Google unveils virtual braille keyboard for Android that makes phones accessible to the blind and those with low vision without additional hardware
- A new virtual keyboard lets the visually impaired type on Android using braille
- The tool can be used to type text messages or emails
- It does away with the need for clunky external hardware
- Android devices running version 5.0 and up will be able to use the feature
Google is introducing a new virtual keyboard that lets the visually impaired type messages and emails without clunky additional hardware.
The ‘Talkback braille keyboard’ as Google calls it is a new feature on Android that turns a user’s smartphone into a
‘TalkBack braille keyboard is a new virtual braille keyboard integrated directly into Android,’ rote the company in a blog post.
‘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.’
The feature uses a six-key layout and each key represents one of 6 braille dots according to Google.
When tapped, they make any letter or symbol. For instance, to type an ‘A’ users would press dot one, and to type a ‘B,’ dots one and one together.
To switch the keyboard on, users can navigate to it in their keyboard menu the same way they would find international keyboards.
To use the braille keyboard, users will have to turn on the ‘TalkBack’ feature in the Accessibility section of their device settings.
Once the it’s set up, users can conjure the keyboard with three fingers by swiping up on the screen.
The tool will be usable for any text field on Android, which means it can be used to send text messages or emails and other quick tasks.
The keyboard will use a standard six-key layout that lets users input commands in text messages and emails
Though there are already hardware solutions that allow those who are visually impaired to type on mobile devices, the advantage of Google’s virtual keyboard is that it offers users a quick and easy way to type without having to connect or attach a physical keyboard.
Google says that Talkback braille keyboard is currently rolling out to Android devices running version 5.0 or later today and it will across all apps on one’s device.
It currently supports braille grade 1 and grade 2 and is available initially in English