Technology April 13, 2020
Google launches new Braille keyboard on Android for visually impaired people
For over 100 years, Braille has been helping the people who are blind and low vision to read and communicate. Google wants to help the visually impaired community use Braille on their smartphones as well. To make this happen, Google has launched a Braille keyboard named TalkBack.
For disabled people, tech is a great equaliser and Google‘s latest offering is a step in that direction. Called TalkBack, Google has launched a virtual braille keyboard for people with vision impairments.
What TalkBack does is divide the user’s screen into six zones, with each zone representing one of the six dots that are used to represent different letters, numbers and characters in the braille alphabet. By touching the six zones in different combinations, blind and low vision Android users can put the braille to work. It will let them type in a format they are comfortable with.
Today, braille displays make typing accessible on most phones and computers through a physical braille keyboard. But it can be time-consuming to connect an external device each time you want to type something quickly on your phone. TalkBack braille keyboard is a new virtual braille keyboard integrated directly into Android. It’s a fast, convenient way to type on your phone without any additional hardware, whether you’re posting on social media, responding to a text, or writing a brief email. – Brian Kemler, Product Manager, Android Accessibility, Google
TalkBack works across all apps on Android devices
TalkBack is currently available in English only and is on all devices running Android 5.0 or later. Apart from normal typing, the keyboard also lets users delete letters and words, add lines, and submit text
You can turn it on and off the same way you switch between different international keyboards. “As part of our mission to make the world’s information universally accessible, we hope this keyboard can broadly expand braille literacy and exposure among blind and low vision people,” added Kemler.
The virtual Braille keyboard can be integrated directly into Android. “Our team collaborated with braille developers and users throughout the development of this feature, so it’ll be familiar to anyone who has typed using braille before. It uses a standard 6-key layout and each key represents one of 6 braille dots which, when tapped, make any letter or symbol. To type an “A” you would press dot 1 and to type a “B,” dots 1 and 2 together”, said Kemler in the Google press release.
How to use TalkBack
To set up TalkBack on Google’s Braille keyboard, these are the steps:
- Go to the Accessibility section under the Settings option.
- Choose Braille keyboard.
- Select ‘Tap to set up’.
- In the dialogue, select Settings.
- Turn on TalkBack Braille keyboard.
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