Talkback

TalkBack is the primary screen reader on Android devices and is most often used by those who are blind.

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Illustration: Overhead view of a person holding a smartphone that is making sounds. The Talkback logo is being displayed. The individual’s knees and shoes are in the background.
Illustration: Overhead view of a person holding a smartphone that is making sounds. The Talkback logo is being displayed. The individual’s knees and shoes are in the background.

Long definition

The TalkBack screen reader is an open-source application for the Android operating system, largely developed by Google. Primarily used by those who are blind, it provides complete screen reader access to all built-in apps on Android and apps from the Google Play store that follow Google’s accessibility guidelines.

Unlike on IOS, the Android operating system allows for screen readers to be installed and updated separately from the overall operating system. This means the TalkBack screen reader can be updated via the Google Play store so users don’t need to wait for a whole operating system update to get changes and improvements to their screen reader. Further, Android allows for third party text-to-speech software, meaning that TalkBack users are not restricted to using only the voices included on their device. Lastly, TalkBack allows deep customization of every keyboard shortcut and input gesture that can be used to control the screen reader, meaning users can set the screen reader up in exactly the way that works for them.

As a result of how customizable TalkBack is for users, it is occasionally criticized as difficult to use or less stable or reliable than screen readers on other mobile platforms. Despite this criticism, TalkBack has a large base of users who depend on the available customization options or who just enjoy the ability to adjust the software to exactly fit their unique use case.

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