March 1, 2021 – In a blog post, Google announced what it described as an all-new”version (officially, 9.1) of its TalkBack screen reader. Android accessibility product manager Brian Kemler wrote that the new software includes “some of the most highly requested features from the Blind and low vision community”, including multi-touch gestures similar to VoiceOver on iOS. Google says the new gestures “make it easier for you to interact with apps and let you perform common actions, such as selecting and editing text, controlling media and finding help.”
Another gestural command involves using voice to drive TalkBack. Swiping up then right will cause TalkBack to stop reading and await verbal instruction. The feature supports over 25 different commands such as “find” to locate particular text and “increase speech rate” to have TalkBack speak more quickly. Google has also added the ability to customize TalkBack’s controls and menus to allow users a more personalized experience. Arabic and Spanish have been added to the Braille keyboard’s list of supported languages.
The new TalkBack was co-developed with Samsung, and TalkBack is the default screen reader on all Galaxy devices running One UI 3 and later. A tutorial for the new TalkBack feature can be viewed on YouTube here. Google is also providing a “test pad” on which users can practice gestures. [Source: Nelson Régo, Cool Blind Tech].