Google Makes Apps More Accessible - InformationWeek

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9/11/2014
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Google Makes Apps More Accessible

Improved support for screen readers makes Google Apps more inviting to the blind.

Google's 10 Big Bets On The Future
Google's 10 Big Bets On The Future
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An estimated 60% of Internet users exhibit what one online advertising firm calls "banner blindness," the inability to remember the last ad they saw. But for millions of Internet users, actual blindness presents a far more pressing problem.

Google, which dominates the online advertising market, has been working to make its cloud services (which aren't directly ad supported) easier to use for people with vision impairment. Over the past year, the company has been deploying accessibility improvements in Google Apps.

In June, Google rolled out a new version of Drive with better keyboard accessibility, support for zooming and high contrast mode, and improved screen reader compatibility. On Thursday, the company extended its improvements to Google Apps editors, specifically Docs, Drawings, Forms, Sheets, and Slides.

"Whether you're backing up a file in Drive or crunching some numbers in Sheets, it should be easy to bring your ideas to life using Google's tools," Alan Warren, vice president of engineering, said in a blog post. "But if you're blind or have low vision, you may need to rely on assistive technologies such as screen readers and Braille displays -- and that can make working in the cloud challenging."

Google has made it easier to use a screen reader with Docs, Drawings, Forms, Sheets, and Slides. It has enhanced text-to-voice verbalization, and it has improved keyboard navigation controls.

The company has added support for alt-text associated with images in Docs. It has improved keyboard editing of charts and pivot tables in Sheets, and it has extended screen reader support to spelling suggestions, comments, and revision history. It has added the ability to search menus and perform actions in Docs, Sheets, and Slide, and it is planning to add this search capability to Forms and Sheets soon.

Google's accessibility enhancements also extend to collaboration: In Docs, Sheets, Slides, or Drawings, screen readers will announce when people join or leave a document and will play sounds to indicate the presence of collaborative editing.

Finally, Google has modified Docs, Slides, and Drawings to read and enter text using a Braille display, and it is offering callback phone support for people with Google Drive accessibility questions.

The National Federation for the Blind (NFB) estimates that as many as than 10 million Americans are blind or visually impaired. The organization also notes that education and employment opportunities for the blind depend on the accessibility of computer and Internet technology. Neither the NFB nor Google had figures on the number of people in the US using screen readers.

In an email, an NFB spokesperson said that, though the organization has been promoting awareness of accessibility issues with some success, accessibility remains far from universal. "The National Federation of the Blind is engaged in many efforts to change this, and litigation is only one strategy (usually the last resort) that we employ; others focus on providing direct training and assistance to those seeking to make their websites and applications more accessible."

The NFB sued the online document service Scribd in July because its documents are not accessible to blind people.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
10/12/2014 | 5:57:20 PM
Re: I'm a stat!
If it's based on searches, no. If the ads are based on info in a profile....well...I'd say no to that as well. Doesn't privacy on FB relate to other members? I'm sure that privacy is not related to companies.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
10/10/2014 | 11:56:16 PM
Re: I'm a stat!
@One thing which I have noticed that the sites like FB and other sites offer you with ads related to your search preferences or other reading about your contacy=ts or profile. Donot you think its aloss of privacy?
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
10/8/2014 | 9:05:00 AM
Re: I'm a stat!
Also in the misplaced ads catagory, I get Optimum mailers all the time, though I've been a customer for years. Those mailers are bad marketing, wasted money.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
10/7/2014 | 1:04:41 AM
Re: The handicapped need access
@Charlie I agree with you and a great point indeed. I believe that you will not expect some one to cross the hurdle if you do not take them to the hurdle. We have numerous examples where handicapped personal have done wonders and shown that they have the will and the capability to turn the tables in their own favour. They just want that a fair chance.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
10/7/2014 | 12:56:26 AM
Re: I'm a stat!
@Soozyg very true. I am not seeing any benefit of these ads being placed on the buldings as well as roads. I hardly ever get impressed with billboards rather I go myself and pick the thing of my choice. I agree with yoy that this will be a total / partial loss of money and definitely a mis spent money indeed.
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2014 | 2:58:12 PM
Re: I'm a stat!
As a marketing consultant, I really believe it's because the ads are misplaced. For instance, I live in a resort town and every news website here has real estate banner ads at the top. I'm sure those real estate agents pay a lot of money for those ads, and yet I'd bet a lot of money that the agents get 90% of their clients from referrals. No one picks a real estate agent from a banner ad. And yet there they are, at the top of every page of the website. Mis-spent money.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
9/29/2014 | 2:15:50 PM
Re: I'm a stat!
@Soozyg I am not sure bells and whistkes will do the job :). But I am pretty sure its a good idea for many to follow. I feel quite disappointed after seeing big banners failing miserably even having all the resources at hand to do good, Never able to understand the reason WHY?
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
9/28/2014 | 8:04:43 PM
Re: I'm a stat!
@nomii, I agree they have to have bells and whistles and be interesting...but they also need to be targeted to appropriate sites. I've seen this done very well and very badly.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
9/18/2014 | 6:59:53 AM
Re: I'm a stat!
@soozyg: if I take the behavior of the people watching the advertisements on TV, most of them also won't give attention to them and many of them would even switch the channel during advertisements unless there is something which seems very interesting and they even get viral on the internet. Similarly the internet ads have to be fabricated so that they can get some attention only by looking different and interesting instead of a routine banner.
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
9/13/2014 | 6:37:25 AM
IT for visually challenged
I know at least three working professionals who have severe visual challenges but are still very very good, fast and effective at use of phones, laptops, email and internet. It appears that IT can be a BIG enabler for such community members. But for that to happen, companies like Google have to take steps like these. And I am happy that these companies are doing just that.
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