Google Assistant adds accessibility features via Tobii Dynavox partnership

Users of Tobii's tablets and apps can now control home devices and get answers from the search giant's Assistant.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read

Google and Tobii Dynavox are working to make it easier for people with disabilities to control devices and carry out tasks.


Google Assistant is now available on applications and services made by assistive technology company Tobii Dynavox, the companies said Tuesday. The partnership is designed to help people with various disabilities gain independence and control a range of gadgets such as smart devices and appliances

Snap Core First software, which is available on Tobii's  tablets  and apps, helps people with disabilities including cerebral palsy, autism and ALS to communicate. It's accessible via touch, eye gaze and scanning. Through the Google Assistant integration, users can assign various tasks to those tiles, such as controlling smart home devices like thermostats, lights and TVs that are set up in the Google Home app. They can also arrange for the tiles to give answers from Google Assistant for questions such as "What's the weather?" and "What's on the calendar for today?"

To set up the feature, create a Google account and set up a smart speaker or smart display in the Google Home app on Android or iOS. Next, provide access to the Snap Core First app, and configure tiles by choosing a button in edit mode, selecting "Add action" and then tapping "Send Google Assistant command."

Google also shared an update related to Action Blocks, an app it rolled out in MayAction Blocks aims to make it easier for people with cognitive disabilities or age-related cognitive conditions to carry out tasks on their devices, and lets users create homepage shortcuts for tasks like calling and texting. Now people can use Tobii Dynavox's vast library of Picture Communication Symbols to create Action Blocks buttons, allowing anyone who's more accustomed to PCS to use a familiar interface on their Android devices. 

The search giant has launched a series of accessibility features and updates to its products and services over the last several years, including Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier, as well as an Accessible Places feature in Google Maps. More big tech brands are paying attention to accessibility issues as organizations and advocates point out disparities. The coronavirus pandemic has also highlighted the urgency of disability accommodations, as more people depend on online interactions for everyday tasks.

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