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How Google Makes Android Apps and World Information Universally Accessable to Everyone

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Google’s Android Studio now allows developers to scan for app accessibility issues.

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The iPhone and Apple Watch are the flag bearers of their respective product categories, so Apple is also the flag bearer when it comes to designing and shipping the best assistive technologies. Cupacino has long been praised by people in the disabled community for creating the best accessibility software, just as the iPhone is the best smartphone and the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch.

Still, where Apple is leading, contemporary people are obliged to obey. Maintaining good accessibility practices is clearly not, and should not be, limited to one company. In fact, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft’s Apples Big Tech buddies are all doing a good job on their own to push the importance of accessibility into technology and raise awareness of people with disabilities. In particular, Mountain View-based Google has recently made great strides in improving accessibility on Android and other properties in a variety of ways. In addition, the company recently launched a heartfelt advertisement called A CODA Story. It highlights how Google technologies such as Live Transcribe enable communication with parents of hearing-impaired children.

Google’s mission is to organize information around the world and make it accessible to people around the world. Casey Burkhardt, a staff software engineer on Google’s accessibility team, said in a recent interview that he did it by email. With one billion people with disabilities in the world, fulfilling that mission means leveraging what many already have in their pockets to access both the physical and digital worlds. It means to make it easier.

For Burkhardt, Google’s mission to make information about the world accessible to everyone has special implications. Being legally blind, he is not only deeply involved in building tools that give him access to company software, but also makes it easy to access the world using the same tools. With the advent of smartphones, life has literally changed. From school to mail, you no longer have to carry a physical magnifying glass to read small prints in the real world. You can still remember the moment you discovered the free digital magnifying glass app. This app is better than the dedicated auxiliary hardware that has been in the drawer since then.

For Google, accessibility research is partly due to the idea that mobile devices will also be a gateway to the digital world, and that what we do and how we interact is app-based. Burkhart told me. The company refused to share what percentage of Android users are using accessibility features, but Burkhardt says that much of the inspiration from the development process is the needs of internal team members. Said. Many people have a disability in themselves and provide ideas based on what they need from their device. One example quoted by Burkhardt is the TalkBack Braille keyboard. It was devised and developed by Daniel Dalton, a software engineer at Google, Blind, who wanted to provide Braille users with a fast way to communicate on Android devices. Another example is Live Transcribe, developed by engineers Chet Gnegy and Dimitri Kanevsky. Kanevsky is deaf and he and Kanevsky wanted to create something that would provide an additional means of making conversations more accessible.

[As] Burkhardt says the team we tackle the impact of accessibility features by considering not only the number of people we reach, but also the extent to which we can help influence their lives. It was.

In addition to internal inspiration, Google receives feedback from users about how accessibility features can help them be more productive. Burkhardt said the company will use these stories as fuel to create these technologies. He said these living experiences are the key to reflecting the impact our tools have on someone’s life. One of the anecdotes shared by Burkhardt was about Matthew Johnston. Johnston, a self-proclaimed digital accessibility advocate who is severely deaf, wrote a guest post on Google’s Keyword Blog to explain how he was able to talk to his 23-year-old son on the phone at Live Captions for Calls on his Pixel smartphone. Did. For the first time. Thanks to this feature, when Harry spoke, his words were instantly translated into text, Johnston wrote. I was able to read what Harry was saying at the same time and respond to him in a natural and fluid way. Johnston added that he was able to call bank managers, handymen, colleagues, family and friends.

At the technical level, Burkhardt said that enabling these Android accessibility features is a set of APIs that allow Google and third-party developers to access their apps. Google recently added the Accessibility Scanner feature to its Android Studio app. This is an environment where developers create apps for Android. The scanner is itself part of the layout editor feature, helping developers scan for accessibility issues and providing feedback along the way. Burkhardt said getting this early in the app development cycle allows developers who aren’t very familiar with accessibility to incorporate it into their software as much as possible.

In the past, developers have had to proactively review accessibility reports by integrating testing with the testing framework, running accessibility scanners, or viewing pre-release reports on the Play Store. All of this requires additional work or knowledge of the tool and you need to know which surface it is on. The findings of the second half of the development life cycle, he said. Meeting developers in the Android Studios Layout Editor will give you specific suggestions in front of many developers who don’t know or may not know how to approach accessibility.

Building the scanner was a collaboration between Android Studio design tools and the accessibility developer infrastructure team. This tool is still in its infancy and is currently available in Android Studio Arctic Fox Beta, but Google welcomes feedback from developers. Burkhardt added that he is excited to have Google integrate the tools into Android Studio and gain access to the forefront of app development.

The functionality of the Android Studios Accessibility Scanner is similar to the Accessibility Inspector feature of Apple Xcode. Debuting at WWDC 2019, this tool does much the same job as the Accessibility Scanner. The means are different and the platforms are clearly different, but the ultimate goal of making accessibility a first-class citizen during development is the same. Silicon Valley, and the tech industry as a whole, need people with this kind of commitment disability to deserve this kind of awareness.

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