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Google Accessibility Improvements

Google started informing its applications user groups today about the accessibility improvements it has made to a range of its applications and software platforms. (Please see below for the quoted text.) If you're interested in learning more about accessibility updates for one of the products listed, Google invites you to contact its accessibility group ( 


  • We added Braille support to Android 4.1; since then, Braille support has been expanded on Google Drive for Android, making it easier to read and edit your documents. You can also use Talkback with Docs and Sheets to edit on the go.
  • With Gesture Mode in Android 4.1, you can reliably navigate the UI using touch and swipe gestures in combination with speech output.
  • Screen magnification is now built into Android 4.2—just enable “Magnification gestures,” then triple tap to enter full screen magnification.
  • The latest release of TalkBack (launched on Play) includes several highly-requested features:
    • Local context menu - A user can use a gesture to show a circular menu that allows for easily navigating of certain Android views.
    • Structured web navigation - We expose the ChromeVox structured browsing logic and allow users to navigate web content by section, list, or control.
    • Quick Navigation - We added a dial-like menu that lets a user explore all on-screen content easily.
    • MIDI -  We've replaced our existing auditory icons with a MIDI synthesis system. We'll eventually leverage this to allow for customization of the auditory icons that TalkBack plays.
    • Experimental features - We've added options to allow for some of our most heavily requested features: single-tap selection, shake to start continuous reading, and speech ducking other audio.

Apps Documentation:

Chrome / ChromeOS

  • Chrome 27 (launched on our Beta Channel) has a number of accessibility improvements for Mac and Windows users, in particular when using assistive technology including JAWS, NVDA, ZoomText, and VoiceOver:
    • Big performance improvement and lower memory overhead. Gmail is now speedy when VoiceOver is on.
    • Fixes for same-page links and JAWS placemarks
    • Windows keyboard shortcuts for combo boxes now work correctly
  • A new version of ChromeVox launched in [con]junction with the release of Chrome 26. These new releases brings lots of improvements including a new way to work with tables, smart initial page focus, typing echo, page wrap for jump commands, and more. Full details can be found on the release notes.

Drive & Docs:

  • New keyboard navigation fixes and the appropriate help center documentation are live.
  • Drive extended the new keyboard navigation model to grid view.
  • Launched verbalization of the Docs color picker controls when used with a screenreader.


  • Launched the use of keyboard arrow keys to navigate labels and threadlist rows.
  • Enabled N and P keys to navigate messages within a conversation without turning on keyboard shortcuts in settings. When you navigate using any of these keys, the browser will focus on selected items, enabling screenreaders to read out what's selected.  


  • Using the Sign Language Interpreter Hangout app, deaf or hard of hearing users who prefer sign language can invite interpreters to speak and sign for them during a Hangout.  Instructions on installing the app can be found here.
  • Keyboard shortcuts are also available in Hangouts -- great for people who can't or don't want to use a mouse during the video chat.  For example: muting your microphone is now as simple as Ctrl+D (PC) or Command+D (Mac), and you can start chatting with Ctrl+B (PC) or Command+B (Mac). To view the full list of keyboard shortcuts just type '?' while in a Hangout, or visit this page.


  • Launched support for captions on YouTube live streams. We built a live closed captioning service that takes CC text data from a captioner, converts it to supported formats for web and mobile YouTube players, and delivers the content along with the video and audio to the end user.