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Summary:

Google+ Hangouts are a great way to communicate with a small group of people — except when you’re blind, and don’t know who is part of a Hangout. A new Chrome extension wants to solve this by making Hangouts accessible to blind and visually impaired people.

hangouts on air

Blind and otherwise visually impaired people now have an easier time using Google+ Hangouts group video chats, thanks to a Chrome extension hacked together by a software engineer called Mohamed Mansour.

The extension, which is aptly called Accessible Hangouts, uses text-to-speech to tell blind people when they are entering and exiting their Hangouts, and even reads all the text chat messages of a Hangout out loud. Take a peek at Mansour’s demo below:

Mansuour wrote in a Google+ post Wednesday night that he hacked the extension together in a few hours after meeting a blind war veteran in a Google+ Hangout:

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!

The Accessible Hangouts extension is an open source project, and Mansour’s hope is that Google will eventually integrate it natively into Hangouts. The chances for such a step are actually pretty good: Google has spent a lot of time making Hangouts more accessible and has in the past worked on ways to optimize the group video chat for mute and deaf people.

  1. Wow! This is really great to hear. I think this is a neat idea. I never really thought about the blind and how they would access the internet… especially how big and important it is now. I think this is great and really smart of Google because they are making the internet more accessible to everyone. Honestly thought I had never heard about this until I read this article.

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