In an effort to make its apps and Android operating system more accessible to everyone, yesterday Google introduced several new features.
Find wheelchair accessible places with Google Maps
In a blog post from yesterday, the search engine giant announced that Google Maps users now have the option to turn on “Accessible Places.”This new feature will display wheelchair accessibility information more prominently, with a wheelchair icon appearing where accessible entrances are available, along with information on whether the chosen place has accessible seating, parking and restrooms. If the place is instead confirmed to not have an accessible entrance, Google will show that information also.
Google already says to have wheelchair accessibility information for more than 15 million places in the world, and store owners are encouraged to use Google My Business to add accessibility information for their business to further increase that number and help inform customers.
Google Maps showing wheelchair accessibility information, shown below the place’s closing hours.
To enable prominent wheelchair accessibility information in Google Maps, update the app to its latest version, then open it and tap on Settings, “Accessibility” and “Accessible Places.” iPhone users can alternatively update the app from this link.
Action Blocks: One-tap actions on Android for people with cognitive disabilities
Having in mind that people use their smartphones for routine tasks every day, Google introduced a new app named Action Blocks, available for download here.
The app is designed for people with cognitive disabilities or age-related cognitive conditions, in order to simplify phone usage by making the aforementioned routine tasks happen with a single tap, also useful for people with limited mobility.
Action Blocks shown on a homepage.
Any action that the Google Assistant can perform can be turned into an Action Block, such as sending a text, making a call, controlling devices in your home or playing videos. Such an action can be assigned to an easy-to-understand image, which can then be placed on the home-screen for one-touch access.
Action Blocks is available to everyone with a smartphone running Android 5 or above.
Live Transcribe: Real-time transcriptions for everyday conversations
The Live Transcribe app has been available since 2019, and allows for real-time speech-to-text transcriptions for those who are hard of hearing or deaf. Everyday conversations can be turned into text automatically, helping communication.
Now Google introduced the following new features, based on feedback it’s received from users:
- There’s now an option to set your phone to vibrate when someone nearby says your name, helping you know when someone is trying to get your attention.
- You can add custom names and terms for places and objects not found in the dictionary the app is using. This way Live Transcribe can recognize and spell any words that are important to you.
- In Settings, there’s now an option for “Saving Transcriptions” which saves all conversations for three days, allowing for searching back through them.
- 70 new languages are now supported by the app, including Albanian, Estonian, Burmese, Macedonian, Mongolian, Punjabi and Uzbek.
Sound Amplifier: Making the sounds around you clearer and louder
Another helpful app for people with difficulty hearing is Google’s Sound Amplifier, also available to Android users here.
The app aims to clarify sounds around the user, and supports Bluetooth headphones. On Pixel phones, it can also boost the audio that is playing on the smartphone itself, whether it’s from a YouTube video or a podcast.