Using Google products: How to use accessibility features

In this section, we go over the accessibility features of our products for 2 groups of people:

If you notice information that’s missing, have questions or feedback, or want to offer other ideas for ways people with disabilities can use Google products, we want to hear from you.

Information for blind and low-vision users

Note: We’ve created an Administrator Guide to Accessibility that explains best practices for deploying Google Apps to support users’ accessibility needs.

Google+ Hangouts

Keyboard shortcuts are great for people who can’t or don’t want to use a mouse during the video chat. To view the full list of keyboard shortcuts available just type “?” while in a Hangout.

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Android phones

The Android platform includes a built in text-to-speech engine and a screen reader to enable phone manufacturers deliver accessible smartphones. Blind and Deaf users also benefit from the wide variety of Android hardware options available, giving users the flexibility to choose a phone with the features that best meets their needs.

Android phones can also be highly customized by downloading third-party accessibility applications that make nearly every function possible without sight, including phone calls, text messaging, email, web browsing, and more.

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Chrome browser

The Chrome browser supports assistive technology including some screen readers and magnifiers. It offers people with low vision a number of tools, including full-page zoom and high-contrast color. In addition, Chrome Extensions are extra features and functionality that you can easily add to your Chrome browser to customize it with functionality you need. There are many extensions which improve accessibility or which help developers create accessible web applications, such as ChromeVox, ChromeShades, and ChromeVis.

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ChromeVox and Chrome OS

Chrome OS delivers built-in accessibility through the ChromeVox screen reader, designed to bring the speed, versatility, and security of Chrome OS to visually impaired users. ChromeVox has also been released as an extension for Google Chrome where it’s intended to help authors of web applications quickly come up to speed with web accessibility on Chrome OS. If you don’t yet have a Chromebook and are interested in experiencing ChromeVox yourself, give it a try on Chrome on your current desktop.

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Gmail

The standard HTML view of Gmail has been enhanced to enable Blind and low-vision users to use Gmail on the web to send and receive email. Users who prefer a desktop client can also sync their email account with an existing desktop program such as Microsoft Outlook.

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Google Calendar

Google Calendar has been enhanced to enable Blind and low-vision users to view and edit the contents of their Google Calendar on the web with their existing screen reader. Users who prefer a desktop client can sync with an existing desktop program such as Microsoft Outlook.

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Google Docs and Sites

Blind and low-vision users can use the Google Docs suite of applications to edit, view, and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and sites in the cloud with a screen reader.

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Google eBooks

Google offers nearly 3 million free eBooks on the web to any user. Low-vision users can also access many features on our Web Reader. Purchased eBooks aren’t currently compatible with screen readers. However, we do provide a platform for authors and publishers, many of whom offer accessible features, to sell their own books.

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Google Maps

Google Maps works with any screen reader for all sorts of tasks, including finding businesses, getting directions, or accessing public transit information. We recommend using the mobile interface, which  does away with graphical maps and concentrates entirely on giving directions that can be cleanly read out by a screen reader.

Google Maps also works smoothly on any Android phone with TalkBack, the built in screen-reader. Its also worth noting some special Google Maps applications on Android phones. Walky Talky, for instance, announces street names and addresses as you pass them, and Intersection Explorer allows you to explore a neighborhood and get directions using finger touch. You can download these apps from the Android Market.

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Google Search

Google Search remains extremely popular among blind users for searching and navigating the web, given its simplicity. We’ve built easy-to-navigate search results pages that work smoothly with adaptive technologies. Here’s some more information on how we’ve made search accessible: Accessibility in Google Search.

The Accessible Search Experiment in Google Labs is no longer supported. If you’d like to learn more about the decision to deprecate this experiment, including how to continue using it as an unsupported feature, see this post in the accessible@googlegroups.com discussion forum.

Google Voice

Using a simple interface, Google Voice can transcribe your voicemail to text message and then link text transcripts to your computer or mobile device so that you can skim them quickly.

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Information for deaf and hard of hearing users

Google+ Hangouts

Deaf or hearing-impaired users who prefer sign language can now experience Hangouts to its fullest, either by inviting one of the other Hangout participants to interpret for them or by using keyboard shortcuts to perform certain actions.

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Android phones

The Android platform supports both hearing aid compatibility (HAC) and teletypewriter (TTY) modes for connecting a TTY device. Your Android phone manufacturer needs to provide the hardware for these features and the information on using them. Droid phones, offered through Motorola and Verizon, support both of these functions.

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Google SMS Applications

There are a number of handy SMS-based apps that turn text messages to speech phone calls. For example, Taxi Magic lets you call a cab from your mobile phone or the web using a text message. Check these out in the Android Market.

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Google Translate Conversation Mode

Conversation Mode in Google Translate is a feature on the Android phone that allows easy communication with a nearby person in many languages. By setting both languages to English, users can turn speech into text and read it on their phones.

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Gmail Video Chat

Gmail two-way video chat is a great tool for sign language speakers. It’s available to anyone with a webcam and a Gmail account—and it’s free.

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Google Drive

Google Drive makes it easy to caption your uploaded videos to make them available for deaf and hard of hearing viewers or for speakers of different languages. Also, the text in the captions is searchable in your Documents List, making it easy find your uploaded videos.

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Google Voice

Google Voice’s built-in transcript feature converts voicemail to text enabling deaf users to receive notification of and read their voice messages.

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YouTube

We want YouTube videos to be accessible to everyone, whether or not they can hear or understand the language. Much YouTube content is already available with captions, and we’re improving the quantity and quality every day. Here’s some basic information on finding captioned videos, turning on and off the captions, and adjusting the captions to meet your needs.

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Viewing YouTube videos with captions

And here are some sites where you can learn about Google through captioned videos on our YouTube channels.

Did you see something on a Google channel that should be captioned? Tell us about it.