Making Android more accessible for braille users

Editor’s note: Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and we’ll be sharing more on how we’re partnering with people with disabilities and what we’re doing to make education more accessible.

The heart of our mission at Google is making the world’s information truly accessible. But the reality is we can only realize this mission with the help of the community. This year at I/O, we announced one more step in the right direction, thanks to feedback and help from our users: We’re making it easier for braille readers to use Android. Available in our next Android 13 Beta in a few weeks, we are beginning to build out-of-the-box support for braille displays in Talkback, our screen reader within Android.

A refreshable braille display is an electro-mechanical device that creates braille patterns by raising rounded pins through holes in a flat surface. Braille-literate computer users use the braille display to touch-read braille dots representing text. With the display, you can also type out braille. These devices help people with deafblindness access mobile phones and people with blindness use their phones silently. Previously, people connected their Android devices to braille displays using the BrailleBack app, which required a separate download from the Play Store, or used a virtual keyboard within Talkback instead of a physical device.

With this new update, there are no additional downloads necessary to use most braille displays. People can use braille displays to access many of the same features available with Talkback. For instance, you can use display buttons to navigate your screen and then do activities like compose an email, make a phone call, send a text message or read a book.

There are also new shortcuts that make it easier to use braille displays with Talkback. Now there are shortcuts for navigating so it’s easier to scroll and move to the next character, word or line. There are also shortcuts for settings and for editing, like jumping to the end of documents or selecting, copying and pasting.

You can sign up for the Android beta program to try out Talkback 13 in the next beta release.

We are grateful to the community for their ongoing feedback that makes features like these possible. This is just the first step forward in developing this integration, and we can’t wait to do even more to expand the feature and to create even more related capabilities.

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