Google is bringing a virtual braille keyboard to Android

Google has been developing apps and capabilities geared at improvement accessibility features in its products and services such as the Live Transcribe app or the live captions feature. Now, the firm is going one step further and today announced that is beginning to roll out a new braille keyboard for Android. The company says that the new virtual talkback braille keyboard negates the need to connect a physical keyboard – as that can be time-consuming.

The new keyboard uses a ‘6-key’ layout that the visually impaired users will be familiar with since it is similar to a physical braille keyboard. Each dot represents one of the six braille dots and can be tapped to make a letter or a symbol. Users need to turn the display away from them and hold the device in the landscape orientation, with the hands gripping the short end of the phone. The right hand must hold the end with the USB port.

The firm has also provided a tutorial on the support page here, which can also be accessed on an Android device by using a three-finger swipe up gesture and selecting the ‘Open Tutorial’ option on the menu.

The firm says that it worked with braille developers and users to develop this feature and that the keyboard can be used anywhere where users would normally type. The virtual keyboard allows users to delete letters and words, add lines, and submit text. It can be turned on or off by simply switching between international keyboards. It must be noted that talkback gestures are not supported when the braille keyboard is on.

The virtual braille keyboard can be turned on by enabling Talkback from the Accessibility settings from the phone settings and then following the instructions listed on the support page. The feature supports grade 1 and grade 2 braille and is rolling out to Android devices running version 5.0 or later, covering a broad swath of devices.

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