Just because Hangouts in Google+ are an audio and visual experience doesn’t mean that it’s completely accessible to those with visual impairments. There are chatrooms on the side of a Hangout where people tend to type a bit of backchannel conversation as the main video conference goes on.
One developer picked up on that fact and decided to do something about it by creating a Google+ Chrome extension that uses text to speech technology to reads everything that appears in the chat box out loud.
Mohamed Mansour shared his thoughts on how Google+ Hangouts should be made more accessible with those who need a helping hand, or in this case a helping eye:
Today I was in a hangout, where I met a blind war veteran. It was really inspiring to see him use such technology. But it was really hard for him to use it since it wasn’t accessible friendly. I was writing on the chat on the left, and it was really difficult for him to read the text. I am really into Accessibility, and I worked on it a lot in Chromium in the past, and I really wanted to help him.
So I told Tim, “what if the chat spoke to you?” Tim said, “that would be awesome”. When I saw the big smile on his face, I had to do it! So I created this extension for Chrome!
In an inspiring example of developing for good, the extension is available for Chrome and here’s a video demo of it below:
The example shown in the video where there is now an audio announcement when someone joins the Google+ Hangout is fantastic, considering that someone who might not be able to see the text would never know otherwise.
We know that the Google+ team is taking a cautious approach to releasing a full API for its Google+ social tools, but this is a perfect example of what can be done with extra tools for developers. This is also a feature that the Google+ team should consider making an official part of the product.