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Google Chrome adds live captions in push for accessibility

Google Chrome accessibility
From Google Pixel and Android phones to Instagram and Tiktok, many platforms are adding auto-captions to their video and live-streaming features to make them more accessible. 

Google Chrome is the latest technology platform to get an accessibility update, now allowing users to add captions directly to their screens when using audio and video.

Google Chrome adds Live Captions

How to activate live captions

First, how do we activate the live captions features?

Enter chrome://settings/accessibility into the Chrome browser window. Then, turn on the live captions toggle. On this screen, you will also see options for changing the display of the caption as well as other accessibility features.

Now that you have turned on the live captions, whenever you are on a window with audio or video (even while muted) you will see live captions at the bottom of your screen. You can move the caption window. If you do not want the captions on then you can toggle it off at the top of your screen where a musical note icon is.

Google and accessibility

Google created its first dedicated task force, around accessibility, in 2013. This was a group of people who would oversee the research, education, and overall accessibility of products, according to Abigail Klein, a software engineer for Chrome & Chrome OS Accessibility. 

In 2019, Google launched Live Caption on Android, which brought captions to content across mobile platforms. Now that same technology is coming to the Google Chrome web browser.

“We have rolled out this feature on Chrome, because there is content across the web from videos, to podcasts, to a variety of content that remains inaccessible to the d/Deaf and hard of hearing community and this feature can change that,” Klein says.

From a user experience, the live captions make media on Google Chrome more accessible. Users can activate the live captions on any site on Chrome – from audio files inside of articles, to live streams on Youtube, which were largely inaccessible in the past.

Read more: Instagram, TikTok now have auto captions  

Google Chrome for the Deaf-Blind Community

Alongside the live captioning, Google has included features for the Deaf-Blind community in their accessibility updates.

“We recognized while building this feature that it would be very important to ensure that Live Caption works well with a refreshable braille display (used by many blind users, but in particular by Deaf-Blind users),” Klein says. “Currently, it is possible to read Live Captions with a braille display, but the experience of having the captions constantly changing doesn’t work as well as we’d like. We’ve been collaborating with screen reader vendors on ways to improve this experience in the future.”

A Step Forward for Accessibility

While captioning services are a great step forward for accessibility, there are always more advancements that could be made to make content more inclusive.

For example, Google’s Live Captions currently don’t have punctuation, but the development team at Google is working on getting that included, Klein says.

Google has been working with different communities to bring about accessible features for all – from sound notifications on Android, to “action blocks” for people with cognitive disabilities or non-verbal communities. Google has also developed Voice Access, which allows a person to navigate their device using their voice. In the future, Google also hopes to expand the captions to more languages than just English.

“We are committed to building products with and for people with disabilities and to making our existing products more accessible,” Klein says.

Those who need help utilizing the Google Chrome captioning service can reach out to the disability support channel, which includes support in American Sign Language, at g.co/disabilitysupport.

The importance of captions

Captions are one of the best ways that people with hearing loss, those who use English as a second language, and those who have their audio on “mute” to understand various forms of media.

Having captioned content means fewer barriers to others wanting to watch your content. 

While it’s great to see these platforms become more accessible, we’re looking forward to even more advancements to make the world more inclusive.

Read more: The importance of captions and how they can improve

Catalleya Storm
Author Details
Hello, my name is Catalleya Storm (they/them). I graduated in 2016 with a Bachelors in Political Science degree. Today, I work as a Pharmacy Specialist and bring awareness to issues impacting the Black, Deaf, disabled and LGBTQ communities. I was born hearing but started losing my hearing in my late teens. I identify as Deaf/HOH, with the understanding that I am apart of both the hearing world and the Deaf world. I believe that we all can bring about positive change in the world, and that’s what I hope to do with the time I have here.
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Catalleya Storm
Hello, my name is Catalleya Storm (they/them). I graduated in 2016 with a Bachelors in Political Science degree. Today, I work as a Pharmacy Specialist and bring awareness to issues impacting the Black, Deaf, disabled and LGBTQ communities. I was born hearing but started losing my hearing in my late teens. I identify as Deaf/HOH, with the understanding that I am apart of both the hearing world and the Deaf world. I believe that we all can bring about positive change in the world, and that’s what I hope to do with the time I have here.
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