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Improving accessibility in Hangouts

Accessibility is something we care a lot about on the Hangouts team. The Hangout Captions app, for example, enables live transcription services for the deaf and hard of hearing ( And "Take the Floor" makes it easier for sign language speakers to do a Hangout together ( Today we're rolling out two accessibility improvements in Hangouts - a Sign Language Interpreter app, and a fuller set of keyboard shortcuts. 

1) Using the Sign Language Interpreter app, deaf or hard of hearing users who prefer sign language can invite interpreters to speak and sign for them during a Hangout. They'll always see their interpreter at the top right of the window, and they'll become the focus of the Hangout whenever their interpreter speaks for them. You can install the app using this link:

2) Keyboard shortcuts are also available in Hangouts -- great for people who can't or don't want to use a mouse during the video chat. For example: muting your microphone is now as simple as Ctrl+D (PC) or Command+D (Mac), and you can start chatting with Ctrl+B (PC) or Command+B (Mac). To view the full list of keyboard shortcuts just type '?' while in a Hangout, or visit this page:

Both features are rolling out gradually, so let us know what you think once you've taken them for a spin!

David B's profile photoGail Harris's profile photoElisabeth Ellis's profile photoBrian Determan's profile photo
More than a good idea, y'all are changing the world by being role models of accessibility. So great, +Anna Cavender & team!
The Sign Language interpreter app works very nicely - And for a bonus, when I speak, it's showing me. When the interpreter speaks, it again shows me, so it works for both VCO (Voice Carry-Over) and sign-to-voice interpreting as well.
Thanks for joining us, +Greg Millam, It was great to meet you!

+Anna Cavender, thanks to you and your team for this great enhancement. What is the best way for someone to provide feedback about the app? +Michelle Sumner (the interpreter in our hangout) had some questions and possible suggestions for it.
Hey Anna, this is a miracle! But yet there is a huge flaw. The camera doesn't feel right when I use sign language with my friends because we have to keep our signs within a 1' squared box or else the camera won't capture everything. It is the camera zoom issue. If your hangouts team can iron this out, you will see many more deaf users! Thank you so much for making this more accessible for deaf people and we are blessed to have you guys!

(edit, I'm talking about tablets & smartphones, not the webcam which I've never tried) 
Looks really cool, I'm deaf and I gotta give this a try sometime!
Hands waving! Great UI deaf friendly options!   
Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see the app for the ASL Interpreter in the list of apps or on the link provided? 
+Anna Cavender Thanks for all this. One question though: When I go to the link to install the app, I don't see anything appear re: installing the app and when I go into the hangout itself and look at apps, it doesn't show up there either?  
+Neil McDevitt we are having some issues with links today.  Try copy-pasting the URL into your browser.  Sorry for the inconvenience!
+Anna Cavender I'm using AT&T Galaxy S3. I tested the camera distance issue by mirroring my display on the hdtv and everything seems fine. A new issue came up - hangouts lags badly for sign language use. I have a 20mbps Internet connection so it can't be on the isp's end. I can't imagine the fault lies with the cpu or ram since the S3 has decent hardware at the moment. 
+Anna Cavender Will the hangout team provides an API for the VRS companies so that any interpreter can be pulled into an hangout conversation?
+Kalexin Baoerjiin Yes!  The API used to build this app isn't out yet, but that's the plan.  Thanks for expressing interest!
As long as the stream feed lags, it won't catch on. 
+Kalexin Baoerjiin - A lot depends on if Hangout is classed as VRI or VRS. Hopefully it's classed as VRS. More likely it'll be classed as VRI =).
Fcc has very stringent certification for any company that wants to get into vrs 
+Raja Kushalnagar Actually, I expect interpreting over Hangouts will be quite easy to monetize. VRI today is pretty much Facetime: Good, really, only for face to face conversations with a laptop next to the speaker for the VRI. But with the popular growth of both WFH and video teleconferencing, multi-participant VRI will see a strong market, is my expectation.
+Anna Cavender I am the owner of one of the nation's largest VRI providers- We utilize hangouts everyday to provide RID certified interpreters and live captioning to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing clients all of the country. Many of the nation's largest universities and school districts utilize our VRI services. Some of the biggest feature requests we get from our deaf clients are 1) full screen video and 2) bringing back named hangouts!
Great idea! We need to hear from collaboration champions like you. G+ community TribuTerra.
I have a few questions:

1) The link you supplied below takes me to the Hangout page and didn't see the app install. I tried searching for it but could not find it. Can you let me know where to go to install it?

2) As this type of thing isn't yet authorized by FCC for VRS calls, this would be limited to VRI calls - how is the cost of interpreting service covered- by the consumer (me) or by Google?

Looking forward to this and am excited about the future of interpreting services over the Internet!
+Greg Millam Do you know if it's possible to choose a specific agency for the interpreting service?  I haven't seen the app yet to non-working link.
+Clayton Call thanks for the feedback.  Full screen and named hangouts duly noted :).

+Jared Evans 1) Links are doing something wonky on G+ lately, try copy-pasting into your browser.  2) This technology just connects an interpreter with a client.  For now, people will have to invite their own interpreters and work out payment on their end.  We don't (yet!) fit under the umbrella of FCC mandates, so all those are still open questions.  However, we'd like to make these features available in the API so that VRS and VRI companies can make their own apps and connect Hangouts to their existing services.
+Jared Evans The app isn't an interpreter request, alas. The app consists of two parts:

"Designate yourself as an interpreter": Lets an interpreter mark that they are interpreting.

"Designated yourself as using interpreting": Lets a deaf person identify that they are the one using the interpreter.

Thereafter: Whenever the deaf person signs, and the interpreter speaks, the auto-focus switches to the deaf person. (e.g: the interpreter is 'invisible'). The interpreter, meanwhile, is always in focus for the deaf person, without the "speak grabbing focus" taking focus away from the terp.
Hi +Anna Cavender, fantastic work! I am a British Sign Language user and can see myself using this when working remotely, with my interpreters.

I've managed to get the app to work on the desktop version, but not on the iPad/iPhone, I can't find the 'Designate' options there?  Is there a way this can be done?
Nice work Anna! Looking forward to future enhancements. This opens the door to doing teamed interpreting without having to be in the same location.
Loving it ... love the fact that more handicap people have access to these awesome social communication tools.  Thanks A Big Million 2 you and the Big G. :-)
Is the interpreter app only available on desktop Google+? Or is it available on Google+ Android smartphone?
+Anna Cavender This sounds very cool! great work.  Has the FCC given any feedback on whether they would qualify Google+ for VRS?Seems like an obvious next step.  thanks
How do interpreter participate in hangout. Suppose I start Hangout and how do I get terp for hangout? How does it work?
Hi Anna, I am deaf and from RIT. I will be interviewing for a BOLD summer internship with Google. Two phone interviews will take place tomorrow at 3PM and 4PM PST. I asked Drake, my recruiter, if it's possible to do a Google Hangout because I talk better when I can hear myself. On the phone interview, it's harder for me because I am covering my cochlear implant and I can't hear my voice. So my voice will be off places. Is it possible I can get an interpreter in my hangout during interviews? If you want to contact my recruiter, it's Drake Jakovac at It will really help me a lot because I am a little worried and I will love to work for Google. Thank you! Kimberly Lin
+Kimberly Lin , thanks for reaching out to us.  Could be an exciting way to use this app.  I've contacted Drake and he should follow up with you offline.  Best of luck on your interviews!
+Kimberly Lin , I help run DeaFestival LA for hearing impaired children. If you have a twitter account, we'd love for you to follow us at @DEAFestival
any update when this will be roll out - and the FCC should approve this as this will even the playing field.  +nalani rood  

I was attempting to add the app but it is not showing up.
This is really gread and much needed!:-) I am 100% blind myself and use Jaws 14 plus Firefox and also tested google crome. Please please keep going and update us on whats going on:-) Is there a place where to look for google plus comands as well? I am looking for how I can add people, like (plus) things etc. thanks a million, Patrick

For hangouts involving mixed (deaf and hearing) participants, 
I'm wondering why you haven't created a hangout app using the Chrome Web Speech API to do automatic real-time transcription from hearing people to deaf participants in hangouts.  (Deaf participants could type back.)

[I'm at RIT, connected to NTID.  You probably know Ben Rubin.   We're developing hangout apps for education, and have used the Chrome Web Speech API for another project. Would you be interested in a prototype?  I teach innovation and invention and am trying to figure out whether to push them in this direction, or tell them you have it covered?

+ben rubin 
+Jon Schull 
Hello, I apologize if this is the wrong place to ask questions, but...

Is there any way I can generate speech from text in Google Hangouts?  My voice is very difficult for most people to understand.  I usually use the chat feature, but it doesn't work well in a typical work meeting.  Most people miss the text, or have trouble reading while talking. 

A good option for me would be a quality text to speech feature.  A nice feature would be a noise when I finished typing so people would know to read the text.

Thanks for any pointers or ideas!

+Anna Cavender +Brint Kriebel Does this app still work? I tried to test it in a hangout with 2 friends last night and I clicked the blue box 'to offer to interpret for others' but it didn't do anything. The other 2 guests clicked the green box to choose an interpreter but it said 'no interpreters.

I was using the Chrome browser.
Do I need to use IE for this to work?

Can any explain if this is still working and if so what we need to do differently?

Does it work in private Hangouts and Hangouts On Air (those streamed live to your YouTube channel)?

Many thanks,
Thanks +Anna Cavender just let me know when and I'll test again. Appreciate you getting back to me.
+Mark McC the fix should be available for you now.  Let me know how it's working for you and send any further feedback my way!
David B
I love Hangouts.
Thanks for this +Anna Cavender. The co-author of a book I just wrote it deaf and this should help us to no end. 
Hello +Anna Cavender I'm really happy to have found this information. Do you know if these apps are available when you are running a webinar through companies like webinarjam which are using the hangout foundation? Do I need to ask them? Also I am assuming that Australian sign language is not an option yet but would be great to hear from you.
+Anna Cavender My webinar hangout host gave me this info.  The host is having a hangout internationally, and, probably, I am the only deaf among the participants.  The hangout is scheduled on Thursday, December 11 at 7pm cst.  I am requesting an interpreter for this upcoming hangout as a participant. Is it doable?  Please let me know asap.  
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