Google develops virtual braille keyboard for Android, rolling out now

Google develops virtual braille keyboard for Android, rolling out now thumbnail

Android in recent years has added a number of accessibility features, including Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier. Google is now rolling out a virtual braille keyboard to most modern Android devices.

Physical braille keyboards help the blind and visually impaired type on phones, tablets, and computer. However, Google notes that it “can be time-consuming to connect an external device each time you want to type something quickly” when mobile.

The company’s solution is a virtual TalkBack braille keyboard that’s integrated into the OS as part of the Android Accessibility Suite. Available in landscape orientation — where your right hand holds the side of the phone with the USB charging port, a 6-key layout that represents the standard braille dots is overlaid:

  • Tap dot 1 to type the letter “A.”
  • Tap dots 1 and 2 to type the letter “B.”
  • Tap dots 1 and 4 to type the letter “C.”
  • Tap dots 1, 4, and 5 to type the letter “D.”

Note: You can type in grade 1 and grade 2 braille. Grade 1 braille can be useful if you’re new to braille. Grade 2 can be useful if you’re a more advanced user or if you want to use abbreviations.

Some gestures are available for editing, but the other common TalkBack shortcuts are not:

  • Delete letter: Swipe left
  • Delete word: 2-finger swipe left
  • Add space: Swipe right
  • New line: 2-finger swipe right
  • Submit text: 2-finger swipe up

Google developed this feature in conjunction with braille developers and users. Accessing this new input method is as simple as switching international keyboards. It can be “used anywhere you would normally type and allows you to delete letters and words, add lines, and submit text.”

This virtual braille keyboard is rolling out today as part of an Android Accessibility Suite update, and available to Android 5.0 devices and newer. More details and setup instructions are available on this support document.

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