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Google rolls out suite of accessibility updates and Action Blocks

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Google has announced a slew of new accessibility options for people with disabilities using their smartphones due to cognitive or physical disabilities, as well as an update to Maps that will give wheelchair users information about the locations that are wheelchair accessible to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Every day, people use their phones for routine tasks – whether it’s video calling family, checking the weather or reading the news. Typically, these activities require multiple steps. You might have to scroll to find your video chat app, tap to open it and then type in the name of the contact you’re looking for.

For people with cognitive disabilities, Google is rolling out a new Android feature called Action Blocks. Originally announced as a test feature in 2019, the goal of the Action Blocks is to make it easier for someone to access the apps and tools they need without having to navigate various individual menus and settings, which allows users to create customisable, home screen buttons for relatively complex actions like playing music or calling somebody that typically require multiple steps – tasks that may be difficult for people with limited mobility or a cognitive disability.

In a demonstration, Google software engineer Ajit Narayanan explained how Action Blocks can be used to set up what are essentially shortcuts for various app actions directly on a user’s home screen.

Google Maps new wheelchair accessibility feature,  gives users the ability to see what locations are wheelchair accessible including restaurants, parking lots, and restrooms.

With this feature “rollout”, it’s easier to find and contribute wheelchair accessibility information to Google Maps. That benefits everyone, from those of us using wheelchairs and parents pushing strollers to older adults with tired legs and people hauling heavy items. And in this time of COVID-19, it’s especially important to know before you go so that you won’t be stranded outside that pharmacy, grocery or restaurant. Users can check it out by enabling Accessible Places in the Maps settings menu. It’s available today.

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