On Tuesday I attended the whole day workshop, called Google Accessibility Update, which was led by T. V. Raman and other at least 15 people from Google, including product managers of their core applications, internal accessibility evangelists and development staff.
I really love Google services - my primary browser is Chrome, I use Gmail both on desktop and mobile, have phone with Android, etc. And I am really glad what enhancements Google did during past two years in a field of their products accessibility. There is of course still what to improve, but the progress is amazing.
Workshop covered all the major Google products and services - Chrome OS, Drive, Docs Suite, Gmail and Android and give us an overview about state of the art in this field.
A lot of work is being put into the Chrome OS to provide additional support for blind users via ChromeVox. The only way to make accessibility better is to simplify it at every level.
Every user has different needs and we need to build a customizable interface that works for everyone.
Chromebooks are cheap, boot in under 8 seconds, hassle- and maintenance-free. Just sign in with Google account. All your stuff is in the cloud. Accessibility is built-into OS at setup; spoken feedback provided via ChromeVox, user can also enable other accessibility features.
Google is now running Chromebook Accessibility Trusted Tester Program for individuals from USA, who will be provided with a Chromebook with the expectation to be active testers. It is a pity that this program isn't also in the Czech republic - I would apply immediately ;-)
Gmail was originally designed for sighted users, better support for blind users is a matter of the last few years. Now there is a extensive support for ARIA labelling, new features are tested manually and there are also automated tests for regressions. Nowadays there is a good support for keyboard-only users - you can use arrow keys, N and P keys and Enter to navigate between and within regions.
Drive and Docs Suite accessibility is very closely related to ChromeVox. There are a lot of changes, for example keyboard interaction model in Drive is completely redesigned, focus management is improved or navigation itself is more consistent.
A lot of the keyboard accessibility features and new keyboard model is useful for people without disabilities as well (for example for me ;-)
New Accessibility for Google Apps were announced on this workshop.
Android brings completely unassisted setup, Jelly Bean 4.2 has accessibility shortcut, enabling to toggle TalkBack from anywhere using Power button. There is also a simple screen magnifier as a part of Jelly Bean 4.2 (triple tap to zoom in and interact while panning, triple tap and hold to zoom temporarily). This magnifier unfortunately does not magnify the keyboard.
In general, it is good to know that the best accessiblity experience on Android is with Jelly Bean.
A lot of practical and live demos were given by Google team members during the whole day - for example on Gmail, Google Drive on Android, Slides, Docs editor, etc.
Googlers were also asked a lot of questions. You can read them - together with answers and detailed notes - on Paul Schantz blog.
Big thanks to Raman and his team (also for the T-shirt ;)