Pixel’s accessibility innovations aren’t just created for the disabled community. They’re designed with the disabled community from the start.
That’s what drew KR Liu to Google. Liu is a longtime advocate for people with disabilities who was diagnosed with severe hearing loss at the age of three. In 2018, she was asked to take a look at a new feature in development intended to benefit the Deaf community.
“I said, I think this is a really incredible opportunity because it’s not only good for someone like myself who’s hard of hearing to be using, but many people use captions now. Now they say that 90% of people watch content online with Live Caption,” says Liu.
In 2020, Liu became global head of brand accessibility for Google. As a technology sales and marketing executive for two decades, Liu has made it her life’s work to be a strong voice championing the way people connect in the world, including the 1.3 billion people around the world with disabilities. She is a passionate thought leader and advocate for disability inclusion, gender equality, and LGBTQ rights in technology and marketing. At Google, she is an influential voice for the disabled community and works internally to promote the community’s interests – which translates to better innovation for people with disabilities, and for everyone.
“My path to Google was doing what Google does best,” Liu says. “They bring in the community, they have ideas, they want to hear feedback, and innovation is built because of that. That’s really critical when you’re innovating for disabled people. They have to be in the room so that you make sure that you’re focusing on their needs. It’s part of Google’s mission to make the world’s information universally accessible and useful.”
Like Liu, Laura Allen has had a front-row seat for the progress Google has made in this space, as head of strategy and programs for accessibility and disability inclusion.
“When I started working full-time on accessibility more than nine years ago, we had a very small number of highly passionate Googlers driving accessibility from the ground up. We were constantly pushing uphill and making the case for why this work was important and needed more attention,” she says. “Today, we’re in a drastically different place.”
Over the years, Google has introduced more programs and processes across product areas to help Googlers integrate accessibility and inclusion more consistently and earlier in their design and development process. “There’s been a big shift from ‘why’ to ‘how,’ which is so exciting and encouraging,” Allen says.
Advances in AI have made Pixel an even more helpful phone for people with disabilities, says Liu. “A lot of the applications that we’ve built are built with AI and have been for years,” she says. “I have these tools that allow AI to help me be as engaged in society as I want to be, and that’s a great thing. It shows the power of AI and Google’s rich history there, and what we’ve been able to do to empower disabled people.”
Content creator Molly Burke uses Guided Frame on a Google Pixel phone to take a selfie.
Bringing people with disabilities into the conversation is a central part of the “how.” Liu points to the way Google brought in Molly Burke, a content creator who is blind and shares her work through social media, during the development of Guided Frame. The feature uses
“It shows that many disabled people love things about culture and creativity, too, so we’re using technology to allow them to do those things as well,” says Liu.
Musician Josh Pearson credits
Liu is passionate about Google Pixel in her job – and in her personal life as well. She had a hand in
And it’s what Google does best, making information useful not just for certain people, but for everyone.
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