Google increases accessibility

Google has opened its first UK based research and development centre, this development centre’s focus is making their tech more accessible for those with disabilities.  

The Royal National Institute of Blind People, the Royal National Institute of Deaf People, and Everyone Can a disability charity, have worked with Google in regard to this development centre in the UK’s capital. This is Google’s first accessibility-based development centre outside of the USA. 

Google has teams of people working on artificial intelligence (AI) and engineers looking to ‘supercharge’ accessible technology to make it mainstream.  

The use of subtitles for television viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing, has had a very positive affect on everyone in general.  

Many deaf people struggle with lip reading, one person said “Mainstream entertainment took on a new meaning for me when I was a teenager and captions started to become standard for television broadcasts”.

These captions help with the plot as there may be a sound off screen or music playing which helps set the scene, captions for this allow those who are hard of hearing or deaf to fully understand what is going on and creates a better experience for them.  

Ofcom, UK’s regulatory body conducted a study after the Communications Act of 2003 passed.

After this, subtitle quotas were set for UK television and data was required to prove that these subtitles help viewers with disabilities.  

Ofcom’s 2006 study found that over 7 million people in the UK used subtitles, however, only 1 and a half million were hard of hearing or deaf.

This proved that around 80% of viewers used subtitles for other reasons, not just hearing loss, meaning that the subtitles positively affect the average TV viewer and those who are hard of hearing or deaf.   

A member of Google’s inclusion team, Christopher Patnoe, said, “When people have equitable access to information and opportunity, everyone wins – but we know people’s needs are constantly changing, throughout their lives or even their day.”  

“We know we have more to do”  

Google is launching an app called ‘Project Relate’ that “aims to help people with non-standard speech communicate more easily”   

The app is currently in beta in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, and soon to be in the UK as well.  

Project Relate learns how to understand speech patterns of those who may struggle. The aids those who may find speech more difficult to communicate easier.  

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