Have you ever tried lip-reading Mickey Mouse? Six-year-old me definitely did, but without much success. Although I was interested in the colours, the slapstick humour and the endless action, I just didn’t ‘get’ it. And for a good reason — I have been profoundly deaf since I was five years old.
Mainstream entertainment took on new meaning for me when I was a teenager and captions started to become standard for television broadcasts. Captions communicate not only what is being spoken but also any useful background noises which help amplify the plot, such as [dramatic music] for building tension, or a [loud explosion] off camera which helps explain why the main character looks a little alarmed. My children can’t read yet, but I already know they will love [loud farting sound] which seems to feature a lot in preschool TV programmes!
A new Accessibility Discovery Centre in the UK
Removing barriers to accessibility can have an enormous impact on everyday life. For example, I used to have to go into the office every day to access a sign language interpreter. But now I can work at home using voice-to-text captions in Google Meet — a meaningful development for a busy working mum.
Inspired by changes like this, today Google is opening a new Accessibility Discovery Centre in London, a space where our engineers, researchers, product teams and partners can build new kinds of accessible technologies to remove more of the barriers that people with disabilities face every day.
Our Accessibility Discovery Centre has been built in consultation with local partners like the The Royal National Institute of Blind People, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People and Everyone Can, and Google’s internal Disability Alliance employee resource group. It will be a workshop for research and product development, and a space for collaborating, co-designing and learning with the accessibility and disability communities.
This is our first Accessibility Discovery Centre outside the U.S., and builds on our years of investment and innovation in helpful technology. Yet its opening is an acknowledgement that we have much more to do to meet people’s ever-changing needs.