Author: Julián Mª Morejón Carmona
Date: February 2021
The Talkback Braille keyboard is a screen input method, which is part of the accessibility application developed by Google, called Talkback, included, but not activated, by default on Android devices.
The great advantage of this keyboard is that we do not need any additional hardware to be able to write text on the device, acting as a virtual keyboard.
In addition, its development together with Braille experts guarantees its ease of use for anyone who is minimally familiar with this language, being very intuitive and simple to use, except for some commands to follow related to navigation.
In this review we will do an analysis of the Braille keyboard focused on Android mobile devices with version 9, since it is an exclusive application of this operating system.
Next, we analyze how the keyboard interacts with the user and the user with it. We will start by analyzing the interface.
After having activated it, each time we go to write, the keyboard will be shown on the device screen by means of six circles that represent the six braille dots. They will appear vertically in two rows, each of which encompasses 3 points. Note that the first time you use it, you will be shown a tutorial to teach us the position in which we should place the device to write. It will also show us a series of commands, implemented in a very efficient way to perform certain essential actions on the keyboard.
On the keyboard, we also have its options, all of which are quite interesting, such as the option of being able to see the tutorial again, switch to plain Braille, view gestures and finally access to settings.
The interface, therefore, is simple, as required by the keyboard to meet its design objectives, however it offers the user a very complete interaction and makes handling it a simple and intuitive task.
This keyboard itself is an option for easy accessibility, in this case. for people with visual disabilities, however we will proceed to carry out an analysis for the different groups of people with disabilities.
Visually impaired people
As we have commented previously, the application as a whole is an accessibility option for people with vision difficulties, in addition to highlighting that it is perfectly implemented with the usability of Talkback, with an appropriate labeling for the screen reader, since it is capable of reading including all aspects of the initial tutorial, ensuring that anyone in this group can use the keyboard without any complications.
People with hearing difficulties
The application does not present inconveniences for its use in the case of people of this group, since all aspects of the keyboard are represented visually, as well as the visualization of what we write with it, so that anyone with a hearing problem , you can easily use the Braille keyboard.
People with physical difficulties
Although the application is not focused on this group, it could be used by this group depending on the disability of the person, those that affect the motor skills of the upper extremities, would make it very difficult to use it, since even if they were used push buttons the fact of having to press several options on the screen at the same time or perform gestures would make it very difficult to handle the person with the keyboard, being more convenient for these users to use the push buttons with the common keyboard of the device.
Next, we analyze the degree of satisfaction of the user when operating with the keyboard. In addition, to study the utility it provides.
The interaction with the keyboard feels fluid, due to the great design it has, making it easy to write with it, even if you are not used to Braille, although sometimes the interaction is not perfect, not recognizing well the numbers selected on the keyboard or the gestures, point to improve, since it could cause problems for users with visual disabilities, since they can misspell the letter or word and not realize it or make it difficult to interact with the keyboard.
On the other hand, comment that each letter that we enter will appear in large size on the screen when we perform the necessary gestures to write it and TalkBack will read the screen with the letter that we have just entered, which is an added value to the design and interaction.
In summary, the interaction with the application is quite fluid and well designed, although on certain occasions a little more polish is needed in the interaction.
After testing it carefully, we can conclude, that it is a great advance in the field of accessibility for people with vision difficulties, but that still needs to be improved in some aspects and added support for more languages, apart from English.
In summary, if they continue to develop and introduce improvements, it can be an essential app for many people in the group, since anyone who uses braille will enjoy and thank very much for the greater ease in being able to express themselves or not having to use external devices to to write.