As we commemorate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), a crucial conversation takes center stage: digital access and inclusion for people with disabilities. With over one billion people with disabilities globally, the mission is year-round, but today serves as a reminder of our collective efforts. Google has been at the forefront of this journey, leveraging AI and other technologies to craft accessible features and products. Let’s delve into five significant Google products transforming accessibility.

1. Image Q&A mode in Lookout:

A view of the user interface for the Image Question & Answer feature of Lookout. In the top half of the screen is a photo of a dog running with a ball on the beach. Below is a text box that reads "In this image I can see a dog is running on the sand. I can also see a ball in its mouth. In the background I can see the water, mountains and the sky." Below are button options to use a keyboard, speak a question, or add another input. A box slides up with the text, “Speak your question.” A user speaks, “Does the dog look playful?” The app responds back, “Yes, the dog is playful.”

Alt text is a vital tool for visually impaired people to understand digital images. However, an alarming number of images lack this feature, rendering much of the internet inaccessible. To address this, Google has enhanced Lookout, an app designed for the blind and low-vision community, with a new “image question and answer” mode.

In collaboration with Google DeepMind, this innovative feature uses advanced AI to analyze and describe images, regardless of whether they have captions or alt text. Users can then interact with the app by asking questions about the image using their voice or keyboard, offering a more inclusive digital experience.

2. Wheelchair-accessible places on Google Maps:

For many, the ability to freely move and navigate places is taken for granted. However, for people with mobility impairments, it’s a challenge. Google Maps has an “Accessible Places” feature that provides information about wheelchair-accessible entrances, indicated by a wheelchair icon.

Google has made this feature more prominent, displaying it to all users, enabling more comprehensive pre-visit planning. This initiative ensures that everyone, including those using wheelchairs, strollers, or carrying suitcases, has easy access to accessibility information.

3. Live Caption for Android and Desktops:

Google’s Live Caption feature, which employs AI to provide real-time captions for any sound on an Android device, is expanding its reach. This summer, Google plans to extend the availability of Live Caption to more Android devices and users.

The update includes a revamped caption box optimized for Android tablets and the ability to type responses during calls, which are read aloud to the other party. Google also plans to add support for French, Italian, and German languages to cover a wider user base.

4. Accessibility updates for Wear OS 4:

Google’s Wear OS is set to receive a major accessibility update with the introduction of Wear OS 4. The new version promises a more efficient and reliable text-to-speech experience, improving the overall user experience for individuals with visual or motor disabilities.

5. Improved Accessibility on Chrome Browser:

Google Chrome, the most popular web browser worldwide, now offers a feature that detects URL typos and suggests correct websites, making it more user-friendly for people with dyslexia, language learners, and anyone prone to typos.

Additionally, Chrome on Android recently enhanced its accessibility for TalkBack users, making tab management more straightforward and functional, with features like tab groups, bulk tab actions, and reordering.

Google’s commitment to creating a more accessible world is evident in its ongoing development of products and features designed to accommodate people with disabilities. This Global Accessibility Awareness Day, let’s celebrate the strides we’ve made while continuing to strive for a more inclusive digital landscape.