Chrome OS 86 aims to make computing more accessible to visually impaired

JC Torres - Oct 13, 2020, 7:54pm CDT
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Chrome OS 86 aims to make computing more accessible to visually impaired

A lot of modern technologies are designed for the vast majority of people with more or less capable vision and motor skills. Smartphones, for example, presume everyone has agile and accurate fingers, not to mention good if not excellent eyesight. Even laptops with larger screens take for granted that not everyone sees the same way. To make its web-centric platform more inclusive, Google is pouring some attention on accessibility features for Chrome OS that specifically target those who aren’t able to see well.

A lot of attention has been given to colors in new design languages but the fact is that not everyone sees colors the same way. Some might not even be able to distinguish some colors because of contrast problems. To remedy that for one of the smallest parts of the desktop interface, Chrome OS now lets users change not only the size of the mouse cursor but even its color, making the icons easier to see and locate on the screen.

It isn’t just icons that are hard to see, of course. Words are sometimes trickier to make out, even with something like text-to-speech or TTS technologies. Chrome OS is augmenting this accessibility feature by highlighting the selected text that will get spoken, making the words visually pop out. This additional aid can help those with low vision but can even help some with learning disabilities, whether they have good eyesight or not.

And for those that are barely able to see at all, Google has improved its ChromeVox Chrome OS screen reader to speak in the language that a web page is set to. It also boasts that Chrome is the first browser that creates PDFs with headings, links, and tables that can help screen readers better analyze the text and speak it out for users.

These features are rolling out in the latest Chrome OS version and if you feel lost in all of it, Google has also launched a new Accessibility Hub for Chromebooks as your guide. These may seem like small changes that won’t exactly benefit the vast majority of users but, sooner or later, we’ll all come to a point when we’ll need all the help we can get even to just use a computer or a phone.


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