Google Docs unveiled new accessibility features this week designed to assist people with disabilities and users of assistive technology. Improvements to Braille support will enable people who are blind and visually impaired to navigate Google Docs with a bit more ease. Google hopes the enhancements, which include improvements to keyboard shortcuts, navigation, and verbalizations, will encourage users to take advantage of Braille support.
Here’s a rundown of the latest changes:
- A new keyboard shortcut will toggle braille support in Docs, Sheets, and Slides, which will be Ctrl+Alt+H on a PC and CMD+Option+H on a Mac.
- Docs now announces where the cursor moves when using shortcuts to navigate, including comments, headings, misspellings, and suggestions.
- Navigation features are now more reliable for lengthy documents and lists.
- Docs will verbalize images, misspellings, and grammatical errors as well as table navigation and content selection, such as announcing the content of a cell, using assistive technology.
Google has also enhanced access to Android, Chrome, and Maps and created new products in 2020 for people with disabilities. In case you missed it, here’s a look back at Google’s accessibility innovations since the start of the year:
Chrome plays tag
Chrome recently announced a new automatic PDF tagging feature that will be available in Chrome 85, the next version of the browser.
When a webpage is saved as a PDF, the browser will automatically insert metadata into the PDF, a useful feature for users of screen readers. Chrome 85 is expected to have the ability to tag headings, lists, tables, paragraphs, and image descriptions.
A one-tap app
To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day in May, Google introduced the Action Blocks app, available for Android 5.0 Lollipop and up. The app is designed to streamline multi-step physical mobile phone movements into one tap.
Similar to Apple’s Shortcuts, the app aims to assist those with fine-motor, cognitive, or other disabilities by shortening, for example, the taps it takes to create a text.
Transcription on the go
Also, in May, Google updated Live Transcribe, released in 2019 for Android 5.0 Lollipop or later. Designed to assist deaf and hearing-impaired users, Live Transcribe transcribes speech into text in real time with speech recognition technology, to aid conversations with people who are hearing. The speaker simply holds the phone when talking and the app will transcribe what it hears.
In the updated version, the app causes your phone to vibrate when someone speaks your name. Users can also search conversations, choose from 7 languages, and customize words and phrases.
Portable sound enhancement
Also for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Google released its Sound Amplifier app for Pixel phones with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and up. Using a phone and Bluetooth headphones, the app amplifies sounds for conversations, lectures, television shows, and more. Users can filter or customize sound and reduce background noise.
Tactile meets virtual in keyboard innovation
Google’s TalkBack Keyboard, a new virtual braille Keyboard released in April for the Android operating system, innovatively brings the braille tactile reading system to smartphones. On a standard 6-key layout, each key corresponds to one of six braille dot that can create letters and symbols.
Transit line accessibility info
Lastly, for its 15th birthday in February, Google Maps unveiled a redesigned map with enhanced "transit attributes." If you need to know whether public transit lines include accessible entrances, seating, staffed assistance, stop-button, or hi-visible LED, transit attributes is the place to find out. Additionally, the "Commute" feature provides riders with detailed instructions for travel, such as the temperature of a specific carriage, and whether a line is crowded or staffed with security or cameras.