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How accessible design helps everyone

I was born cross-eyed, and after two corrective surgeries, I thought I could see like everyone else. But I still had trouble driving, navigating stairs, and playing sports. In my late twenties, I learned that I mostly saw with one eye, and I couldn’t see in 3D. This is considered a hidden disability (similar to dyslexia or color blindness), and people with hidden disabilities could go years without knowing why some basic daily activities and interactions with technology are challenging. 

There are millions of people with hidden disabilities and over 2.2 billion people who have a vision impairment around the world, but more than 70 percent of all websites are inaccessible to them. Often, there is a lack of awareness among developers and designers about both the challenges as well as how best to design and code for accessibility.

To bridge this gap, our Material Design team updated the accessibility guidelines on how to  make images more accessible for websites and applications. The new guidelines explain how to write HTML code in the correct order for images to be read aloud by a screen reader, how to write alt text and captions for  sighted and non-sighted people to understand images, and which types of images have to follow accessibility requirements. By following these guidelines, designers and developers can prevent common mistakes that may leave beautifully designed websites and apps difficult to use for people with visual impairments. We’ve started applying these rules to images in the Material Design guidelines, but there's more to do to make the web more inclusive. Here are a few of the key lessons we learned:

Designing and coding should start with inclusivity in mind 

Imagine how someone with a visual impairment experiences your website or app.When text is embedded in images, it may not be read aloud by screen reader software used by people with visual impairments. By implementing captions that describe how the images relate to the topic and alt text to explain the contents of the images, screen reader users will hear what the images are about. 

The captions appear below the photo and explain the who, what, when, and where about the image. The alt text describes the colors, sizes, and location of the objects in the image.

Designers put images in a specific order on a website, such as a four-step recipe with photos showing what to do for each step. However, if the HTML is not in the correct order, the screen reader will read out the alt text for each image in the wrong order, and the screen reader user may follow the recipe incorrectly.  To prevent such (untasty) problems, we provided visual and text examples of the correct HTML code order.

The HTML reflects the visual hierarchy by reading the content from the top left (Step 1) to the top right (Step 2), bottom left (Step 3) to bottom right (Step 4).

Not all images are alike

Decorative images such as illustrations of fruit on a recipe website may not have to follow accessibility guidelines because they don’t contain critical information. However, informative images such as the foods in a recipe, should follow the guidelines because they convey information that is relevant to the adjacent text. The updated accessibility guidelines contain information about color contrast, text size, captions, and alt text. Images such as logos, icons, images within a button, and images that are links, benefit from alt text that describes their function and not what they look like.  

Inclusivity helps everyone

Making products accessible means that even people beyond your target users may benefit. Captions help sighted people understand images. Alt text appears when images don’t load, helping sighted users understand what they are missing. People reading an online menu in poor lighting, such as during an electricity outage, might experience a temporary disability. They are more likely to be able to read the menu if it has good color contrast and large text. 

Disabilities have too often stayed hidden and taboo. I believe we are entering a new age where disabilities can serve as a precursor to improving the world for others. The first time somebody at Google saw me looking at a document that was enlarged to 125 percent, I was absolutely mortified because I wasn’t keen on sharing my visual impairment. But then I realized that, in fact, being open and vocal could help make products more useful and accessible for everyone. I hope that these guidelines can help ensure that developers and designers implement accessibility so that those of us with visual impairments can fully access the content of their websites and apps.

15 years of Google Books

Books are the windows to new worlds. Through them, I’ve explored the wintery lands of Narnia and cast a spell at Hogwarts. I’ve danced with the Bennet sisters and attended the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. I’ve delved into coding languages and learned about the Egyptian pyramids. Each world I’ve discovered has shown me the importance of preserving and protecting these stories for the future.

Fifteen years ago, Google Books set out on an audacious journey to bring the world’s books online so that anyone can access them. Libraries and publishers around the world helped us chase this goal, and together we’ve created a universal collection where people can discover more than 40 million books in over 400 languages. But, there’s still more we can do to make Google Books more useful for people.

Today we’re unveiling a new design for Google Books on desktop and helpful features for anyone looking to read, research or simply hunt for literary treasures. We’ve redesigned Google Books so people can now quickly access details like the book’s description, author’s history and other works, reader reviews and options for where you can purchase or borrow the book. And for those using Google Books for research, each book’s bibliographies are located prominently on the page and the citation tool allows you to cite the source in your preferred format, all in one spot.

Have you ever heard a phrase or quote and wondered what the original context was? With Google Books, you can search for key phrases or excerpts within books, and we’ll show you where it’s from, down to the page number and paragraph. Take “tesseract”, for example. Simply search the word with the “Search Inside” feature and Google Books will show you where it appears in Madeleine L'Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Explore the stories behind rare books  

For more literary exploration, Google Arts & Culture is recognizing iconic and rare books in an online project that features several works from Google Books’ collection. People can learn about the history of books and dive into unique stories, like four books that made a mark as the first of their kind. 

There’s also an interactive experiment that gives people a fun way to browse the Google Books collection using artwork from Google Arts & Culture. Tap on an image and get recommendations for books written on related themes.

Over the last 15 years, Google Books has preserved the books that help people with academic and professional achievements, as well as personal discoveries. For me, Google Books is a place where I know I can go to discover new worlds I’ve yet to see. Turn the page to see what you’ll discover next.

New ways to report driving incidents on Google Maps

Google Maps has always helped people get from point A to B in the easiest way possible. Today, we’re adding more tools that reflect real-time contributions from the community so you can stay even more informed when you’re behind the wheel. Here’s what’s changing:

First, we’re adding the ability for people to report crashes, speed traps and traffic slowdowns right from their iPhone. This feature has been one of our most popular on Android, and we’re excited to expand it to iOS.

Second, we’re introducing the ability to report four new types of incidents–construction, lane closures, disabled vehicles, and objects on the road (like debris)–so you can quickly know if you’ll encounter one of these potential obstructions on your ride, and plan accordingly. To report an incident, simply tap on the + sign and then on “Add a report.” 

Both features start rolling out globally on Android and iOS this week.

New Google One benefits for Made By Google devices

If you haven’t heard, we just announced a few new things Made By Google, including the Pixel 4 and the Google Nest Mini. New Google One benefits help you get more from your Made By Google devices with Google Store member rewards, a free trial with Pixel 4, and Pro Sessions. 

Rewards on the Google Store

Google One members on select plans who buy any Google device or accessory from the Google Store can earn up to 10 percent back in Google Store credit. As long as you’re signed in to the Google Store with the same account you use for Google One, the credit amount will automatically be calculated and issued 30 days after your purchase ships.

Pixel 4 comes with a Google One trial and Pro Sessions

Pixel 4 owners can now try Google One free for three months. You’ll get access to our entry plan with 100 GB of cloud storage, expert support across Google, and Pro Sessions. The Google One trial is available everywhere Pixel 4 is sold, except in Italy.

With Pro Sessions from Google One, you can schedule online Hangouts sessions with a Google expert to help you set up your Pixel phone and show you tips like customizing your device and taking the perfect photo.  

Benefits vary depending on the Google One plan:

More Google One plans are available. Pro Sessionsare currently offered in English and available in the United States and Canada, and Google Store rewards are available in the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, and Germany.

To learn more or become a Google One member, you can get more information here.

More from this Collection

Made by Google, made to help

Pixel 4, Pixel Buds, Pixelbook Go, Nest Mini and Nest Wifi are part of our vision to create a consistent, helpful Google for you.

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Annie Leibovitz unveils photo series with Google Pixel

Legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz is unveiling a series of portraits of individuals who are changing the landscape of their time. Using her Google Pixel exclusively, Annie encountered her subjects in the places they live and work and are inspired into action. 

Annie photographed equal justice lawyer Bryan Stevenson in Alabama.

The pictures portray extraordinary people who are defined by their fierce desire to make the world a better place, no matter how daunting the obstacles. The individuals photographed include soccer player Megan Rapinoe, equal justice lawyer Bryan Stevenson, artist James Turrell, journalist Noor Tagouri, hip-hop activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Army Officer Sarah Zorn, global-health scientist Jack Andraka and more.

Everyone can check out the full collection of these stunning portraits online, along with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Annie’s work. The Face Forward series will expand with new images as Annie continues to tell the story of today’s changemakers.

Annie on a shoot with soccer player Megan Rapinoe.

This project pushed Annie, who rarely has shot professional portraits on a camera phone. “I wanted to challenge myself to shoot with the camera that’s always in your pocket,” she says. “I’d heard so much about the Pixel and was intrigued.” 

Annie with Marc Levoy from the Pixel camera team.

Working closely with Pixel’s camera team, Annie tested new tools on the Pixel 4 including astrophotography. “I’ve been really impressed with the camera. It took me a beat, but it really started clicking when I relaxed and let the camera do the work.”

Finally—for those who are hoping to channel your own inner photographer, we’ll leave you with a piece of advice from Annie: “It’s all inside you. You just go do it. It’s all there.”

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