Google Adds Accessibility with Voice Upgrades

Google yesterday highlighted some of the updates it’s made recently to make its technology more accessible to people who are blind or disabled, and not surprisingly, voice will have a big role.

The company has just launched Voice Access Beta, an app that enables people with difficulty manipulating touch screens to control their Android mobile devices by voice. Users can say "open Chrome" or "go home" to navigate around the phone or interact with the screen by saying "click next" or "scroll down," for example.

Voice Beta Access expands the voice-controlled options on Android devices, includes more spoken recognition and feedback, and disables the phone’s touch screen while Voice Access is running.

Also new to Google is an improved screen reader on its Chromebook tablets. Every Chromebook now comes with a built-in screen reader called ChromeVox, enabling the blind or visually impaired to navigate the screen using text-to-speech software. The latest version, ChromeVox Next Beta, includes a simplified keyboard shortcut model, a new caption panel to display speech and Braille output, and a new set of navigation sounds.

Google Docs now enables users to type, edit, and format documents using voice commands, making it easier for people who can't use a touchscreen to edit documents.

And finally, the company points out that it is continuing to work closely with Freedom Scientific, a provider of assistive technology products, to improve the Google Docs and Drive experience with the JAWS screen reader.

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