How Android Accessibility Has Evolved

Over the past few years Android has evolved quite a lot. Back when Google TalkBack first came out to compete with Apple's voiceover screen reader, voiceover screen reader was much better. However, in 2016 Google TalkBack has started to become way better than it was originally. In fact it is starting to become much better than voiceover screen reader. The features that make TalkBack a great screen reader are haptic feedback, customizable gestures, helpful sound effects, and third-party accessibility features such as other screen readers. The device I use as my daily driver is a Samsung Galaxy S7 running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow.

If you are blind, haptic feedback is very beneficial. In google talkback there are a few different types of vibrations talkback can produce. For instance, a short vibration is the vibration you get while navigating the screen. 3 soft vibrations are when you are not on any single icon in the screen. 3 hard rapid vibrations or when the screen refreshes and when a page loads. Is haptic feedback settings are on by default when TalkBack is first enabled.

Customizable gestures are also very beneficial for those who do not want to have to remember hard gestures. Say for instance if your device does not have a home button. You can simply set up a gesture to swipe left and right with a single finger and then it will automatically push the home button without you having to find it and double tap it. Personally, I have set up four custom gestures to make my life easier. I set up a flick right and left gesture to open the notifications area, a flick left and right gesture to read from the currently focused  item of the screen, and a flick up and down or down up gesture to change how TalkBack navigates while swiping.  

Enhanced sound effects are also quite beneficial. Enhanced sound effects are also a feature with Apple’s voiceover system. However I feel Google TalkBack has slightly better sound effects. For example as you scroll up a page on the screen you hear a different pitch tone. If talk back is about ready to announce a URL you have a special tone. When you double tap an item on the screen you hear a click. When a page is finished loading you hear a special chime. The only thing I wish talk back had is a tutorial showing you what the sounds meant. That would make my life a whole lot easier.

If you don't like Google talk back, there are always other options available on the Play Store. One of these options might be shine Plus and open source screen reader developed by Shine ATLAB (search for “screen reader for blind” in the Play store on your Android device because it does not come up on a computer for some reason).  If you have a Samsung device the screen reader that comes on it is known as Samsung voice assistance. This screen reader has very similar gestures to Apple's voiceover system. Basicly this screen reader contains all the good features of Talkback and most beneficial features from Voiceover, such as the double tap with two fingers to pause or resume playback of media.  

To conclude, I personally like Talkback over voice assistance. I like it because of the enhanced sounds, haptic feedback, and customisable gestures. Note, voice assistance has better haptic feedback then Talkback.

Read more about: Assistive Technology