Google+ Hangouts Are Now Sign Language Friendly

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Despite yesterday’s official announcement of Google+’s API, a few voices across the web have been quick to point out the honeymoon period with the social network is probably over.

But from what I’m seeing in my G+ Stream, it seems that the popular Hangout feature is alive and well. It doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out why: With the prevalence of Gchat serving as lots of users’ preferred communication channel, it’s easy to click over and Hangout with friends and family across the globe.

(MORE: Surprise! Google+ Adds Games)

In a post by G+ engineering director Chee Chew a few days ago, he announced that the company’s made a few notable improvements beyond “video quality and stability.”

When Google+ and Hangouts were first unveiled, users took control of a conversation simply by speaking louder than anyone else. For sign language users, however, this posed obvious problems, and typically the user with the most background noise was given the floor.

But now, sign language users can enjoy the full promise of Google+ Hangouts thanks to a small tweak. In order to “take the floor,” users can now mute their microphones and press Shift+s to be put on deck to take the main video feed.

So far, the response leans decidedly positive. “Thanks a lot for being sensitive to the needs of your users,” writes one user in the comments. Others have suggested that the new feature can be used to teach sign language classes directly through the service. Whatever the case, it’s something to be optimistic about, and demonstrates that Google is really listening to the needs of its user base.

Read more about the new feature over at Chee’s post.

MORE: Watch YouTube Videos with Others Using Google+ Hangouts

Chris Gayomali is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @chrigz, on Facebook, or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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