Google opens accessible tech R&D centre to help people with disabilities

Google opens accessible tech R&D centre to help people with disabilities
Google has opened its first accessibility-focused site outside of the US, with the aim of creating accessible technological devices for people with disabilities.

Google worked with the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People and disability charity Everyone Can to develop the Accessibility Discovery Centre (ADC) in London, creating a space to design products and services that are accessible to a wider audience.

The new centre is currently working on natural language understanding as well as conversational dialogue, text-to-speech (on-device), machine learning, human-centred AI research, user research and healthcare.

Relatable research

One undertaking currently underway at the facility is Project Relate, a Google app launching in beta in the UK which is designed to help people who have conditions that make their speech difficult to interpret by transcribing speech through machine learning into text in real time. Approximately 250 million people globally are affected by non-standard speech and may struggle to be understood.

The app learns how to recognise speech patterns of those who might struggle, synthesising the voice and speaking into voice assistants. English speaking adults in the UK can now sign up to be an early user of the app on Android devices.

As part of the company’s commitment, Google is also making more than £1 million in funding to create opportunities for people with disabilities across the UK and Europe.

Speaking to the BBC, Christopher Patnoe, inclusion team, Google, commented: "When people have equitable access to information and opportunity, everyone wins - but we know people's needs are constantly changing, throughout their lives or even their day. We know we have more to do.”

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