Google Now Offering Accessible Search

Google has released another product in their labs — Google Accessible search for the blind and visually impaired. No, this doesn’t mean they’ve put Braille on the screen. Instead they’re offering a search that ranks sites higher which have viewer visual distractions, which are easier to navigate by keyboard, etc. You can try it at http://labs.google.com/accessible/.

Remembering that last week I had a horrible time with the Burger King site — it seemed to be all Flash-based and loaded so slowly that it took us 15 minutes to get to the menu and figure out what we wanted to have for lunch — I typed in Burger King as my search query.

If you do a regular Google search for Burger King you get the official Web site, the “Subservient Chicken” Web site, a Wikipedia article, a holiday parody, and the official UK site. The accessible search provides these as the first five results: a Wikipedia article, the official Burger King site, a blog entry about a Burger King movie, a Scotsman.com news article, and a PledgeBank pledge about boycotting Burger King for life.

Curious, I went back to the Burger King site. Yes, it still seems to be mostly Flash, and the menu items — the useful ones like nutrition, finding a BK, and so forth — pop up out of a query box. (There is a text-based menu underneath which contains information like Privacy Policy, Investor Relations, and Career.) I looked at the Accessible Search cache, and it was the same thing sans cache. I’m having a little trouble understanding why this ranked so high.

Luckily for me, Google does has a FAQ for its accessible search, and does point out that the criteria for the accessible search are constantly evolving. I did some other searches and found that special syntax worked fine with this search; the only thing that seemed to be different was the ranking, and that the results page is a little plainer.

Kudos to Google for trying something like this. With the tons of ways Web pages are built, this couldn’t have been easy to put together. I’m looking forward to other ways to search for sites based on creation and distribution of content.

About Tara Calishain

Covering the world of search engines, databases, and other online information collections since 1996.

Posted on July 19, 2006, in News. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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