Product Manager, Android Accessibility
Published Apr 9, 2020
Over 150 years ago, the invention of braille was revolutionary in making reading and writing accessible to blind people. 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. 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.
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.
The keyboard can be used anywhere you would normally type and allows you to delete letters and words, add lines, and submit text. You can turn the keyboard on and off as simply as switching between international keyboards. (Note: TalkBack gestures are not supported when the keyboard is on.)
To use the braille keyboard, turn on TalkBack in the Accessibility section within Settings, and follow these instructions to set it up. Once you set up the keyboard, use three fingers to swipe up on your screen and try practicing with the gestures tutorial.
Talkback braille keyboard is rolling out to Android devices running version 5.0 or later, starting today. It works across all apps on your Android device, supports braille grade 1 and grade 2 and is available initially in English.