Tag Archives: accessibility

16 founders with disabilities using technology for good

One billion people globally — including one in four people in the U.S. — are living with a disability, making it the largest minority group in the world. However, this diverse, vibrant and powerful community is often associated with pity and limitations. I have Cerebral Palsy, which, in my case, mainly affects my legs and motor skills. I still remember my elementary school classmate telling me his dad didn’t let him play with “weird” kids. Just last week, someone stopped me on the street asking if they could pray for me. These negative stereotypes can make entering the workforce challenging for many disabled people, who are unemployed at more than double the rate of nondisabled people.

How can we start to change these misconceptions? One word: entrepreneurship.

People with disabilities are innate problem solvers. From the moment we wake up, we have to figure out how to get dressed, how to drive, how to communicate, how to live in a world that is not built to fit our needs. In fact, people with disabilities are almost twice as likely compared to non-disabled individuals to start a business.

I founded 2Gether-International (2GI) to harness this entrepreneurial mindset. As the only startup accelerator run by and for entrepreneurs with disabilities, 2GI provides resources, training, opportunities and a community to help disabled founders create a pathway to funding and success. We envision a world in which disability is recognized as a source of innovation, strength and creativity.

This National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we teamed up with Google for Startups to launch our first-ever tech edition of the 2Gether-International Accelerator. This 10-week program is tailored to support early-stage tech startups around key areas of business growth, including market fit, management, sales, marketing and negotiations. The 16 selected founders work one-on-one with industry experts, accredited business coaches, and facilitators such as Bill Bellows, professor and co-director of the Entrepreneurship Incubator at American University, to leave the program with investor-ready pitches and a network of founders and Google experts.

Congratulations to the founders and startups selected for the inaugural 2Gether International tech class:

  • Adam David Jones (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) of Zeer, a 911 enhancement that uses machine learning and connected devices to create an autonomous safety response system.
  • Arianna Mallozzi (Boston, Massachusetts) of Puffin Innovations, an assistive technology startup focused on developing solutions for people with disabilities to lead more inclusive and independent lives.
  • Beth Kume-Holland (London, U.K.) of Patchwork Hub, an accessible employment platform connecting employers to highly skilled professionals who are looking for work opportunities outside the conventional 9-to-5 office job.
  • Denis Goncharov (St. Petersburg, Russia) of NOLI Music, a smart guitar synthesizer and musical education app that facilitates distance learning and tracks progress over time.
  • Elizabeth Tikoyan (Fairfax, Virginia) of Healp, a health social network that connects patients to community and to crowdsourced health solutions.
  • Gareth Walkom (Ghent, Belgium) of WithVR, an app that uses virtual reality to prepare people with speech disorders for real-life situations.
  • Hua Wang (Alexandria, Virginia) of SmartBridge Health, which aims to democratize access to optimal cancer care to improve health outcomes for patients.
  • Kristy McCann (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) of Go Coach, a business software platform designed to help candidates grow in their careers, unlock their potential and achieve greater happiness at work.
  • Kun Ho Kim (Seoul, South Korea) of Door Labs, a startup aiming to accelerate positive social changes in the real world by creating an inclusive virtual “metaverse” in which all identities are represented and celebrated.
  • Michael Zalle (Phoenix, Arizona) of YellowBird, an on-demand marketplace connecting environmental, health, and safety professionals with corporate needs and projects.
  • Nikolas Kelly (Rochester, New York) of Sign-Speak, an AI sign language interpreter for non-signers to easily communicate with individuals who are Deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Saida Florexil (West Palm Beach, Florida) of Imanyco, a live transcription app for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Samantha Scott (Rockville, Maryland) of JuneBrain, a company building wearables and software monitoring solutions to detect and monitor eye and brain disease outside traditional clinical settings.
  • Sheryl Mattys (Westfield, Indiana) of Fetchadates, a social networking app for single pet lovers to connect with fellow animal lovers.
  • Toshe Ayo-Ariyo (Los Angeles, California) of UInclude, a bias mitigation tool that uses machine learning algorithms to identify and eliminate implicitly biased language in recruitment material.
  • Vanessa Gill (Los Angeles, California) of Social Cipher, a social-emotional learning platform offering games and curriculums designed to help neurodiverse youth develop learning skills and construct positive boundaries.

As 2GI looks to involve corporate partners to help us expand our offerings, it is critical we work with leaders who actually understand the impact people with disabilities have on the world. Whether it is by developing accessible products, partnering with community organizations, or hiring more people with disabilities, Google has continuously supported the disability community. I trust that Google's commitment to founders with disabilities will set a precedent for greater inclusion in the startup world.

Learn more about 2GI and Google for Startups on disability rights activist Judy Heumann’s podcast The Heumann Perspective, and stay tuned for updates from our group of founders over the next three months as they build and grow not only their companies, but also the perception of disabled founders around the world.

Check out Chromebook’s new accessibility features

With accessibility features on Chromebooks, we want everyone to have a good experience on their computer – so people can get things done, families can play together, students and teachers can learn together, and employees can work productively and efficiently, wherever they are. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so we wanted to share a few recent and new Chromebook features that help people access information in a way that works for them.

New enhanced voices for Select-to-speak

People spend a lot of time reading on their laptop, doing things like reading news articles or reviewing school textbooks. Reading on a screen can be less than ideal for many, including people with dyslexia (an estimated 10-20% of the population), low vision, those learning a new language or people who have a hard time focusing on busy text.

With a few clicks, Select-to-speak on Chromebooks allows you to hear selected text on your screen spoken out loud. Earlier this year we added new features like controls to speed up, slow down or pause the reading voice, and to easily jump to different parts of text. Plus, you can choose to highlight the words being spoken while shading background text to help focus your attention.

Lines of a shopping list are outlined in a magenta square, while individual words are highlighted, insinuating they are being read aloud by the Select-to-speak tool.

Today, we’re announcing new, more human sounding voices for Select-to-speak, to help spoken text be more fluid and easier to understand. Natural voices are currently available in various accents in 25 languages with more to come.

To develop this feature, we worked with educators who specialize in dyslexia, as well as individuals with dyslexia. They shared that hearing text read out loud enhances comprehension – especially in an educational setting. By bringing natural-sounding voices to the feature, for example a local accent you’re used to, it’s also easier to follow along with the content being read and highlighted on screen.

Try it out by enabling Select-to-speak in Chromebook settings, and picking your preferred voice. Then select the text you want read out loud and press the Everything Button or Launcher Key + S.

A screen with Select-to speak being used on the Google Accessibility website.

I'm dyslexic and have ADHD and have trouble with reading/learning. You have no idea the amount of knowledge I've had to “let go of” because I simply can't navigate through the words and my attention just would not stick. I'm a great audio learner and have just discovered text-to-speech features. I’m so excited to use this tool!

- Chromebook user with dyslexia

Making Chromebooks more accessible

Over the past year, we’ve also made it easier to use, discover and customize Chromebook’s built-in accessibility features. This includes updates to the screen magnifier, like keyboard panning and shortcuts. We have also developed new in-product tutorials for ChromeVox, and we’ve introduced point scanning to make the selection process for switch users more efficient.

A young boy wearing glasses is lying on a bed looking at a Chromebook, with his mother next to him.

As a public middle school Reading & Dyslexia Specialist, accessibility tools are crucial to student success in education… stop, fast forward, and rewind help build metacognition and reading comprehension skills. Thank you for adapting to the accessibility needs of children.

- Sharon McMichael, Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist (C.E.R.I.)

Become a certified Chromebook

accessibility expert

For assistive tech trainers, educators and users with a disability who want to learn more about Chromebook’s accessibility features, this summer we launched an online training program in conjunction with The Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP). This eight-module course covers Chromebook and Google Workspace accessibility features. After completing the free course and final exam, you’ll receive a digital badge as a Chromebook Accessibility expert.

We’ll be back later this year to share more new Chromebook features.

Check out Chromebook’s new accessibility features

With accessibility features on Chromebooks, we want everyone to have a good experience on their computer – so people can get things done, families can play together, students and teachers can learn together, and employees can work productively and efficiently, wherever they are. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so we wanted to share a few recent and new Chromebook features that help people access information in a way that works for them.

New enhanced voices for Select-to-speak

People spend a lot of time reading on their laptop, doing things like reading news articles or reviewing school textbooks. Reading on a screen can be less than ideal for many, including people with dyslexia (an estimated 10-20% of the population), low vision, those learning a new language or people who have a hard time focusing on busy text.

With a few clicks, Select-to-speak on Chromebooks allows you to hear selected text on your screen spoken out loud. Earlier this year we added new features like controls to speed up, slow down or pause the reading voice, and to easily jump to different parts of text. Plus, you can choose to highlight the words being spoken while shading background text to help focus your attention.

Lines of a shopping list are outlined in a magenta square, while individual words are highlighted, insinuating they are being read aloud by the Select-to-speak tool.

Today, we’re announcing new, more human sounding voices for Select-to-speak, to help spoken text be more fluid and easier to understand. Natural voices are currently available in various accents in 25 languages with more to come.

To develop this feature, we worked with educators who specialize in dyslexia, as well as individuals with dyslexia. They shared that hearing text read out loud enhances comprehension – especially in an educational setting. By bringing natural-sounding voices to the feature, for example a local accent you’re used to, it’s also easier to follow along with the content being read and highlighted on screen.

Try it out by enabling Select-to-speak in Chromebook settings, and picking your preferred voice. Then select the text you want read out loud and press the Everything Button or Launcher Key + S.

A screen with Select-to speak being used on the Google Accessibility website.

I'm dyslexic and have ADHD and have trouble with reading/learning. You have no idea the amount of knowledge I've had to “let go of” because I simply can't navigate through the words and my attention just would not stick. I'm a great audio learner and have just discovered text-to-speech features. I’m so excited to use this tool!

- Chromebook user with dyslexia

Making Chromebooks more accessible

Over the past year, we’ve also made it easier to use, discover and customize Chromebook’s built-in accessibility features. This includes updates to the screen magnifier, like keyboard panning and shortcuts. We have also developed new in-product tutorials for ChromeVox, and we’ve introduced point scanning to make the selection process for switch users more efficient.

A young boy wearing glasses is lying on a bed looking at a Chromebook, with his mother next to him.

As a public middle school Reading & Dyslexia Specialist, accessibility tools are crucial to student success in education… stop, fast forward, and rewind help build metacognition and reading comprehension skills. Thank you for adapting to the accessibility needs of children.

- Sharon McMichael, Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist (C.E.R.I.)

Become a certified Chromebook

accessibility expert

For assistive tech trainers, educators and users with a disability who want to learn more about Chromebook’s accessibility features, this summer we launched an online training program in conjunction with The Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP). This eight-module course covers Chromebook and Google Workspace accessibility features. After completing the free course and final exam, you’ll receive a digital badge as a Chromebook Accessibility expert.

We’ll be back later this year to share more new Chromebook features.

Why we should rethink accessibility as customization

As a Technical Writer for Google Cloud who’s worked in this industry for more than 20 years, technology has had a big impact on my life. It led me to a job that I love, and it keeps me connected to co-workers, friends and family scattered around the world.

But it also helps me to accomplish everyday tasks in ways many people might not realize. I have aniridia, a rare eye condition where the eyes are underdeveloped. Among other things, I’m light sensitive, have about 20/200 vision that isn’t correctable with lenses or surgery, and my eyes move around involuntarily.

Most people don’t realize the extent of my disability because I’m largely independent. The challenges I face on a regular basis are little things that most people take for granted — for example, I don’t experience eye contact, which means I often miss non-verbal cues. And for me, crossing the street is like a real world game of Frogger. Reading menus and shopping can be difficult. Navigating airports or locating my rideshare car can be stressful.

But I’ve used tech to create my own set of “life hacks.” I adjust the magnification of my view of a Google Doc during a meeting, which doesn’t change anyone else’s view of it. I zoom in on instructors during virtual dance classes. I regularly use keyboard shortcuts and predefined text snippets to work more productively. I do lots of planning before trips and save key navigational info in Google Maps. I take photos of menus and labels so I can read them more closely on my phone.

The technologies that help to mitigate the kinds of challenges I face don’t just benefit me, though — they benefit everyone. Features like Dark mode, Assistant, Live Caption — these benefit everyone and make their individual experiences using certain products better. And they can also support people with permanent, situational, or temporary disabilities.

The positive effect of disability-friendly design on a wider population is known as the curb-cut effect. A curb cut is a ramp built into a sidewalk that slopes down to a street. Their primary purpose is to provide access for wheelchairs, but curb cuts actually help many others, including people riding bikes, skateboards or scooters, people pushing strollers or pulling wheeled luggage, and people walking with canes or crutches. So while they were made to help people with disabilities, they actually help so many others.

There’s an important lesson to learn from the curb-cut effect, one that I think about when we are creating new technologies here at Google: If you are involved in designing, creating, selling, or supporting products and services, I challenge you to reframe accessibility as customization. Many people typically view accessibility as an extra feature of a product that is specifically for someone with a disability. But features like Dark mode or captions are really a way to customize your user experience, and these customizations are beneficial to everyone. We all find ourselves in different contexts where we need to adjust how we interact with our devices and the people around us. Design that provides a range of ways to interact with people and our world results in products and services that are more usable — by everyone.

Why we should rethink accessibility as customization

As a Technical Writer for Google Cloud who’s worked in this industry for more than 20 years, technology has had a big impact on my life. It led me to a job that I love, and it keeps me connected to co-workers, friends and family scattered around the world.

But it also helps me to accomplish everyday tasks in ways many people might not realize. I have aniridia, a rare eye condition where the eyes are underdeveloped. Among other things, I’m light sensitive, have about 20/200 vision that isn’t correctable with lenses or surgery, and my eyes move around involuntarily.

Most people don’t realize the extent of my disability because I’m largely independent. The challenges I face on a regular basis are little things that most people take for granted — for example, I don’t experience eye contact, which means I often miss non-verbal cues. And for me, crossing the street is like a real world game of Frogger. Reading menus and shopping can be difficult. Navigating airports or locating my rideshare car can be stressful.

But I’ve used tech to create my own set of “life hacks.” I adjust the magnification of my view of a Google Doc during a meeting, which doesn’t change anyone else’s view of it. I zoom in on instructors during virtual dance classes. I regularly use keyboard shortcuts and predefined text snippets to work more productively. I do lots of planning before trips and save key navigational info in Google Maps. I take photos of menus and labels so I can read them more closely on my phone.

The technologies that help to mitigate the kinds of challenges I face don’t just benefit me, though — they benefit everyone. Features like Dark mode, Assistant, Live Caption — these benefit everyone and make their individual experiences using certain products better. And they can also support people with permanent, situational, or temporary disabilities.

The positive effect of disability-friendly design on a wider population is known as the curb-cut effect. A curb cut is a ramp built into a sidewalk that slopes down to a street. Their primary purpose is to provide access for wheelchairs, but curb cuts actually help many others, including people riding bikes, skateboards or scooters, people pushing strollers or pulling wheeled luggage, and people walking with canes or crutches. So while they were made to help people with disabilities, they actually help so many others.

There’s an important lesson to learn from the curb-cut effect, one that I think about when we are creating new technologies here at Google: If you are involved in designing, creating, selling, or supporting products and services, I challenge you to reframe accessibility as customization. Many people typically view accessibility as an extra feature of a product that is specifically for someone with a disability. But features like Dark mode or captions are really a way to customize your user experience, and these customizations are beneficial to everyone. We all find ourselves in different contexts where we need to adjust how we interact with our devices and the people around us. Design that provides a range of ways to interact with people and our world results in products and services that are more usable — by everyone.

Comment size increasing in Google Docs

Quick launch summary 

You can now make more efficient use of your screen space in Google Docs. Currently, comments in Docs are 35 characters wide in the sidebar, regardless of how much space is available. Now, we've increased the comment width to a maximum of 50 characters, a +43% increase in width. Comment width will intelligently scale based on your browser window to maximize the use of available screen space. While screen time may increase in remote and hybrid work environments, this update makes more efficient use of the space by fitting more content on a single line and enhancing readability.