More accessibility features in Android 1.6
From time to time, our own T.V. Raman shares his tips on how to use Google from his perspective as a technologist who cannot see — tips that sighted people, among others, may also find useful.
The most recent release of Android 1.6, a.k.a. Donut, introduces accessibility features designed to make Android apps more widely usable by blind and low-vision users. In brief, Android 1.6 includes a built-in screenreader and text-to-speech (TTS) engine which make it possible to use most Android applications, as well as all of Android’s default UI, when not looking at the screen.
Android-powered devices with Android 1.6 and future software versions will include the following accessibility enhancements:
* Text-to-Speech (TTS) is now bundled with the Android platform. The platform comes with voices for English (U.S. and U.K.), French, Italian, Spanish and German.
* A standardized Text To Speech API is part of the Android SDK, and this enables developers to create high-quality talking applications.
* Starting with Android 1.6, the Android platform includes a set of easy to use accessibility APIs that make it possible to create accessibility aids such as screenreaders for the blind.
* Application authors can easily ensure that their applications remain usable by blind and visually impaired users by ensuring that all parts of the user interface are reachable via the trackball; and all image controls have associated textual metadata.
* Starting with Android 1.6, the Android platform comes with applications that provide spoken, auditory (non-speech sounds) and haptic (vibration) feedback. Named TalkBack, SoundBack and KickBack, these applications are available via the Settings > Accessibility menu.
* In addition, project Eyes-Free (which includes accessibility tools such as TalkBack) provides several UI enhancements for using touch-screen input. Many of these innovations are available via Android Market and are already being heavily used. We believe these eyes-free tools will serve our users with special needs as well.
You can turn on the accessibility features by going to Settings –> Accessibility and checking the box “Accessibility”. While the web browser and browser-based applications do not yet “talk” using these enhancements, we’re working on them for upcoming releases. Check out this Google Open Source Blog post for more details, and stay tuned to the eyes-free channel on YouTube for step-by-step demonstrations on configuring and using accessibility support on Android.