V. Raman on a company blog.

He added that Google was focused on developing APIs that would make it easier for third-party developers to create accessible web applications.

“We’re looking forward to working with the rest of the industry to make computers and the web more accessible for everyone,” he added.

Such efforts are undoubtedly to be welcomed, although they do seem to be based on the presumption that users with visual impairments will readily go out and buy a smartphone or laptop.

For those that find the prospect of small screens, keyboards - and even worse, soft keyboards - too daunting, UK charity AbilityNet produces a range of guides that can help the visually impaired take their first steps in using computers.

01 Mar 2013

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