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Google accessibility apps and tools

By Julia Stradiotto

New tools and technologies for people with disabilities were presented at Google Accessibility Conference on 6th April 2022 in California, USA. Their main goal is to ensure that every person can achieve their regular daily activities (i.e. social, work, study, etc.) and live the lifestyle of their choice regardless their age and ability.

As mentioned by Google, 1 billion among the 7.7 billion people in the world have a disability. That emphasises the scale and importance of the development of new technologies by the company. During the conference, Google presented eight innovations and initiatives that have been developed and updated in the last few years:

  1. Project Relate: An app that is designed for people with speech impairments. This technology allows people to be better understood, identifying phrases and words. The app will use some recorded phrases from the user, ‘learn’ the speech pattern and convert it into text or in a clear voice helping people to communicate. For now, the app can be used for English speakers.
  2. Lookout: This app uses the camara and sensors of a mobile device to identify objects, signage, people, and animals around you. It is developed to aid people with vision impairments interact with the world around them.
  3. Action Blocks: This app can optimise a person’s daily tasks through Android’s shortcuts, ensuring an easier use of the platform by people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The customization of the app is a great attribute for users (i.e., call someone, emergency contacts, access to news, thermostat, etc.).
  4. Live Transcribe: The app can transcribe sounds and speech instantly in to text format for people with hearing impairments. The new version also works offline, which allows users to use translation even when there is no internet connection.
  5. Sound Notification: This technology notifies users with hearing impairments when specific sounds are being emitted, i.e. knocking a door, baby crying, phone ringing, fire alarm, etc.
  6. Sound Amplifier: This app can raise the volume, filter, and amplify sounds to be clearer for a user. This technology is similar to a hearing enhancement system, but it works with an android smartphone and headphones only.
  7. Voice Access: This app allows people with physical impairments to control their smartphones using their voice. This tool allows users to use apps, navigate the screen, send messages transcribed to text, etc. Recent updates have made this tool more intuitive and easier to use.
  8. TalkBack: This tool allows people to control their smartphone without having to look at the screen. The app reads all the elements in the screen out loud, ensuring that people with vision impairment can execute tasks easily.

“When we say we want to build for everyone – we mean it. Accessibility is written into our mission statement and core to our values as a company. We don’t think a problem is solved until we’ve solved it for everyone. Technology’s great promise is to give everyone the same power to achieve their goals. As long as there are barriers for some, there’s still work to be done.” - Said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google.

Technology is continuing to have a positive impact in terms of accessibility and continues to provide more opportunities and inclusion in people’s professional and personal lives. We are seeing greater and fast improvements in the area of accessibility from some of the largest Technology companies across the globe and we look forward to seeing the next advancements, improving accessibility even more.

To read more about Google Accessibility, you can find more detail on their accessibility website: Google Accessibility, as well as and here Google para acessibilidade - Canaltech.

To find out more about the Project Relate, you can watch the associated video on Youtube: Project Relate: An Android app for people with speech impairments - YouTube

If you need further information on how to make buildings or services more accessible and inclusive, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team on (01) 415 12 85 or e-mail [email protected].