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Google Releases New Accessibility Features During National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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This National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Google has released updates that make its software more accessible to the disability community. The updates allow more people to take advantage of the accessibility of Google Assistant, added sound notifications to Android phones and resources to help people with disabilities enter the workforce.

Google partnered with Tobii Dynavox, a company that creates assistive speech devices, to place Google Assistant on Tobii Dynavox’s tablets. By integrating Google Assistant with Tobii Dynavox’s technology, users can more easily use their tablets to control compatible smart home devices and ask questions. You can watch videos of how to get the most out of existing accessible features on Google Assistant on Google’s YouTube channel. 

Google also launched a Sound Notifications feature for Android phones to better serve people who are hard of hearing or deaf. If there are loud noises like water running in someone’s house, “a flash from your camera light, or vibrations on your Android phone” will alert you of the noise. Sound Notifications is also compatible with some devices like Wear OS by Google smartwatches. You can receive text notifications with vibrations on your wrist when your phone detects an important noise.

To lean intoNational Disability Employment Awareness Month, Google launched a dedicated Google Careers resource page to help disabled people search for work. In the United States, only 19% of people with disabilities are employed. Google’s Director of Accessibility Eve Anderson wrote that the company wanted to do more to help this community — internally and externally.

“We need to do more to encourage the employment of people with disabilities, and we want to support that change at Google,” Anderson wrote, adding:

Through the years, we’ve evaluated and iterated on our own processes to help improve disability inclusion and awareness in the workplace. Doing so has helped us build a more diverse team of people with different backgrounds and experiences.

Anderson also highlighted in her message that Google launched Action Blocks, which is an Android app designed to help people with disabilities create a customizable home screen buttons to navigate their devices. Google introduced an update last week that allows non-speaking people to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) on its Action Blocks.

Image via Google

Originally published: October 13, 2020
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