Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Accessible Search By Google Helps Blind Users Find What They Are Looking For

Google Accessible Search is designed to help the visually challenged find the most relevant, useful and comprehensive information, as quickly as possible. More broadly, Google defines accessible websites and pages as content that the blind and visually challenged can use and consume using standard online web browsing tools.

To make this possible, last week, Google research and experimentation labs have announced a new tool designed to facilitate web search for users who have visual handicaps or who are completely blind.


But even more interesting is the fact that, the new accessible Google search has been designed and conceived by T.V. Raman, a Google researcher who is blind due to childhood glaucoma.

T.V. Raman is the researcher who has helped Google develop this new usable search facility

"Like most of you, when I search the web, I want to find relevant information with a minimal amount of distraction.

But because I can't see and I use a device that converts web text to speech, I'm even more in tune with the distractions that can sometimes get in the way of finding the right results.

If the information I'm after is on a visually busy page, I have to sort through that page to find the text I want--an extra step that can sometimes be very time-consuming.

That's why I've been passionate about a project I'm working on at Google called Google Accessible Search. Accessible Search adds a small twist to the familiar Google search: In addition to finding the most relevant results as measured by Google's search algorithms, it further sorts results based on the simplicity of their page layouts. (Simplicity, of course, is subjective in this context.) "



Google Accessible Search makes search accessible and useful to visually handicapped users by filtering out (or better yet to lower ranking positions) those search results that are not easy to read with a screen reader. That is: if you were to analyze each and every page after you have run a Google search, which ones would be the web pages that could be easily read if all images and graphics were turned off? Which ones are more easily read because of their clean and intuitive content organization? Which ones can make the life of a audio screen reader successful by avoiding too complex layouts or too many intrusive ad messages?

While the popular default Google search facility helps everyone find sets of web pages highly related to your search terms query, Accessible Search goes one step further by helping you find the most accessible pages in that result set.

In its current version, Google Accessible Search looks at a number of signals by examining the HTML markup found on a web page. It tends to favor pages that degrade gracefully--that is, pages with few visual distractions, and pages that are likely to render well with images turned off.

Google Accessible Search filters in and ranks higher all of those web pages with minimal visual elements, giving prominence to those pages with simple and highly usable layouts which can be easily stripped of all extra items outside of the core text content and easily fed into an audio screen reader.

But what would Google consider "accessible pages"?

Google Accessible Search presently scans and monitors a good set of accessibility "indicators" available simply by accessing the HTML code of any web page. Accessible Search checks whether the web pages found are devoid of visual distractions and likely to be highly readable, easy to navigate even when images have been turned off, and whether or not it's primary purpose is immediately viable with keyboard navigation.

T.V. Raman explains that Accessible Google Search makes visually handicapped users find first those web pages that they can easily listen to with a screen reader

What can you do to make your own site or blog more accessible to visually handicapped users?

Some of the basic recommendations on how to make a website more useable and accessible include keeping Web pages easy to read, avoiding visual clutter -- especially extraneous content -- and ensuring that the primary purpose of the Web page is immediately accessible with full keyboard navigation.

There are many organizations and online resources that offer Website owners and authors guidance on how to make websites and pages more accessible for the blind and visually impaired. The W3C publishes numerous guidelines including Web Content Access Guidelines that are helpful for Website owners and authors. Broad adherence to these guidelines is one way of ensuring that sites are universally accessible.

N.B.: Google Accessible Search is built on Google Co-op's technology, which improves search results based on specialized interests.

(Videos courtesy of Google (c) and

[ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
2006-08-02 16:04:37

Kaj Kandler

I would have thought that "Google Search Accessible" would favor such sites that are compliant with the federal US guidelines section 508 for accessibility. However, they do not, as my quick test showed.

So who gets it right? The US government or Google? Should we test now for Google ranking instead?

posted by Robin Good on Wednesday, July 26 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.




Real Time Web Analytics