by Shaun Heasley | October 20, 2020
Google is introducing new technology designed to help people who are nonverbal communicate with those around them while also making strides toward more inclusion at the company.
The internet giant said this month that it is tweaking an Android app called “Action Blocks” to make it a more seamless experience for people with disabilities who use augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC, devices.
The Action Blocks app, which launched earlier this year, allows users to create a one-touch button that displays on their smartphone home screen to complete actions that typically require multiple steps like calling mom or turning on the lights.
With the latest update, Google said that Action Blocks can be quickly set up to speak simple phrases like “yes,” “no” or “excuse me, I have something to say.” And, the app now incorporates thousands of picture communication symbols from the Tobii Dynavox library to permit people with disabilities to create actions using icons they are already accustomed to from their AAC devices.
“Action Blocks works on Android phones without any additional hardware, making communication more convenient and accessible to people whether they are on the go, without their AAC devices, or don’t have access to an AAC device,” wrote Eve Andersson, director of accessibility at Google, in a posting announcing the enhancements.
Action Blocks can also be triggered using physical adaptive switches, Andersson noted.
Separately, Google is also pushing to expand inclusion in its own workforce. The company has launched a new web page to help attract potential employees with disabilities.
“We know that one of the first steps to finding a job at a new company is visiting their careers website, but those resources may not be designed with people with disabilities in mind,” Andersson wrote. “Prospective candidates can find career resources and tips for applying, as well as read stories about Googlers with disabilities and our employee-led Google Disability Alliance community.”