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Accessible Google Online Services and Applications

  • Published: 2009-07-01 (Rev. 2017-01-29) - Contact: Ian Langtree at Disabled World
  • Synopsis: A Review of Googles Accessible Online Services GMail, Scholar, Video Search, Book Search and more.

Main Document

"I make an attempt to give an impression of some of the features offered by these online applications which are at times available through mobile devices too. All-in-all, I believe you will find them as impressive as I have."

Google has a number of services which are accessible online and through mobile devices that make searching for, obtaining, using, and sharing information both easy and pleasurable for nearly anyone.

A Review of Google's Accessible Online Services - GMail, Scholar, Video Search, and more!

As I went through an initial review of the features that Google is offering, I was amazed at how well they interact with each other, oftentimes increasing each application's individual features even more accessible. Google has made efforts to ensure that their staff continues to work towards making the features offered through their online services are accessible to every one of their users. With the awareness that everyone has individual needs, abilities and desires, the people at Google continue to improve the services they offer users who take advantage of their services.

What follows is a listing of some of the many services that Google offers. I make an attempt to give an impression of some of the features offered by these online applications which are at times available through mobile devices too. All-in-all, I believe you will find them as impressive as I have.

Google Accessible Search

The first online service presented by Google that I approached was their, 'Accessible Search,' service, which presents search results in a highlighted box with a larger font size. The highlighted box is in a baby-blue color and the font size appears to be about an eighteen point Arial font or better. The box is bordered, making it stand out from the rest of the items on the page. I was able to select up and down between items in the search results by using the up and down arrow keys on my keyboard. For persons with visual impairments, this search engine is truly an assistive search means. There are a number of search engines on the Internet today; this search engine presented by Google is useful not only because it accesses all of Google's vast amount of online information, it presents that information in a format that many people who might otherwise be unable to access it now can - labs.google.com/accessible/

Google Book Search

The Book Search available through Google provides access to a search of books that the person desires to find on topics of their choice. The search displays a visual presentation of the cover of the book, as well as the name of the author and the year the book was published when the person hovers their mouse cursor over the image of the book. Upon clicking on the image of the book cover, in-depth information related to the book is displayed. Ordering information is also presented. People have the ability to search within the book. Books related to the subject of the original book chosen for examination are displayed as well.

The access to books through Google's search not only makes book information more available, it builds interest among readers. The feature is something that can be used through websites to promote books, authors, and the growth of reader awareness of what is currently on the market where printed materials are concerned. I find this to be one of the best of the accessibility features Google has to offer - books.google.com/books

Google GMail

When Google first began offering GMail, I was unfortunately rather reluctant to join, even though I had been invited by a friend. Now that my curiosity has gotten the better of me and I have signed up for a GMail account, I wonder why in the world I didn't do so much earlier. Google's GMail capabilities gives users access to online email with enough space for email messages that they never need to delete anything at all. The storage space associated with GMail keeps growing, even as you read this! Google has an incredible ability to control spam and unwanted email messages through GMail, making a GMail account highly-desirable. The fact that it is an online account gives users capabilities that they might not otherwise have, such as the ability to personalize the page associated with the account. Messages are sorted by the person who sends them, something else that is very nice to have. There is the ability to instant message other people through GMail as well.

People can setup multiple email accounts to be delivered through their GMail account, making the process of sorting email messages much simpler. You can use a number of different email programs, from Windows Email to Thunderbird with a GMail account. You can even use video chat through GMail. To make GMail even more accessible, Google has included setup instructions for a variety of different email programs that are in common use within the user's GMail account online - mail.google.com/mail/h/

Google GMail Mobile

One of the features of GMail that deserves separate attention is the capability to access your email through mobile devices! Yes; you can! You can access your email through mobile browsers in the same way that you would on your computer. Just go to: gmail.com in your mobile device and access your GMail! Through the browser on your mobile devices GMail keeps everything up-to-date and in sync with the GMail server. There are GMail apps that you can use too. You can even choose between POP and IMAP setups - mail.google.com/mail/x/

Google Maps

Now I don't know about you, but even in my own small city there are enough places to go that I don't know where everything is. Finding the exact location of someplace I want to go, as well as how to get there, no longer means that I have to dig out some old paper map. Google Maps is an excellent feature for finding finding businesses or even your friends in the area. I wanted to find health care products in Colorado Springs in my area code but didn't have specific addresses or names for the shops.

All I did was type in, 'Health Care Products,' into the search engine, along with my zipcode, and up popped a list of shops in my area with associated links to them! When I had selected a shop that I wanted to visit, I was able to use this same Google Maps feature to obtain driving directions with specific, 'Turn by Turn,' instructions that helped me drive to the shop. The instructions contained accurate street names, distances, and which direction to turn on the specific streets, leading me right to the front door of the shop. A clearly labeled map of where different shops are in my area was also very useful, giving me an idea of where they were in relation to where I live - maps.google.com/output=html

Google Calendar

When I looked at Google Calendar I expected to view - a calendar! What I found online was the capabilities to add events that were related to my activities that then went to my GMail account, and were then available through GMail mobile as well; features that are truly useful. While the online display is lacking, the GMail features do make up for the lack of a calendar displaying the events that I add. For an increasingly mobile society that desires to have events in their lives added and tracked while on the go, Google calendar is a wonderful online application that can help you to keep track of events and other items that are going on in life - www.google.com/calendar/

Google Audio Capatcha's

You know that funny little words you sometimes have to type in for security purposes online? They are known as, 'Captcha's.' The term, 'Capatcha,' is an acronym for, 'Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.' The reason websites use them is to make sure that a computer is not fiddling around with something that a human being should be doing. One of the problems that people have with Captcha's is that sometimes they are not the easiest thing for us to read either!

Just this past spring, Google came up with a solution to this issue - an audio Capatcha. For people who have visual impairments, this is indeed a wonderful thing. As someone who simply wears prescription glasses, this is STILL a wonderful thing! Having an audio option to these often fuzzy Capatcha's that appear on the screen gives people an alternative. Google is continuing to experiment with their audio Captcha's, and welcomes feedback concerning them. You can spot an audio Captcha by the Wheelchair Accessibility Icon, or through the, 'Alt,' tag associated with it - googleblog.blogspot.com/2006/11/audio-captchas-when-visual-images-are.html

The Google Transcoder and Screen Readers

There are a great many people who use screen readers who access the Internet on a daily basis. Google is aware of this fact, and something that was originally designed for people who use cell phones has become a tool that can assist those who use screen readers through Google. Google found that when people who use cell phones were searching the Internet through their phones, their searches through Google many times ended up getting re-directed through the transcoder so their web page would work on the small display on their cell phone. As web pages have become more complex over time, these tiny screens on cell phones just couldn't handle the amount of information being presented.

The same is true of many screen readers. Guess what? The same transcoder that, 'translates,' web pages for cell phones can do the same job for screen readers! For people who use screen readers, this service through Google is invaluable. You can use this service that Google provides through: google.com. The service works very much like the address bar in a web browser, with one exception - it automatically transcodes any links that the user follows from that page!

The Google Video Search Engine

The Google Video search engine is a powerful feature which makes searching for videos available through Google a snap! Simply typing in search terms for the kind of videos you want to find produces results that are stunning. When I typed in the word, 'Disability,' I was rewarded with a variety of videos. Upon selection of a single video, it displayed that video on the right side of the screen, ready to play, with additional videos that were related to the one I had selected below it.

By using the, 'other mouse key,' I brought up a menu - one of the selections I had to choose from was, 'Copy embedded code,' something that made the video accessible for my use on anything from my own website to copy & paste into emails to my friends. I highly recommend this feature from Google - video.google.com/videocaptioned

Google Talk

Google Talks is a feature that people can use to keep in contact with their friends, whether these friends are right across town, or all the way across the nation. From sending text messages to chatting through a home computer, Google talk is a wonderful and accessible way to do it. Something that actually surprised me upon opening my GMail account was the availability of Google Talk through my GMail account!

Google has made it very easy to go from text to a voice chat, and GMail is no exception. As a company, Google seems to take great joy in making their services interactive. Google Talk, and the interactivity between it and GMail, will certainly help you to stay in touch with the people in your life - www.google.com/talk/

Google Scholar

The Internet is an incredible source of information in the world today, presenting sources from around the globe. No matter what kind of information you are looking for, you will most likely find something on the subject you are researching on the Internet. With the costs related to a college or university education skyrocketing, self-education and individual pursuits related to education are things that many people continue to seek. Google is very aware of this, and in an effort to present information that will assist people in their efforts they have created, 'Google Scholar.'

Upon searching through Google Scholar I was highly impressed. Every single search result presented me with a body of work that was scholarly in nature! Articles of an immense variety; whether they consisted of journal articles, anthologies, research efforts and more, were there at my fingertips. All of the search results gave me supporting information as well. There was no need to do further searches in an attempt to find out who wrote the article, who published it, when it was published, or any other bibliographic information. I found myself wishing that Google Scholar had existed as I went through my own educational processes. You can access this tremendous resource at: scholar.google.com/

Google News

Google News provides access to a wide-variety of news through a search engine that is specific to the search terms the users inputs. When I typed in, 'Disability,' into this search engine I found myself with page upon page of worthy news items related to us - People with Disabilities, and the issues related to us. Access to news from the last hour, day, or week is available on the left side of the results screen, as well as access to archives stories from an incredible numbers of years past. There is an RSS feed available presenting the results too! Google definitely doesn't disappoint users through this feature; the news available through Google News makes finding any kind of news a simple matter, and highly-accessible - news.google.com

Google Blogger

The blogging world continues to grow in many ways across the Internet, and Google's Blogger feature provides access to blogging capabilities to anyone who is interested at no cost. The Blogger feature through Google gives users access to a variety of blogging features such as the ability to setup the appearance of their blog, tracking of the posts they write, the ability to post a user profile image, and the ability to monetize their blog. Every blogger through this feature at Google has an associated RSS feed as well.

Individual expression is increasingly important in a world where electronic communication is on the rise. Relationships across vast distances are becoming increasingly more common too; access to a feature such as Google Blogger makes sharing your life, the events that you wish to share, and the things that are important to you easier and much more accessible. The fact that this feature is free makes Google Blogger all the better - www.blogger.com

Google Product Search

Using the Google Product search I was able to find nearly every disability-related product I chose to search for. Not wanting to limit myself to just disability products, I searched for a number of other products that interested me as well, to include everything from home computers to lumber; I was not disappointed. The results were presented to me with prices on the right, links to the products on the left, and images of the products on the left next to the links to the products.

Below the search results, a list giving me access to further search capabilities related to the products I was searching for by price range, categories, stores and other options was presented. Shopping made easy! The wonderful thing about the features that Google has made available is that many of them are not only accessible, they also work with each other - www.google.com/products

For example; I can shop for a book through Google Books, or a product through Google Product search. Once I find the book or product I am searching for, I can access the link to the place that has it, and use Google Maps to get directions to the place that has the product. Then I can use Google Calendar to remind myself of not only where I found the product, but how to get there. Using Gmail, I can take all of this information with me through Gmail Mobile. If I want to share my discoveries with my friends, I can write all about it through Google Blogger!

Google and the Community

One of the best things about Google is that it respects input from everyone through their User Community. Everyone has access to the process of feedback through this feature. With so many corporations ignoring input from the very people who use their products, it is an immense pleasure to find that Google not only accepts input from the people who are using their many features - they promote input from people. Google is wise to both understand this concept of business growth and accept such input.

The User Community at Google gives everyone access to the capability to create groups related to their interests. The power behind this capability is something that is not to be ignored. The User Community at Google is, in essence, a highly structured yet community-friend, 'Town Hall,' type of forum that still retains the power to reach an audience from across the entire planet. The feature gives users the ability to create an individual profile, share common views, and discuss whatever they please. Google even provides a direct email link where people can give them opinions on what is working well, or provide tips related to the use of Google features. You can even tell Google about ways you think they may improve. Simply write to: raman@google.com

The lineup of accessible features Google has presented through the items listed on this page has placed Google among the giants of service providers on the Internet. Google clearly understands that people around the world want services that are free, and they certainly know how to provide those services without diminishing the quality of them. With the increasing number of services Google provides, as well as the vision they posses, I look forward to a lengthy presence by Google in the future - groups.google.com

Related:

  1. List of Google Search Tips and Tricks - Find What You are Looking for Easier - A list of tips to easily find what you are looking for when using the Google search engine - Ian Langtree
  2. Google Glass App - Real Time Closed Captioning - Researchers have created speech-to-text software for Google Glass that helps hard-of-hearing with everyday conversations - Georgia Institute of Technology
  3. Google Voice Application for Managing Voice Communications - Google have started to release a preview of Google Voice, an new application that helps you manage your voice communications. - Disabled World








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