Google Launches Sign Language Interpreter App For Hangouts, Adds Accessibility Features To Gmail, Drive And Chrome

At the CSUN International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference this week, Google announced that it has added a number of accessibility features to Chrome, Chrome OS, Gmail and Google Drive that should make using Google suites of web apps a bit easier to use for blind and low-vision users. In addition, Google also launched a new sign language interpreter app and keyboard shortcuts for Hangouts for the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as those who can’t or don’t want to use a mouse while using Hangouts.

ChromeOS, Google writes, now features a new “high-quality text-to-speech voice” (only available in English right now), as well as screen magnification and a high-contrast mode. Gmail now features a new navigation interface and keyboard shortcuts that use the HTML5 ARIA standard that is meant to make rich Internet applications more accessible.

According to Google, Drive is also now much easier to access using a keyboard. In Docs, Google writes, “you can access features using the keyboard, with a new way to search menu and toolbar options. New keyboard shortcuts and verbalization improvements also make it easier to use Docs, Sheets and Slides with a screenreader.”

The stable version of Chrome, Google also notes, now includes support for the Web Speech API, so developers can integrate speech recognition in their apps. The accessible online library Bookshare demonstrated a version of its ReadNow ebook reader at the CSUN conference that already uses the Speech API.

Hangouts Interpreter App

As for the Hangouts interpreter app, Google says that it will allow those who prefer sign language to “invite interpreters to speak and sign for them during hangouts.” The live video from the interpreter will always be visible in the top-right side of the window.