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Google Drive, Apps retooled for blind and low-vision users

Aimed primarily at education users, the internet giant collaborated with a number of experts on this project, including the National Federation of the Blind and the University of Michigan.

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Google is in the midst of rolling out improvements for Drive and all of its productivity apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, and Forms) specifically with blind and low-vision users in mind.

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Aimed primarily at education users, the internet giant collaborated with a number of experts on this project, including the National Federation of the Blind and the University of Michigan.

The new features include refreshable Braille display support for reading and entering text, an updated keyboard shortcut help dialog for faster searches, and more screen reader improvements (specifically for Docs, Sheets and Slides) for tasks such as spelling suggestions and revision history.

Google engineering vice president Alan Warren stressed further in a blog post on Thursday that absolutely everyone should be able to utilize Google Apps without hindrance, "regardless of ability."

Warren wrote:

Imagine trying to keep track of another person’s real-time edits in a document — using only your ears. Or trying to create a table from spreadsheet data — without being able to clearly see the cells. 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. 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. While screen readers can parse static webpages (like this blog) relatively easily, it’s much harder for them to know what to say in interactive applications like Google Docs because the actions they need to describe are much more complex.

The upgrades follow some additional tweaks here and there across the Google Apps platform this week.

On Wednesday , Google for Work (the department formerly known as Google Enterprise before last week) became more iOS-friendly with the debut of iOS Sync for Google Apps.

Hangouts is also getting free voice calling on Android, iOS, and web channels in the United States and Canada.

For a closer look at Google Accessibility for Docs, check out the promo clip below:

Screenshot via Google