Tag Archives: Diversity and Inclusion

Finding community this Native American Heritage Month

I’m a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and the Tututni Band of Indians, as well as a descendent from the Southern Cheyenne and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. I’m proud of my Native American identity and after coming to Google as a Test Engineer in 2010, I joined the Google American Indian Network—an employee group passionate about Native American communities—to meet other Native people at Google. Since then, I’ve been able to connect with other Googlers to celebrate the diverse range of tribal cultures and communities across the country.

This Native American History Month, we’re highlighting the story of Robin Máxkii in the latest episode of “Search On,” Google’s original documentary series. When Robin was a teenager, she felt caught between worlds—her reservation in Wisconsin, and the urban sprawl of Houston. From organizing hackathons for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to becoming a mentor for Google’s Made with Code program, Robin is carving her own path as a Native person in STEM and is bringing her community along with her.

Today’s Doodle honors another powerful Native American woman: Eastern Band Cherokee Indian woodcarver and educator Amanda Crowe, a prolific artist renowned for her expressive animal figures. Led by Doodler Lydia Nichols, the Doodle was created in collaboration with the Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual as well as William “Bill” H. Crowe, Jr., woodcarver and nephew and former student of Amanda Crowe.

There are a few other ways we’re celebrating Native American History at Google: When you say “Hey Google, how do you celebrate Native American Heritage Month?” your Google Assistant will tell you a fact about Native American history and culture. Try telling it “Hey, Google, Happy Native American Heritage Month” as well.

On November 17th, Google volunteers will be working alongside the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian to facilitate an educator training day in Oklahoma City.

And through Google’s CS First program, we’ll be working with local teachers to strengthen computer science in Native classrooms and to inspire and promote the improvement of teaching and learning about Native American history through NMAI’s Native Knowledge 360°.

The concept of walking in two worlds is one with which many can identify. At Google, I’ve brought my two worlds closer together, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done to share the experiences of Native American people with others.

Making creative tools more accessible for everyone

Before I got into the accessibility field, I worked as an art therapist where I met people from all walks of life. No matter the reason why they came to therapy, almost everyone I met seemed to benefit from engaging in the creative process.  Art gives us the ability to point beyond spoken or written language, to unite us, delight, and satisfy. Done right, this process can be enhanced by technology—extending our ability and potential for play.

One of my first sessions as a therapist was with a middle school student on the autism spectrum. He had trouble communicating and socializing with his peers, but in our sessions together he drew, made elaborate scenes with clay, and made music.

Another key moment for me was when I met Chancey Fleet, a blind technology educator and accessibility advocate. I was learning how to program at the time, and together we built a tool to help her plan a dinner event. It was a visual and audio diagramming tool that paired with her screen reader technology. This collaboration got me excited about the potential of technology to make art and creativity more accessible, and it emphasized the importance of collaborative approaches to design.

This sentiment has carried over into the accessibility research and design work that I do at the NYU Ability Project, a research space where we explore the intersection of disability and technology. Our projects bring together engineers, designers, educators, artists and therapists within and beyond the accessibility community. Like so many technological innovations that have begun as assistive and rehabilitative tech, we hope our work will eventually benefit everyone. That’s why when Google reached out to me with an opportunity to explore ideas around creativity and accessibility, I jumped at the chance.

Together, we made Creatability, a set of experiments that explore how creative tools–drawing, music and more–can be made more accessible using web and AI technology. The project is a collaboration with creators and allies in the accessibility community, such as: Jay Alan Zimmerman, a composer who is deaf; Josh Miele, a blind scientist, designer, and educator; Chancey Fleet, a blind, accessibility advocate, and technology educator; as well as, Barry Farrimond and Doug Bott of Open Up Music, a group focused on empowering young disabled musicians to build inclusive youth orchestras.

Creatability keyboard

The experiments explore a diverse set of inputs--from a computer mouse and keystrokes to your body, wrist, nose, or voice. For example, you can make music by moving your facedraw using sight or sound, and experience music visually.

The key technology we used was a machine learning model called Posenet that can detect key body joints in images and videos. This technology lets you control the experiments with your webcam, simply by moving your body. And it’s powered by Tensorflow.js—a library that runs machine learning models on-device and in your browser, which means your images are never stored or sent to a server.

Creating sound

We hope these experiments inspire others to unleash their inner artist regardless of ability. That’s why we’re open sourcing the code and have created helpful guides as starting points for people to create their own projects. If you create a new experiment or want to share your story of how you used the experiments, you can submit to be featured on the Creatability site at g.co/creatability.

Google’s Code Next program brings coding education to Harlem

Ninth grader Ayan Cooper’s entire family grew up in the Bronx, and as his mother will tell you, you can often find him playing video games or exploring Harlem, where he attends Promise Academy I High School. But these days, he’s got another space where he’s spending most of his time—Code Next Harlem Alliance, one of Google’s newest programs to help build the next generation of computer scientists.

When Ayan shows up to the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem, where Code Next lives, he sees a flurry of activity. He heads over to one corner where two students work together on creating their own emoji with Processing programming language. At a board nearby, Coach Sabrina Victor maps out a sequence of code. Out in the courtyard, a  group of 9th graders chat about plans for their upcoming day of coding.

This isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s a typical day at Code Next Harlem Alliance.


Coach Sabrina Victor works with student Devaughn Hood on a coding project together.

Increased confidence, positive motivation, and hard technical skills, coupled with the access to the people and spaces that can help these students grow, are ultimately what will help diversify the tech ecosystem. Chelsey Roebuck
Founder and Executive Director of ELiTE Education

Two years ago, when Google launched Code Next, an initiative designed to find and foster the next generation of transformational Black and Latinx tech leaders, we wanted to expose kids to tech within their own communities. In 2016-2017, we opened up two labs (one in Chelsea, New York and one in Oakland, California) where high schoolers could learn about computer science for free and become their own creators of technology. Code Next supports Google’s commitment to diversity, endeavoring to attract, develop, progress, and retain more underrepresented talent at all levels of Google’s workforce.

But we always knew that we wanted to open up more Code Next labs—starting in Harlem. “We wanted to work with community experts who had deep roots in the communities we wanted to serve,” shares Google’s Code Next Program Lead, Peta-Gay Clarke.

That’s why, this past summer, we made a multi-year investment in Code Next Harlem Alliance, a partnership led by the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem, Emerging Leaders in Technology and Engineering (ELiTE) Education, and New York Urban League. Harlem, rich in history and culture, has largely “been left out of the economics and new jobs discussion” according to Dominique Jones, Executive Director of Harlem’s Boys and Girls Club. But Harlem is the next tech frontier, she adds, “making it the ideal place for a technology learning lab.”


Chelsey Roebuck (second from left), Dominique Jones (fourth from left) and Dona Badua (second from right) join Googlers and community members at Harlem’s Super STEM Saturday event

In June, Code Next Harlem Alliance opened its doors to 43 rising ninth grade students. Throughout the academic year, students dedicate almost every Saturday to learning in the lab, engaging in a collection of STEM activities ranging from 3-D printing to creating online games. Ayan, for example, expresses excitement over learning about p5.js and Processing: “You can type in functions and make shapes. It’s really cool.”


Harlem Alliance students engage in a team-building activity in front of the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem with ELiTE Education’s Chelsey Roebuck.

Code Next Harlem Alliance is just the beginning of what we hope to build—and there are so many partners that make this work possible, from fellow tech companies to foundations to nonprofits. If you are interested in partnering with us, opening up a new lab, or getting further updates from Code Next, sign up for our quarterly newsletter.

Building a more accessible map thanks to Local Guides from around the world

Navigating the physical world is one of the most challenging problems for the more than one billion people who have disabilities. It is also a hard technical problem to solve. Google Maps is trying to make the world more accessible with the help of Local Guides, a community of more than 50 million people around the world helping to contribute information to Google Maps.

Since launching our campaign one year ago, Local Guides worldwide have worked tirelessly adding accessibility information to Google Maps. Using local knowledge, they answer questions like "Does this place have a wheelchair accessible entrance?”, “Is there an  accessible restroom?” and many more.

In that time, seven million Local Guides answered more than 500 million of these questions. Thanks to their hard work, we can now provide accessibility information for more than 40 million places on Google Maps. (And to help people get to those places, our Maps  accessibility team launched wheelchair accessible public transportation routes this Spring.)


151 Local Guides from 59 countries pose for a photo with their home flags during Connect Live 2018 in San Francisco.

For both Google and Local Guides, this is just the beginning. At last week’s Local Guides Connect Live, Local Guides from all over the world shared their insights and thoughts on how the program could be improved to promote ever more inclusion in their home countries.

Here some ways leading Local Guides were discussing accessibility:

  • Ilankovan Thushyantha, this year’s Meet-up Superstar award winner at Connect Live, is a top Local Guide from Sri Lanka. Ilankovan recently hosted his 48th meet-up, teaching millennials in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka the importance of mapping tools (You can watch Ilankovan's journey or check out his recap report here). He also created a Worldwide Meet-up for Local Guides to host accessibility-themed events this month. During Connect Live, Ilankovan shared that in rural areas, existing questions about places (like if there are elevators) can feel irrelevant, leading us to discuss how upcoming features will allow Local Guides to submit free-form accessibility information more effectively.


Ilankovan Thushyantha receives the  Meet-up Superstar award.

  • Emeka Ulor won the award for Outstanding Accessibility Contributions, and he even organized an accessibility meet-upduring his trip to San Francisco. At Connect Live, he shared that accessible entrances in Nigeria are often poorly marked—even at government buildings. In addition to improved signage, we brainstormed ways to indicate alternate entrances.


Emeka Ulor receiving Outstanding Accessibility Contributions Award from Googler Brittany Miller.

  • Paul Gerarts, a retiree from Belgium who is currently living in Malaysia, shared insights from his work in creating audio descriptions of videos and tours for people with vision impairment. Paul challenged us to explore adding questions that help those with “invisible” disabilities such as blindness and hearing impairment.


Paul Gerarts (on the left) with Google Software Engineer Sasha Blair-Goldensohn.

With the help of transit agencies around the globe, Local Guides like these and 50 million more worldwide are contributing local knowledge and making progress toward a more accessible world for everyone.

Learn more about the Local Guides community, sign up to be a Local Guide and help answer accessibility questions within Google Maps today.

Robbie Ivey’s story: how technology removes barriers

At Google we believe in the power of technology to make a difference in people’s lives. And for 19-year-old Robbie Ivey from Michigan, that certainly rings true.

Robbie has duchenne muscular dystrophy, which has left him able to control only his eyes, head and right thumb joint. Among the many challenges Robbie and his family face, nighttime is one of the key ones. For years, Robbie’s mom Carrie has set her alarm every few hours to get up and change his position in bed so he doesn’t get bed sores or infections. Earlier this year, a sleep-deprived Carrie put out a message to the Muscular Dystrophy Association asking for help to try and find a better way.  She got a response from Bill Weir, a retired tech worker, who thought he could set up Robbie’s bed to be controlled by voice activation. While working on the bed, Bill had an epiphany: if he can control the bed this way, why not everything else in Robbie’s bedroom universe?

As part of our efforts to spotlight accessible technologies throughout National Disability Awareness Month, we hear directly from Robbie about how technology has helped him gain more independence in his life as he starts off on his first year at Oakland Universityin Rochester.

From design to development, user feedback shapes Google’s approach to accessibility

It’s a hot day in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Google Accessibility User Experience team is being shown around the city. Their goal for the next 10 days is to understand the daily experience of various people living with disabilities in this city of more than 10 million people. Notebooks are out, cameras are rolling and Rachmad (a pseudonym), a student who is blind, is eager to share some of his experiences with the team to help us build products that help solve everyday obstacles for him and others.

jakarta research study

The Google Accessibility team's research study in Jakarta was aimed at understanding the experience of people living with disabilities there

As the group approaches a bus stop, Rachmad begins asking for help from passersby. A Jakarta local tells him which bus stop he’s at and where it will take him. He turns to the Google Accessibility team and says “Yeah, I kind of have to trust them and hope they are telling the truth.”

After a short bus ride and a long walk, the team returns to Rachmad’s home, where he shows them the four mobile devices he owns, each running different versions of operating systems depending on the task. A researcher notices he’s active within multiple online accessibility support communities and asks him about it. “Sometimes it can be difficult finding help for assistive tools. We try and help each other any way we can,” says Rachmad. 

This is a user research field study and it’s demonstrating one of Google’s key values: Focus on the user and all else will follow. User research is core to success throughout a product’s life cycle, and fundamental to creating a product that works for as many people as possible, including people with disabilities. From defining product vision to development and onwards, here's how the Google Accessibility team uses research to ensure our products are more inclusive:

Define the product vision

No matter what the product or service is, it’s important to first understand what problems need solving and how the current solutions could be improved. Observing and talking to a diverse set of users with and without disabilities about their challenges, needs, and workarounds can provide richer insights and drive designs that all users may benefit from. Identifying these insights during early brainstorms and design sprints can help approach problems from different perspectives and lead to more creative solutions.

Design with accessibility in mind

The insights gained from observing users can influence all aspects of design including interaction, visual, motion, and writing. Google’s Material Design Accessibility Guidelines and Designing for Global Accessibility principles summarize fundamental principles that help create more accessible products. For example, ensuring there is good contrast between text and the background will help people with low vision or people trying to read a phone screen in the sun. Tools like the Material Color Tool can help make choosing more accessible color palettes easier.

GoogleMaterialdesign_accessibility guidelines.png

Google’s Material Design Accessibility Guidelines provide guidance on accessible design, such as ensuring enough contrast between text and background

Our team often says that "accessible design is just good design." Indeed, if you look at the bigger picture, the goal of creating products is to help people create things, find things, watch things—in short, to accomplish things. Why would any product team want to make it more challenging for a user to accomplish their goals? That's why we encourage teams to use the accessibility design guidelines to influence early design choices. Like most things worth doing, designing with accessibility in mind takes practice and work. But it's key to designing a robust user experience for all.

Develop and iterate

Throughout the design and development of a product, there are many opportunities to get additional input from diverse users. Any type of evaluative research, like usability studies, can be made more inclusive by testing with people with and without disabilities. At this stage, teams can gain more specific insights on the actual experience for the user. For example, an application could present a notification for a longer period so that it doesn’t disappear too quickly for someone with a learning disability or someone who was simply too distracted to read it. While design guidelines can help a product with fundamental accessibility, nothing substitutes for actually watching a person using a screen reader, switch access device, or other assistive technology to truly understand the quality of the user experience.

After a product launches

Once a product launches, teams can use feedback surveys, app ratings, customer support calls and emails to get a wealth of qualitative input. And filtering this feedback by users with accessibility needs can continue to paint the picture of their full experience.

This is also the perfect time to stop and understand what benefits were gained from designing inclusively from the beginning, and to apply lessons learned to the next product development cycle. Over time, it can become second nature to design inclusively.

Products are a product of user feedback

Returning to our researchers in Jakarta: After they came back from their trip, they worked to bring awareness to their findings by sharing insights and solutions with other teams at Google, including the Next Billion Users group to help them think about accessibility for people in emerging markets. Rachmad’s comments about how it can be difficult finding help for assistive tools informed the creation of a new Google support team dedicated to helping people with disabilities who have questions on assistive technology or accessibility within Google's products. On a product level, the Jakarta team provided valuable input for the group behind Lookout, an app coming soon to the U.S. that helps people who are blind and visually impaired learn about their surroundings. Once available, people like Rachmad will hear cues from their Android phones, helping them gain more independence.

Focusing on accessibility from the beginning can influence product direction as well as develop robust insights that teams can learn from and build upon in future work—all in an effort to effectively build for everyone.  If you’re interested in helping shape the future of accessibility at Google, sign up to participate in future user studies.

What’s that you say? Present with captions in Google Slides

Years ago in a Long Island doctor’s office, four-year-old Laura was fitted with her first pair of hearing aids, customized to compensate for her specific hearing loss. However, they didn’t work very well, particularly in noisy backgrounds, so she eventually stopped wearing them.

A few years later on a school bus in Bethesda, MD, nine-year-old Abigail sat next to a classmate who taught her how to communicate using American Sign Language. In high school, she worked in a biology lab at the National Eye Institutewhere she researched retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder that causes loss of vision.

Flash forward to today where we, Laura and Abigail, work at Google, building products with accessibility features that help billions of users across the globe. We met earlier, through the accessibility community at MIT, where we studied computer science with the hopes of using our technical skills to make a difference in people’s lives.

During our time at university, Abigail built a solution that helped a blind man use his touch-screen oven, led a team that enabled blind individuals to sign legal documents independently, and co-founded an assistive technology hackathon. Laura researched a new signal processing algorithm for hearing aids in noisy environments, built an app for residents in a neurological disease care facility to call for help in a more accessible way, and worked on a hands-free page turner for individuals unable to use their arms. This work not only made us see what an impact technology can make on people with accessibility needs, but also motivated us to focus our careers in this area when we graduated.

When we landed at Google, we both independently joined the G Suite accessibility team. As part of this team, we've improved screen reader, Braille and screen magnifier support on Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, and we have represented the Google Accessibility team at external conferences. We’re also involved with the American Sign Language community at Google, which promotes inclusivity among all Googlers through shared language.

Recently, an internal hackathon led us to work on a project that is deeply personal. Upon observing that presentations can be challenging for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to follow along, we both teamed up with the idea to add automated closed captions to G Suite’s presentation tool, Google Slides.

This work has moved from a passion project to our full-time job, and today we’re officially launching automated closed captions in Google Slides. The feature will gradually roll out to all Slides users starting this week.

Google Slides Closed Captions

An example of closed captions in Google Slides

How it works

The closed captions feature is available when presenting in Google Slides. It uses your computer’s microphone to detect your spoken presentation, then transcribes—in real time—what you say as captions on the slides you’re presenting.  When you begin presenting, click the “CC” button in the navigation box (or use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + c in Chrome OS / Windows or ⌘ + Shift + c in Mac).

As you start speaking into your device’s microphone, automated captions will appear in real time at the bottom of your screen for your audience to see. The feature works for a single user presenting in U.S. English on a laptop or desktop computer, using the Chrome browser. We’re looking to expand the feature to more countries and languages over time. The captions are powered by machine learning and heavily influenced by the speaker's accent, voice modulation, and intonation. We’re continuing to work on improving caption quality.

Closed captioning in Slides can help audience members like Laura who are deaf or hard of hearing, but it can also be useful for audience members without hearing loss who are listening in noisy auditoriums or rooms with poor sound settings. Closed captioning can also be a benefit when the presenter is speaking a non-native language or is not projecting their voice. The fact that the feature was built primarily for accessibility purposes but is also helpful to all users shows the overall value for everyone of incorporating accessibility into product design.

You might think that the experiences we had growing up are the reasons we were inspired to work on accessibility at Google. That’s partly true. But we really got into this work for its potential to improve the lives of people with disabilities, for the interesting technologies and design constraints, and because of our desire to use our skills to make the world a better place. We’re excited to contribute to that effort with closed captions in Google Slides, and we’re eager to share it with you. Visit our help center to learn more.

Vint Cerf on accessibility, the cello and noisy hearing aids

The Internet is undoubtedly a transformative technology, changing how people all over the world live and work. One of the key figures responsible for designing the architecture of the Internet is Dr. Vint Cerf, who along with Robert E. Kahn is known as one of the “fathers of the Internet.” Dr Cerf also been Google’s chief internet evangelist for last 12 years. This Disability Awareness Month, we sat down with him to learn more about the impact of technology on the more than 1 billion people with disabilities and why building accessible products matters to him on a personal level.

Many people might not know this, but you have a hearing impairment.

Vint: I was born six weeks prematurely in 1943. In those days, they put babies in oxygen tents to help them breathe with immature lungs. It’s thought that this treatment led to a progressing nerve loss which continues to this day—at about 1 dB loss per year. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for over 60 years.

Most kids hate to be different and just want to fit in. Wearing hearing aids must have been hard. How did you deal with that?

I began wearing dual hearing aids at age 13, in junior high. It was pretty noticeable. On the other hand, I was already a self-proclaimed geek and went on to high school wearing sports coats, slacks and ties. If I was going to look different, I decided to do it with style!

What advice would you give your younger self about how to get comfortable with your hearing impairment?

There was no hiding those bulky, behind-the-ear hearing aids. Now I’m very open about it, even though the hearing aids are less noticeable. My advice to my younger self would have been to try to get more matter-of-fact about my hearing loss. One awkward problem—especially with behind-the-ear aids—is that they squealed when you were making out. Wrecks the mood. On the other hand, taking them off made me incommunicado. Tough choices!

vint cerf in 1956 and in 1973

Left: Vint in 1956. (Look familiar? We've shared this photo before.) Right: Rocking an ascot circa 1973.

Did you ever feel your hearing impairment held you back?

I don’t think I ever felt “held back,” although fast-talking comedians are often frustrating because I miss the too-fast punch lines. But I have learned to adapt my practices to diminish the effects of deafness. For example, I do Q&A on stage by roaming around with a microphone so I can get close enough to lip read if I have to.

How would you say your disability has shaped your own interaction with technology?

While at UCLA for my Ph.D., I got involved in the ARPANET project. Around 1971, Ray Tomlinson developed the idea of networked electronic mail, which was hugely attractive to me because it replaced uncertain voice calls with the clarity of text. The development of the Internet was undertaken in the context of heavy use of email.

The rise of video conferencing has actually been a huge challenge for me as it reintroduces some of the uncertainty of voice calling and I look forward to real-time, automatic captioning to overcome the limitations that medium poses for me.

postel crocker cerf 1994 copy.jpg

Vint Cerf (right) with Jon Postel and Steve Crocker in 1994. The three were part of the team working on the ARPAnet, which eventually became today's Internet. 

Was accessibility something you were thinking of when you and Bob Kahn were developing the protocols for the creation of the Internet?

Not at the time. Today, however, given the huge advantages of computer applications, it’s a high priority to ensure that disabilities do not prevent people from gaining the full benefit of online and offline digital environments.

In an interview with “The Washington Post” you said, “I traded in my cello for a keyboard.” What would life would have been like if you hadn’t made that switch?

I wish I had not treated this as a binary choice. It is entirely possible to have both but I didn’t fully appreciate that at the time. I did get to attend a masters class led by Pablo Casals at Berkeley in 1958. It was truly inspiring but computers grabbed my attention even more dramatically at that time. Perhaps it is time to go back to see whether I can regain that skill. The cello is a magnificent instrument.

You’re married to someone who has a hearing impairment—but she got cochlear implants that really changed her life. You have quite a funny story about that.

Sigrid was born with normal hearing but lost it at age three after a bout with spinal meningitis. She was profoundly deaf, and functioned in a hearing world through lip-reading.

At age 53, she received her first cochlear implant. It functioned spectacularly well. After that, she was eager to make and receive phone calls—even from solicitors. She got one call from an AT&T salesperson in India and asked "oh, which part of India are you from?" The conversation went on for quite a while. Finally the poor salesperson asked, "So you're going to switch to AT&T?" and Sigrid said, "Oh no, my husband is SVP at MCI but thanks for calling!"

Vint Cerf and his wife Sigrid circa 1969

Vint and his wife Sigrid circa 1969

What lessons have you learned from others with disabilities?

Jack Chen is a lawyer at Google who is blind and does stuff that I think is nuts (like bicycle riding) but he’s wonderfully open to discussing blindness and his coping mechanisms. It is from my interactions with Jack that I refined and reinforced my own comfort with talking about the challenges of deafness. I remember asking him whether he cooked. He said, “Yes!” Then I asked him, how can you tell if the food is cooked? He said, “I touch it with my fingers.” That’s when I said I wasn’t going to eat steaks that he pan fried. We both had a good laugh. It’s incredibly important to be able to laugh about some of the situations disabilities put you in.

What message do you have for people creating technology today and how they should think about accessibility?

It must be thought through during the design phase of any product. Accessibility and ease of use go hand in hand. Many people experience temporary disability (broken arm, leg, finger, blocked ears…) and appreciate the value of accessibility features from that experience. There is no excuse for making products that are not accessible. 

Thanking Latino-led small businesses this Hispanic Heritage Month

I first met Eve Rodriguez Montoya, the creator of Yogolandia Yogurt & Botana Bar, at a roundtable focused on the challenges facing Latino-owned small businesses. In 2016, she wanted to bring more healthy food options to her neighborhood, Chicago’s Little Village. She decided to open a frozen yogurt shop that featured the Mexican flavors she grew up with and loved, like horchata, pepino and churros. And to bring her vision to life, she turned to technology. Google Search helped her learn how to create a business plan and to find suppliers. Once she was ready to open her doors, she used Google My Business to make sure customers could find her on Google Search and Maps. Today, business is thriving, she has four employees and she's collaborated with a few businesses in Chicago to feature her unique flavors.

We’re excited to see how Latinos across the country are using technology to grow their businesses and support local communities. This Hispanic Heritage Month, we're encouraging Latino-led businesses to make sure they’ve claimed their free business listing on Google. To help them keep growing, we’re also offering these businesses free marketing materials from Small Thanks with Google, including customized assets, like posters and social posts, featuring real Google reviews from customers.

small thanks - hispanic heritage month

If you're a Latino-led business, make sure to get on the map. And to everyone else, we hope you'll join us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and the small businesses in your community!

Use your voice to access the world with a new Android app

Everyone can benefit from hands-free support when using technology, but for the 62 million people in the U.S. with motor and mobility impairments, it can be a vital requirement. For Stefanie Putnam, a quadriplegic and a para-equestrian driver, tasks like taking photos, sending texts and composing emails could be daunting.

Stefanie was one of several people the Google Accessibility team worked with to test early prototypes of a feature which allowed people to control their Android device using voice-only commands. Her feedback—and that of other testers—was instructional in shaping a new product we’ve just released called Voice Access.

“After using this product for probably about 10 seconds, I think I’m falling in love with it,” said Stefanie. “You use your voice and you’re able to access the world. It has become a huge staple in my life.”

Stefanie Putnam testing Voice Access

Stefanie Putnam testing Voice Access

Voice Access provides a hands-free experience for Android, letting people navigate through apps, compose and edit text, and talk to the Google Assistant. It provides more fine-grained controls than other voice commands you might use on your phone—for example, letting you use your voice to "click" buttons and controls within apps, or scroll and navigate app screens. And while there are great benefits for individuals with Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, spinal cord injury and more, Voice Access can also provide value to people who don’t have a disability—people juggling with groceries or in the middle of cooking.

Screenshots of voice commands used by Voice Access

Screenshots of voice commands used by Voice Access

When using Voice Access, you can compose and edit a text message hands free by saying “Ok Google,” and open your favorite app with the “open” command. Then, select the text field by speaking the number Voice Access displays next to it. After saying your message out loud, like “would you like to meet for lunch tomorrow?” you can edit the text using phrases like “replace tomorrow with Saturday” to change the day you want to meet. Speaking commands such as “delete the line” or “undo” will start over and when you’ve finished, you can say “stop listening.”  There are many more examples of available commands on oursupport page.

Screenshot of an Android homepage using Voice Access

Screenshot of an Android homepage using Voice Access

Feedback like Stefanie’s consistently shapes the future of Google’s products. You can help our Central Accessibility team build even more accessible products by signing up to participate in future user studies.   

Voice Access is available globally supporting English commands, with additional language support coming in the future.  Learn more about Voice Access  and download the app from Google Play today.