Google+ Hangouts become accessible to the blind

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.

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