October 7th, 2011 | Published in Google Public Policy
Over the past few months, my colleagues and I have worked closely with advocacy organizations for the blind to improve our products. We have had a number of meetings with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and American Council of the Blind (ACB) to discuss planned updates, to involve their members in early product testing, and most recently at the end of August to discuss our progress. This summer, Alan Eustace, our Senior VP of Engineering, was invited to speak at the NFB’s national convention and he thanked them for sharing their constructive feedback with us. At the CSUN conference in March and the ACB conference in July, we held focus groups to better understand blind users’ experience with assistive technologies and how our products could be improved. In August, we launched a survey with the ACB to study computer usage and assistive technology patterns in the blind community.
Last month, we announced some accessibility enhancements, including improved keyboard shortcuts and support for screen readers in Google Docs, Google Sites and Google Calendar. We also hosted a public webinar to discuss how our product updates might affect users in business, government and education settings. While we hope these enhancements make it easier for people who rely on assistive technologies to work and collaborate using our products, we recognize that our work isn’t done and we remain committed to making our products more accessible.
We’re grateful for the early and supportive feedback we’ve received from our colleagues at the advocacy organizations. In a statement posted on the National Federation of the Blind’s (NFB’s) website, Mark Riccobono commented that the NFB “is pleased that Google has been actively engaged with us in their work to solve access issues... Many improvements still need to be made before Google applications are fully accessible to blind users, but the enhancements that we have seen demonstrated indicate a commitment to accessibility by Google.”
“We are pleased to see the amount of progress that Google has made over the summer to these apps,” said Eric Bridges, the Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs for the American Council of the Blind (ACB). “We expect to test even more improvements in the coming months. Thousands of ACB’s blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind members are eager to take advantage of the convenience and flexibility that cloud-based applications like Google Docs, Gmail, Calendar, and Spreadsheet offer. Our goal is to insure that our members don’t get left behind.”
In the coming months, we’ll continue to collaborate with advocacy organizations 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 our accessibility enhancements, how to send us feedback and how to track our progress, visit google.com/accessibility.