Making the cloud more accessible with Chrome and Android

If you’re a blind or low-vision user, you know that working in the cloud poses unique challenges. Our accessibility team had an opportunity to address some of those challenges at the 28th annual CSUN International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference this week. While there, we led a workshop on how we’ve been improving the accessibility of Google technologies. For all those who weren’t at the conference, we want to share just a few of those improvements and updates:

Chrome and Google Apps
  • Chrome OS now supports a high-quality text-to-speech voice (starting with U.S. English). We’ve also made spoken feedback, along with screen magnification and high-contrast mode available out-of-the-box to make Chromebook and Chromebox setup easier for users with accessibility needs.
  • Gmail now has a consistent navigation interface, backed by HTML5 ARIA, which enables blind and low-vision users to effectively navigate using a set of keyboard commands.
  • It’s now much easier to access content in your Google Drive using a keyboard—for example, you can navigate a list of files with just the arrow keys. In Docs, you can access features using the keyboard, with a new way to search menu and toolbar options. New keyboard shortcuts and verbalization improvements also make it easier to use Docs, Sheets and Slides with a screenreader.
  • The latest stable version of Chrome, released last week, includes support for the Web Speech API, which developers can use to integrate speech recognition capabilities into their apps. At CSUN, our friends from Bookshare demonstrated how they use this new functionality to deliver ReadNow—a fully integrated ebook reader for users with print disabilities.
  • Finally, we released a new Help Center Guide specifically for blind and low-vision users to ease the transition to using Google Apps.

  • We added Braille support to Android 4.1; since then, Braille support has been expanded on Google Drive for Android, making it easier to read and edit your documents. You can also use Talkback with Docs and Sheets to edit on the go.
  • With Gesture Mode in Android 4.1, you can reliably navigate the UI using touch and swipe gestures in combination with speech output.
  • Screen magnification is now built into Android 4.2—just enable “Magnification gestures,” then triple tap to enter full screen magnification.
  • The latest release of TalkBack (available on Play soon) includes several highly-requested features like structured browsing of web content and the ability to easily suspend/resume TalkBack via an easy-to-use radial menu.

These updates to Chrome, Google Apps, and Android will help create a better overall experience for our blind and low-vision users, but there’s still room for improvement. Looking ahead, we’re focused on the use of accessibility APIs that will make it easier for third-party developers to create accessible web applications, as well as pushing the state of the art forward with technologies like speech recognition and text-to-speech. We’re looking forward to working with the rest of the industry to make computers and the web more accessible for everyone.

YouTube automatic captions now in six European languages

Captions are important to make sure everyone—including deaf, hard-of-hearing, and viewers who speak other languages—can enjoy videos on YouTube.

In 2009, you first saw a feature that automatically creates captions on YouTube videos in English, and since then we’ve added Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. Today, hundreds of millions of people speaking six more languages—German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Dutch—will have automatic caption support for YouTube videos in those languages. Just click the closed caption button on any of these videos to see how it works:

Now in 10 languages, automatic captions are an important first step in the path toward high-quality captions for the 72 hours of video people upload per minute. As automatic captions will have some errors, creators also have several tools to improve the quality of their captions. Automatic captions can be a starting point, where creators can then download them for editing, or edit them in-line on YouTube. Creators can also upload plain-text transcripts in these languages, and the same technology will generate automatically-synchronized captions.

You now have around 200 million videos with automatic and human-created captions on YouTube, and we continue to add more each day to make YouTube accessible for all.

Hoang Nguyen, software engineer, recently watched “Completo, ilha das flores.”

Greater accessibility for Google Apps

It's been a year since we posted about enhanced accessibility in Google Docs, Sites and Calendar. As we close out another summer, we want to update our users on some of the new features and improvements in our products since then. We know that assistive technologies for the web are still evolving, and we're committed to moving the state of accessibility forward in our applications.

Since last year, we've made a number of accessibility fixes in Google Calendar, including improved focus handling, keyboard access, and navigation. In Google Drive, we incorporated Optical Character Recognition technology to allow screen readers to read text in scanned PDFs and images, and we added NVDA support for screen readers. New accessibility features in mobile apps (Gmail for Mobile and Google Drive on iOS and Android) included enhanced explore-by-touch capabilities and keyboard/trackpad navigability. For a full list of new features and improvements for accessibility in our products, check out our post today on

Based on these updates, we’ve also created an Administrator Guide to Accessibility that explains best practices for deploying Google Apps to support users’ accessibility needs. We want to give everyone a great experience with Google Apps, and this guide is another resource designed with that goal in mind.

For more information on these specific accessibility improvements, using Google products with screen readers, how to submit feedback and how to track our progress, please visit

YouTube automatic captions now available in Spanish

Cross posted from the Blog de YouTube en Español

Last year, YouTube had more than 1 trillion views, or about 140 views for every person on earth. As the world tunes in to YouTube, we want everyone, in every language, to have the same opportunity to enjoy YouTube. So today, we’re expanding our language accessibility to add automatic captions in Spanish.

When a video has recognizable speech, you’ll see a “CC” button appear in the bottom of the player, which will instantly add captions of the video in Spanish. Just look for this icon and click “Transcribe Audio.”

The hundreds of millions of Spanish speakers in the world are the latest to see the auto-caption feature, adding to other available languages of English, Japanese and Korean. You’ll find auto-captions available on more than 157 million videos, with videos being added every day. We’ll continue to refine our speech recognition technology, and you can learn more about how it works here. See it in action on this video, by clicking the CC:

If you want to see YouTube videos in even more languages, you can combine auto-captions with our auto-translate feature to generate subtitles in more than 50 languages. For creators, upload a Spanish transcript with your video and we’ll automatically create timecoded captions. You can even download the automatic captions, all from your Video Manager.

We’re launching new countries and languages all the time, as we work to make YouTube accessible and enjoyable to all.

¡Nos vemos en YouTube!

Hoang Nguyen, software engineer, recently watched "Casillas: 'Si la Eurocopa hubiese sido en 2011, habría habido más problemas.'"

A look inside our 2011 diversity report

We work hard to ensure that our commitment to diversity is built into everything we do—from hiring our employees and building our company culture to running our business and developing our products, tools and services. To recap our diversity efforts in 2011, a year in which we partnered with and donated $19 million to more than 150 organizations working on advancing diversity, we created the 2011 Global Diversity & Talent Inclusion Report. Below are some highlights.

In the U.S., fewer and fewer students are graduating with computer science degrees each year, and enrollment rates are even lower for women and underrepresented groups. It’s important to grow a diverse talent pool and help develop the technologists of tomorrow who will be integral to the success of the technology industry. Here are a few of the things we did last year aimed at this goal in the U.S. and around the world:
We not only promoted diversity and inclusion outside of Google, but within Google as well.
  • We had more than 10,000 members participate in one of our 18 Global Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). Membership and reach expanded as Women@Google held the first ever Women’s Summit in both Mountain View, Calif. and Japan; the Black Googler Network (BGN) made their fourth visit to New Orleans, La., contributing 360 volunteer hours in just two days; and the Google Veterans Network partnered with GoogleServe, resulting in 250 Googlers working on nine Veteran-related projects from San Francisco to London.
  • Googlers in more than 50 offices participated in the Sum of Google, a celebration about diversity and inclusion, in their respective offices around the globe.
  • We sponsored 464 events in 70 countries to celebrate the anniversary of International Women's Day. collaborated with Women for Women International to launch the “Join me on the Bridge” campaign. Represented in 20 languages, the campaign invited people to celebrate by joining each other on bridges around the world—either physically or virtually—to show their support.
Since our early days, it’s been important to make our tools and services accessible and useful to a global array of businesses and user communities. Last year:
  • We introduced ChromeVox, a screen reader for Google Chrome, which helps people with vision impairment navigate websites. It's easy to learn and free to install as a Chrome Extension.
  • We grew Accelerate with Google to make Google’s tools, information and services more accessible and useful to underrepresented communities and diverse business partners.
  • On Veterans Day in the U.S., we launched a new platform for military veterans and their families. The Google for Veterans and Families website helps veterans and their families stay connected through products like Google+, YouTube and Google Earth.
We invite you to take a look back with us at our 2011 diversity and inclusion highlights. We’re proud of the work we’ve done so far, but also recognize that there’s much more to do to. These advances may not happen at Internet speed, but through our collective commitment and involvement, we can be a catalyst for change.

Introducing Google Drive... yes, really

Just like the Loch Ness Monster, you may have heard the rumors about Google Drive. It turns out, one of the two actually does exist.

Today, we’re introducing Google Drive—a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you’re working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé or tracking a budget with roommates, you can do it in Drive. You can upload and access all of your files, including videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and beyond.

With Google Drive, you can:
  • Create and collaborate. Google Docs is built right into Google Drive, so you can work with others in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Once you choose to share content with others, you can add and reply to comments on anything (PDF, image, video file, etc.) and receive notifications when other people comment on shared items.
  • Store everything safely and access it anywhere (especially while on the go). All your stuff is just... there. You can access your stuff from anywhere—on the web, in your home, at the office, while running errands and from all of your devices. You can install Drive on your Mac or PC and can download the Drive app to your Android phone or tablet. We’re also working hard on a Drive app for your iOS devices. And regardless of platform, blind users can access Drive with a screen reader.
  • Search everything. Search by keyword and filter by file type, owner and more. Drive can even recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. Let’s say you upload a scanned image of an old newspaper clipping. You can search for a word from the text of the actual article. We also use image recognition so that if you drag and drop photos from your Grand Canyon trip into Drive, you can later search for [grand canyon] and photos of its gorges should pop up. This technology is still in its early stages, and we expect it to get better over time.
You can get started with 5GB of storage for free—that’s enough to store the high-res photos of your trip to the Mt. Everest, scanned copies of your grandparents’ love letters or a career’s worth of business proposals, and still have space for the novel you’re working on. You can choose to upgrade to 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or even 1TB for $49.99/month. When you upgrade to a paid account, your Gmail account storage will also expand to 25GB.

Drive is built to work seamlessly with your overall Google experience. You can attach photos from Drive to posts in Google+, and soon you’ll be able to attach stuff from Drive directly to emails in Gmail. Drive is also an open platform, so we’re working with many third-party developers so you can do things like send faxes, edit videos and create website mockups directly from Drive. To install these apps, visit the Chrome Web Store—and look out for even more useful apps in the future.

This is just the beginning for Google Drive; there’s a lot more to come.

Get started with Drive today at—and keep looking for Nessie...

Learning independence with Google Search features

Searches can become stories. Some are inspiring, some change the way we see the world and some just put a smile on our face. This is a story of how people can use Google to do something extraordinary. If you have a story, share it. - Ed.

We all have memories of the great teachers who shaped our childhood. They found ways to make the lightbulb go off in our heads, instilled in us a passion for learning and helped us realize our potential. The very best teachers were creative with the tools at their disposal, whether it was teaching the fundamentals of addition with Cheerios or the properties of carbon dioxide with baking soda and vinegar. As the Internet has developed, so too have the resources available for teachers to educate their students.

One teacher who has taken advantage of the web as an educational tool is Cheryl Oakes, a resource room teacher in Wells, Maine. She’s also been able to tailor the vast resources available on the web to each student’s ability. This approach has proven invaluable for Cheryl’s students, in particular 16-year-old Morgan, whose learning disability makes it daunting to sort through search results to find those webpages that she can comfortably read. Cheryl taught Morgan how to use the Search by Reading Level feature on Google Search, which enables Morgan to focus only on those results that are most understandable to her. To address the difficulty Morgan faces with typing, Cheryl introduced her to Voice Search, so Morgan can speak her queries into the computer. Morgan is succeeding in high school, and just registered to take her first college course this summer.

There’s a practically limitless amount of information available on the web, and with search features, you can find the content that is most meaningful for you. For more information, visit

Understanding accessibility at CSUN 2012

This week we’re attending the 27th annual CSUN International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. As the Internet evolves, screen readers, browsers and other tools for accessibility need to grow to meet the complexity of the modern web. Conferences like CSUN are an opportunity to check in with web users with disabilities: not just to share our progress in making online technologies accessible, but to also discuss improvements for the future.

Who are these users? In August, we conducted a survey with the American Council of the Blind, to find out more about how people with sight impairment use the web. We received nearly 1,000 responses from people who are blind or visually impaired, from a wide range of professions in 57 countries: teachers, software developers, social workers, writers, psychologists, musicians and students. The results paint a picture of why it is critical to improve the accessibility of web applications. Of the respondents:
  • Almost 90 percent reported regularly using the web to keep in touch with friends and family
  • Over half use a smartphone, and over half own more than one computer
  • Over two-thirds of respondents said they use social media
  • Over 50 percent have completed a baccalaureate degree, and of those, 30 percent have gone on to to postgraduate studies at the masters' or Ph.D. level
  • Of those who are currently students, over 70 percent have their assistive technology provided for by their school
  • However, for those who have left school and are of working age, 46 percent are unemployed
Better web accessibility has the potential to increase educational and employment opportunities, provide social cohesion and enable independence for the people with disabilities. We imagine a future for the web where the most visually complex applications can be rendered flawlessly to screen readers and other assistive devices that don't rely on sight, using technologies that work seamlessly on browsers and smartphones.

[click here for audio description]

Since we last attended CSUN, we’ve made several improvements to the accessibility of our products:
If you're attending CSUN 2012, we hope you'll come up and say hello at one of our talks on the accessibility of our products, including the use of video in Google+ and Docs and accessibility on Android devices. And Friday we’ll host a Q&A Fireside chat with Google product teams. You can also try some of these improvements out at our two hands-on demo sessions on Thursday, in the Connaught breakout room:
  • 10am to 12pm—Chromebooks and new features in Google Apps
  • 1pm to 3pm—Android 4.0 Galaxy Nexus phones
If you're not attending CSUN 2012, we'd love to hear your thoughts on accessibility in our web forum.

Captions for all: more options for your viewing and reading pleasure

Since we first announced caption support in 2006, YouTube creators have uploaded more than 1.6 million videos with captions, growing steadily each year. We’ve also enabled automatic captions for 135 million videos, more than tripling the number of captioned videos available since July 2011. YouTube and Google’s video accessibility team have been hard at work, and we wanted to let you know about some of our progress over the past few months:

For YouTube viewers

More languages: We now support automatic captions and transcript synchronization in Japanese, Korean, and English. Speech recognition for those languages makes it easier for video owners to create captions from a plain transcript. Video owners can also add captions and subtitles in 155 supported languages and dialects, from Afar to Zulu. In Movies and Shows, you can even find out which subtitle languages are available before deciding to rent.

Search for videos with captions: Looking for that great quote from a video on YouTube? Add ", cc" to any search, or after searching, click Filter > CC to only see results with closed captions.

Caption settings: While watching a video, you can change the way the captions look by clicking on the “CC” icon and then the “Settings...” menu item. This includes changing the font size or colors used, and we’re planning to make this available on other platforms and add more options soon.

Broadcast caption support: If the channel owner provides a video caption file in a broadcast format, we now support its position and style information, just like you’d see on TV. This means the text can appear near the character who is speaking, italicized to indicate an off-camera narrator, or even scrolling if the original captions were generated in a real-time mode. Check out this little demo from CPC to see how it looks, or even watch a rental movie with captions like those available from The Walt Disney Studios.

For YouTube creators

More supported formats: YouTube now supports many of the common caption formats used by broadcasters, such as .SCC, .CAP, EBU-STL, and others. If you have closed captions that you created for TV or DVDs, we'll handle the conversion for you.

MPEG-2 caption import: If you upload an MPEG-2 video file that contains closed captions with CEA-608 encoding, we'll import the captions along with the video and create YouTube captions. For example, the nonprofit organization Public.Resource.Org recently added thousands of public domain videos with closed captions to YouTube, coming from government agencies like the National Archives. Here’s some insight from Carl Malamud, President, Public.Resource.Org:
Many of the DVDs and VHS tapes lying around in our vaults and attics--particularly those that were produced by governments and others that care about accessibility of their videos--already have Closed Captions embedded in them. Pulling that information out automatically and making it visible on YouTube means that these videos will continue to be accessible to new generations of viewers.

Along with the millions of people like myself who rely on captions and subtitles, we were very encouraged when the Federal Communications Commission published rules governing closed captioning requirements for video on the web, whether that’s to your computer, tablet, phone or other device. We hope these new regulations will drive captions closer to becoming ubiquitous for video everywhere, and in the meantime we’ll keep developing more ways for you to enjoy all the great channels on YouTube.

Ken Harrenstien, software engineer, recently rented “Cars 2” and was ecstatic to see its awesome captions.

Enhanced accessibility in Docs, Sites and Calendar

This fall, as classrooms fill with the hustle and bustle of a new semester, more students than ever will use Google Apps to take quizzes, write essays and talk to classmates. Yet blind students (like blind people of all ages) face a unique set of challenges on the web. Members of the blind community rely on screen readers to tell them verbally what appears on the screen. They also use keyboard shortcuts to do things that would otherwise be accomplished with a mouse, such as opening a file or highlighting text.

Over the past few months, we’ve worked closely with advocacy organizations for the blind to improve our products with more accessibility enhancements. While our work isn’t done, we’ve now significantly improved keyboard shortcuts and support for screen readers in several Google applications, including Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Calendar. Business, government and education customers can also learn more about these updates on the Enterprise blog.

In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll continue to improve our products for blind users. We believe that people who depend on assistive technologies deserve as rich and as productive an experience on the web as sighted users, and we’re working to help that become a reality.

For more information on these accessibility changes, using Google products with screen readers, how to send us feedback and how to track our progress, visit