Android introduces its first built-in braille keyboard

14 Apr 2020421 Views

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Android has collaborated with braille developers and users to create a new keyboard feature.

Android has introduced a new keyboard feature for typing in braille. The company follows Apple, which introduced a braille keyboard to its accessibility features several years ago.

In a blogpost, Brian Kemler, product manager of Android Accessibility, acknowledged that existing hardware for typing in braille can be “time consuming” as it requires users to connect an external device to their phones every time they want to quickly type text.

This is something that Android wanted to change with its new TalkBack braille keyboard, which is integrated directly into the operating system. According to Kemler, the new keyboard serves as a fast and convenient way for users to post on social media, respond to text messages and write brief emails.

Expanding literacy

TechCrunch noted that braille is a “complex topic” in the accessibility community, with many mobile users opting to use voice recognition, voice messages, screen readers and other tools rather than braille. However, the publication also noted that chatting out loud isn’t always possible, especially when it comes to editing documents and completing other text-based tasks.

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Kemler said that the Android team collaborated with braille developers and users throughout the development of the new feature to ensure that it is familiar to anybody who has typed using braille before.

“It uses a standard six-key layout and each key represents one of six braille dots which, when tapped, make any letter or symbol. To type an ‘A’ you would press dot one and to type a ‘B’, dots one and two together,” he wrote.

“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.”

The keyboard can be used anywhere that an Android user would normally type. There is also a function to delete letters, words and lines and submit text.

The new feature can be turned on through the accessibility section of Android’s settings menu, under TalkBack. The keyboard is now available to all Android devices running version 5.0 or later, and is initially available in English. TalkBack supports grade one and grade two braille.

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com