The A to Z of Google Accessibility

Google's senior programme manager for accessibility Chris Patnoe talks about how it makes accessible products and highlights a variety of accessibility features across Google's product range. 

Guest Blogger: Google's senior programme manager for accessibility Christopher Patnoe

More than fifteen percent of the world’s population (one billion people!) have some form of disability, according to the World Health Authority. Even if you don’t consider yourself part of that fifteen percent, accessibility efforts also support the growing ageing population and people of all ages with temporary disabilities, such as a broken arm, or situational disabilities - for example, managing with glare on your phone screen.

Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, and TechShare Pro 2018 was a great opportunity to raise awareness of Google’s values, products and processes around accessibility.

Christopher Patnoe and Google team on stage at Techshare Pro

Google's user research

Building for accessibility helps everyone - and that is why it is important to design with accessibility in mind, from concept to implementation and beyond. The Google accessibility team partners with other organisations including Facebook, Apple and Microsoft and connects with users to build a community which feeds back.

This community includes advocacy organisations, training centres, rehabilitation centres, schools, universities, companies, and governments. Through this community, our user research team is able to conduct in-depth product research and gather valuable user feedback to ultimately help shape the future of Google’s products.

The User Research (UX) team focuses on understanding user behaviours, needs, and motivations. User research is a process of understanding the impact of design on an audience. As technologists, we may think we know what’s best for our users. And we might - or we might not. The user is truly the expert in their experiences. By researching user behaviours, needs, and motivations, we can (1) better understand the people who use our products and (2) create delightful - and accessible! - user experiences.

Creating accessible products

With these insights, we were able to design products such as the Google Home and Assistant. These are the hands-free smart devices on which you can get help to play music, cooking, adjusting your thermostat, turning on your favourite shows and much more.

Google also has many accessibility-specific features natively built into our platforms Android and Chrome, that cover a range of services from screen readers and magnifiers to switch support and more.

You can learn about the accessibility of our products at google.com/accessibility and follow us on Twitter with the following address for the latest announcements (@googleaccess).

The new partnerships established at TechShare Pro will help us all to continue building better products - for everyone.

Accessibility and Android

Android, the mobile operating system developed by Google supports those who are blind or low vision with the following features:

For those with mobility or motor impairments, there is:

Switch Access
Voice Access

For users who are deaf or who have a hearing disability:

For users with cognitive or learning disabilities:

Developer Tools and Chrome

In addition, Google offers Developer Tools which include Accessibility Scanner on Android, and on the Play Store accessibility has been built into pre-launch report (where all developers get an automated a11y/accessibility report, for free and automatically).

Google Headquarters

Google Chrome has many of the same features, including some Desktop specific ones like system-wide dictation, adjustable mouse cursor and docked magnifier. You can also deepen Chrome's abilities with extensions like Beeline Reader and Stay Focused.

Learn more and stay updated

This blog was written in collaboration with Claudia Cahalane.

TechShare Pro 2019

  • Google is hosting TechShare Pro 2019 in London on 20 and 21 November.
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