Google has established its first research and development facility in the UK devoted to creating technology that assists those with disabilities. It is the business’ first international website with an accessibility focus. A Google app called Project Relate supports people whose medical issues make it difficult to understand their speech and is now available in beta in the UK. The program trains itself to recognize difficult-to-understand speech patterns, such as those of people with muscular dystrophy, and makes communication easier for them. This is accomplished by real-time transcription of speech to text, synthesized vocal reproduction of speech, and speaking into voice assistants. According to technology reporter Paul Carter, Google’s technology has “the potential to be significant” for those with disabilities. “Technology now touches so many aspects of everyone’s daily lives, but for disabled people, it can literally be life-changing,” Carter said.

Numerous Google engineering teams are tasked with investigating “supercharging” accessible technology in order to make it more widely used. These teams are working on topics like artificial intelligence and have many research teams. For instance, subtitling technology, which was once developed to aid television viewers who were deaf or hard of hearing, has benefited society as a whole and is now beneficial to the majority of people. According to deaf person Rachael Bleakley, the use of subtitles changed her lip-reading difficulties as a child. “Captions communicate not only what is being spoken but also any useful background noises which help amplify the plot, such as [dramatic music] for building tension, or a [loud explosion] off camera which helps explain why the main character looks a little alarmed,” she said.