Google’s TalkBack Accessibility Service adds a Braille keyboard for people with visual impairments
Over the past year, Google has introduced a couple of useful accessibility features to help Android users with various disabilities. The company introduced Live Transcribe, Sound Amplifier, and Live Caption to help those with hearing impairments. Today, the company announced a new feature in its TalkBack service, an Accessibility Service that helps users with visual impairments to navigate their Android phone. Google has introduced a virtual Braille keyboard so users will no longer have to plug in a physical keyboard just to type on their Android device.
Google says they collaborated with Braille developers and users to create a virtual keyboard that will be familiar to anyone who has typed in Braille before. The keyboard uses a 6-key layout with each key representing 1 of 6 Braille dots that make any letter or symbol. For example, Google says that typing an “A” requires pressing dot 1 while typing “B” requires pressing dots 1 and 2 together. Users can also delete letters and words, add lines, and submit text using the keyboard. The keyboard can be toggled as easily as switching between international keyboards. Here’s a GIF demonstrating typing using the new Braille keyboard:
The new Braille keyboard is available as part of the TalkBack Accessibility Service contained within the “Android Accessibility Suite” application. The feature is rolling out today and will be made available for all Android devices running Android 5.0 Lollipop or higher. The feature works across all applications, supports Braille grade 1 and grade 2, and is available in English for now. To enable it, go to Settings > Accessibility > TalkBack > Settings and select “Braille keyboard.” You can learn more about how to use the keyboard on Google’s support page. The only caveat right now is that TalkBack gestures are not usable when the Braille keyboard is on.
This is a great feature that can help expand Braille literacy among persons with visual impairments. If you or a loved one has trouble using their Android device, Google’s new Braille keyboard could significantly improve how they use their smartphone.