Google launches accessibility updates to Maps, transcription and amplifier apps

The search giant also unveils an app called Action Blocks, which lets users create homepage shortcuts for tasks like calling and texting.

Abrar Al-Heeti Video producer / CNET
Abrar Al-Heeti is a video host and producer for CNET, with an interest in internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. Before joining the video team, she was a writer for CNET's culture team. 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 Maps' new Accessible Places feature aims to make wheelchair accessibility information on a location readily available.


Google on Thursday rolled out a series of updates to Maps , Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier aimed at improving user accessibility. The company also launched an app called Action Blocks that lets people create customizable home screen buttons for everyday tasks. The features arrive on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which aims to promote digital accessibility and inclusion. 

Google Maps ' new Accessible Places feature is designed to more prominently display wheelchair accessibility information about a location or business. When the feature is turned on, it'll show a wheelchair icon for places with an accessible entrance, and people will also be able to see if accessible seating, parking and restrooms are available. Accessible Places is available on Android and iOS , and will initially roll out in the US, Japan, Australia and the UK before expanding to more countries.

To turn on the feature, open the latest version of the Google Maps app and go to Settings. Then choose Accessibility and turn on Accessible Places. 

Action Blocks lets users make customizable home screen buttons for tasks that serve as shortcuts.


Action Blocks, a new app for Android, aims to make it easier for people with cognitive disabilities or age-related cognitive conditions to carry out tasks on their device. The app lets users create customizable home screen buttons so they don't have to go through multiple steps to access things like video calls, the weather or the news. Instead, they can launch them with one tap by creating an Action Block for any task the Google Assistant can perform. They can choose an image for the Action Block from their camera or photo gallery and set it on their home screen so it's easily accessible. The app is available on the Play Store for devices on Android 5.0 and above.

Google also launched several updates to Live Transcribe, an app that provides real-time, speech-to-text transcriptions for conversations for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Now, users can add custom words or names that aren't commonly found in the dictionary for the system to recognize and spell. In addition, they can use the search bar to more easily look through past conversations. Users can enable this feature by turning on "Saving Transcriptions" in settings, which will save transcriptions to their device for three days.

Live Transcribe now also supports seven more languages, including Albanian, Burmese and Punjabi. People can also set their phone to vibrate when someone nearby says their name, so they'll know when someone wants their attention.  

Lastly, Sound Amplifier, which filters and amplifies the sound around someone, now works with  Bluetooth  headphones. The app can also amplify the audio on a phone, so users can more clearly hear videos, music, podcasts or other media on their devices. The feature is currently only available on Pixel. 

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