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Dr Scott Hollier - Digital Access Specialist Posts

Google Podcasts app to introduce auto-transcription feature

Google has recently launched its new Podcasts app for Android devices with a commitment to include an auto-transcription service in the near future.

The Google Podcasts app is designed to make it easier for Android users to search and subscribe to podcasts, a feature which has worked well on Apple iOS devices but has largely eluded Android users to date since Google abandoned its Listen experiment in 2012.

While the Android platform can provide podcasts via third-party apps along with some podcast features in other Google apps, the new standalone Podcasts app aims to provide a simpler experience with a promise to introduce an important accessibility feature – the ability to have podcasts auto-transcribed.

In an article written by Nicholas Quah for Hot Pod titled Could Google’s new podcast app change the way we understand the Average Podcast Listener?, the potential benefits of the app are listed as:

  • Greatly decreasing the friction from search results to an actual mobile listening experience, thus operationalizing searches as a true top of the funnel;
  • AI-assisted features like quick transcription, greater in-episode searchability, automatic visual subtitling across multiple languages, and content-indexing, which will presumably give audiences more control over the judgment and navigating of a listening experience (and, also presumably, put some speech-to-text transcription companies out of business);
  • Cross-device syncing, which allows users to easily transition between listening on a smartphone or through a smart speaker;
  • Direct monetization features, like the possibility of a “donate” button.

For people who are Deaf or hearing impaired, the potential inclusion of an auto-transcription feature into the Podcasts app would be highly beneficial in providing access to a wealth of audio-based online content. While similar Google initiatives such as auto-captioning on YouTube have been met with a mixed reception due to quality issues, the professional audio quality of most podcasts is likely to make the auto-transcription services more useful and accurate.

The Google Podcasts app can be downloaded now from the Google Play Store. There are currently no plans for an Apple iOS release.

Looking for guidance on WCAG 2.1? Check out the free CFA resource

The Centre For Accessibility, a joint initiative by DADAA, Media On Mars and myself, launched last week with a free online resource designed to support mainstream organisations with their digital access needs. To ensure the resource remains current and effective, the content has been updated to support both the WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 standards to the Level AA conformance target.

Screenshot of the Centre For Accessibility resource

The resource has been created based on the following categories:

The resource was funded in part by an ILC Linkage grant. Further information on the initiative can be found at the Centre For Accessibility website.

Centre For Accessibility launches with great community support

The Centre For Accessibility (CFA), an initiative created in partnership with DADAA, Media On Mars and myself, launched on 6 June 2018 at a community event hosted by DADAA in Fremantle.

Crowd at CFA launch

The breakfast event was well attended with 140 people coming along to join in the launch celebrations. Hosted by DADAA CEO David Doyle, the event initially featured a reflective and entertaining Welcome to Country by Oldman Walley followed by a video highlighting how accessibility issues affect people with disability. One particularly great line was ‘if you want my cash, make it accessible’.

CFA-Minister speaking with attendees

The importance of digital access continued as the Centre was launched by the Hon. Stephen Dawson MLC, Minister for Environment and Disability Services. The Minister spoke warmly about the need for accessibility, how mainstream organisations can improve independence by making content accessible and acknowledged the grant funding that led to the creation of the Centre.

Helen Errington

The proceedings continued with guest speaker Helen Errington who spoke both passionately and frankly about the challenges people with disability can face in their pursuit of access. This included the importance of mainstream organisations needing to fix access issues so that everyone regardless of disability can participate in society and complete everyday tasks.

Scott speaking with attendees

My presentation was the final part of formal proceedings, launching the official CFA resource which I developed. that features information on how people with disability access information, how content can be made accessible across different roles, guidance on the WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 standards and how existing content on websites and documents can be checked for accessibility issues.

With the Centre formally open, attention now turns to the delivery of three workshops across Western Australia to support mainstream organisations to incorporate accessibity into work practices.

The CFA has been funded in part by an ILC Linkage grant and its purpose of the CFA is to create an industry and not-for-profit collaboration that will work to promote digital access. Further information can be found at the Centre For Accessibility website.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 is now a W3C standard

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has announced the official release of theWeb Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 as a “W3C Recommendation web standard.

The release of WCAG 2.1 marks an important change in the way in which accessibility is considered and tested due to WCAG 2.1 focusing on providing support to the mobile web. The new standard includes everything contained in WCAG 2.0 plus additional guidelines and success criteria.

To support the WCAG 2.1 release, W3C has included a new resource titled  What’s New in WCAG 2.1  and a detailed blog post titled WCAG 2.1 is a W3C Recommendation.

Further information can be found in the full WCAG 2.1 standard.

Microsoft launches adaptive game controller

Microsoft has announced its upcoming release of a game controller designed specifically for people with disabilities.

The Adaptive Controller for Xbox can be connected to external buttons, switches, joysticks and mounts, giving players with a wide range of physical disabilities the ability to customize their setups. Although the focus of the controller is for Xbox, it can also be used with a Windows 10 PC.

The project was developed by Microsoft in collaboration with AbleGamers, Warfighter Engaged, SpecialEffect, Craig Hospital and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. While the controller is not the first to be designed with accessibility in mind, it is the first time that a major corporation has provided support to the concept, making the product available at a more affordable price.  

Technical specifications for the adaptive controller include two oversized programmable buttons, 19 3.5mm input jacks and two USB ports, allowing disabled gamers to easily connect special joysticks, switches, and any other tools they may need. For homes with multiple gamers with limited mobility, the Adaptive Controller has three custom profiles, making it easy to switch between user preferences.

The controller will launch in the US for just under $USD100. There is currently no pricing or launch date for the controller in Australia.  Additional information can be found on the official Microsoft adaptive controller website.