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Cover image for Talkback - Screen Reader in Android
Rajat Talesra
Rajat Talesra

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Talkback - Screen Reader in Android


This post is for android developers and anyone who is interested in mobile app development.

What is Talkback?

Talkback is a screen-reader by Google available in android devices. It gives spoken feedback so that anyone can use the device without even looking at the screen. This is especially useful for blind people.

How is it different from Accessibility Scanner?

Accessibility Scanner: detect errors, cannot be used by blind people
Talkback: cannot detect errors, actually used by blind people

Setting up Talkback

  1. Open Google Play Store
  2. Install Android Accessibility Suite app
  3. Open Settings, search Talkback
  4. Read all the information about it on the screen.
  5. Turn on Use Service -> Allow

Common gestures while using Talkback

Swipe Left/Right: Screen reader outputs the audio for each view/item in the app so that blind people can understand what's going on in the app. Not all content is spoken at once otherwise the user will lose the context easily. To make it more friendly the screen reader allows swipe left/right gesture with which the user can navigate between views back-and-forth.

Double Tap: Exactly similar to single tap for non-accessibility users. Why? Because blind people can tap on screen but don't know exactly where to do that so screen-readers normally highlight a specific view and users can double-tap anywhere on the screen and it will act as single-click on that highlighted view.

Swipe up then right to view or Tap with three fingers: What happens if we have some swipe gesture? For example in Gmail app you can swipe on emails to archive or delete email. But how would an accessibility-user do that because a swipe gesture in such cases requires precision and sometimes a particular length of swipe too. For such cases this gesture (swipe up then right to view) helps users to navigate to new dialog which shows list of actions that the user can do on specific item.

Developer tips

  1. Try to use any android app using Talkback and keep your eyes closed as this will give you much better context.
  2. The screen-reader starts from top-left view of screen and with each swipe shifts to next view.
  3. The format screen-reader follows is: <content-text>, <type-of-view>, <possible-gestures>.

The main goal of this post was to introduce you the challenges faced by blind people and how screen readers help them use different android apps.

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