Google Improving Accessibility For Those With Cognitive Disabilities
Google says it is working to make smartphones easier to use for people with cognitive disabilities.
The technology giant unveiled a new functionality this week called Action Blocks, which allows users to create custom commands to do virtually anything on their phones with the tap of a single icon.
The feature, which relies on Google Assistant, is aimed at simplifying regular activities for people with disabilities, the company said.
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“Think about the last time you did something seemingly simple on your phone, like booking a rideshare. To do this, you had to unlock your phone, find the right app and type in your pickup location. The process required you to read and write, remember your selections and focus for several minutes at a time. For the 630 million people in the world with some form of cognitive disability, it’s not that easy,” wrote Ajit Narayanan, an accessibility software engineer at Google, in a company posting this week.
Rather than remember each step that’s involved in ordering a ride from Uber or Lyft, a single Action Block icon can be created on the phone’s home screen that serves as a visual cue to trigger the series of steps needed to get a ride.
“Action Blocks can be configured to do anything the Assistant can do, in just one tap: call a loved one, share your location, watch your favorite show, control the lights and more,” Narayanan indicated.
The new offering builds on DIVA, a project announced earlier this year that aimed to allow people who are nonverbal to use Google Assistant, which is typically voice activated.
The Action Blocks feature is still in the testing phase, Narayanan said, but families of those with cognitive disabilities can sign up to try out the new tool.
“Action Blocks is the first of our many efforts to empower people with cognitive disabilities, help them gain independence, connect with loved ones and engage in the world as they are,” Narayanan wrote.