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Android Access: TalkBack Refreshed ‘Accessible On-Screen Keyboard’ and More!

The TalkBack now brings Android Accessibility to devices without a physical keyboard. Many of these enhancements also improve the overall TalkBack experience on all devices. Here’re the features highlights:

  • TalkBack Keyboard is an Accessible Input Method (Accessible IME) that enables you to enter and review text via touch screen. You need to first activate via Language and Keyboard option in Settings menu. Next, customize it via TalkBack Keyboard Settings option — here, you can customize additional features including auditory feedback as you type. Finally, open favorite editing app, long-press on an edit field, and select TalkBack keyboard as your default IME. Note that you need do this only once.
  • TalkBack keyboard is an on-screen keyboard that supports touch exploration along with synchronized spoken and auditory feedback. You can now enter text when using devices that don’t sport a physical keyboard. Once activated, you can switch the keyboard among three states by long-pressing “volume up/down” buttons:
    1. Hidden: TalkBack keyboard isn’t displayed.
    2. Navigating: You get access to an on-screen virtual D-Pad, along with Back, Home, Search, and Menu buttons.
    3. Typing: An on-screen qwerty keyboard.

    When you use keyboard with turn on auditory feedback from within TalkBack Keyboard Settings, as well as having SoundBack active. You hear keys as you explore the keyboard along with an auditory icon; picking up your finger types the last key you explored. Typing produces a distinctive key-click.

    The on-screen keyboard occupies the bottom 1/3 of your screen. While entering text, explore and find the top row, then move above it to hear what you have typed so far.

  • You can now navigate and review text by character, word, sentence or paragraph. Use a two-finger tap to move forward through these navigation levels; a two-finger double tap moves in the reverse direction. Once you’ve selected your preferred mode of navigation, you can use Up/Down on the physical track-ball/D-Pad, or alternatively, flick up or down on the virtual D-Pad to move forward or backward through the text being reviewed.

    Note that text review works when TalkBack keyboard is in either/navigating/ or typing mode; personally.

  • Placing TalkBack keyboard in navigating mode provides an on-screen virtual D-Pad — is especially useful on devices that don’t have a physical D-Pad or track-ball. When active, virtual D-Pad occupies bottom one-third of the screen, and fast-flicks in that area has the same effect as moving with a D-Pad or track-ball. Tapping anywhere within virtual D-Pad is the same as clicking with track-ball.

    The corners of virtual D-Pad also provides Back, Home, Search and Menu buttons — these’re especially useful on devices that lack explicit physical or capacitive buttons for these common Android actions. You can explore virtual D-pad by moving your finger around the D-Pad area; crossing the top-edge of this area provides haptic and auditory feedback that can be used as an orientation aid in finding the virtual buttons on the corners.

  • In addition, selecting TalkBack Keyboard as your default input method enables a set of global commands that can be accessed from your physical keyboard — eventually, these’ll be made available via soft keyboard as well. These shortcuts are listed in the Accessibility Preferences application where they can be edited. You can choose between menu and search for the modifier, and any letter on the keyboard for the letter.

    Here’s a list of the current commands:


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