Another Awful Google Accessibility Failure: The New “Google Contacts”

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Google Contacts — which I use heavily — has now moved over to Google’s horrific “let’s kick people with less than perfect vision in the teeth!” user interface (UI) design. I assume it’s rolling out gradually so you may not have it yet.

But even when you do get it, you STILL may not be able to really see it, because like most of Google’s “material design” UI “refreshes” it’s terrible for anyone who has problems with low contrast fonts. Even at 175% magnification, the fonts are painful to read — and for many users are likely to be impossible to view in a practical manner. And as usual, older users will suffer most at the hands of Google’s UI design changes.

There are a few minor improvements in the new Contacts design relating to form field layouts, and your “notes” for an entry no longer need to be in a restricted-sized box. But those positive changes are rendered meaningless when the fonts overall have been made so much more difficult for so many people to read.

If you talk to Google’s internal accessibility folks about this sort of problem (and I’ve done so, numerous times) you’ll be told that the new design is fine for “most users” and meets formal accessibility standards.

Yet the single most common complaint I get about Google is from users who simply can’t comfortably read or use Google interfaces, and Google is pushing material design into more and more of their products. Google Docs (I use this one heavily also), plus Sheets, Slides, and Sites are also apparently doomed to undergo this change, according to Google.

For the moment, you can still switch back to the familiar version of Contacts (there’s a link for this buried at the bottom of the left sidebar), but we know that Google at some point always ultimately removes the ability to use the older versions of their products.

This situation is rapidly becoming worse and worse for the negatively affected users.

Of course, Google could solve this problem by providing higher contrast UI options, but such options are severely discouraged at Google.

After all, you don’t want to make things easy for those users that you don’t really care about at all, right?

For shame Google. For shame.

–Lauren–