BUILT-IN ANDROID ACCESSIBILITY
GET STARTED ON ANDROID WITH TALKBACK

TalkBack is the Google screen reader included on Android devices. TalkBack gives you spoken feedback so that you can use your device without looking at the screen.

The help pages listed below will guide you as you learn how to use your Android device with TalkBack.

  1. Turn on TalkBack
  2. Explore by touch
  3. Use your Home screen
  4. Use TalkBack gestures
  5. Open and close apps
  6. Answer and hang up calls
  7. Use TalkBack to browse the web with Chrome
  8. Use global and local context menus
  9. Use seek controls
  10. Basic Android and TalkBack settings

Useful Articles

How Android Accessibility Has Evolved
TalkBack 5.2 with Speech Verbosity Settings, Select to Speak, and more

Sneak Peak

In Android O there will be a new context-aware dedicated accessibility button at the bottom right of the navigation bar that will allow the user to trigger certain accessibility actions depending on what’s visible on the screen.

Turn on TalkBack

You can turn on TalkBack when you turn on your Android device for the very first time. You can also turn on TalkBack at any time after you’ve begun using your device.

Once you turn on TalkBack, spoken feedback starts immediately. As you navigate your device, TalkBack describes your actions and alerts you about notifications and other information.

Android 8.0 Oreo Updates:

TalkBack now includes a great tutorial offering users multiple lessons as soon as they activate TalkBack. The TalkBack tutorial is available under Settings > Accessibility > TalkBack.

Option 1: Turn on TalkBack when you first turn on your device

When you first turn on your Android device, you can enable TalkBack from the initial setup screen.

If possible, keep headphones handy so that you can plug them in when it’s time to enter any passwords, such as your Wi-Fi password. By default, key echo is only turned on if headphones are plugged into your device. You can change this setting later in your Android device settings.

Press and hold two fingers on the setup screen. When your device recognizes this gesture, TalkBack is enabled and a tutorial begins.

Option 2: Turn on TalkBack later, after initial setup

The steps below require sighted assistance.

To turn on TalkBack, follow these steps:

  1. Open Settings app
  2. Navigate to Settings > Accessibility.
  3. Select TalkBack and slide the TalkBack switch to the ON position.
  4. The confirmation screen displays a list of permissions that allow TalkBack to provide useful spoken feedback. To confirm that you allow these actions and to begin using TalkBack, touch OK.

Accessibility shortcut

You can turn on an accessibility shortcut that will let you turn on TalkBack at any time without using sight. To turn on and use this shortcut, follow these steps:

  1. In Settings > Accessibility, select Accessibility shortcut.
  2. Set the switch to the ON position.
  3. Now you can turn TalkBack on or off any time by following these steps:
    1. Press and hold the power button until you hear a sound or feel a vibration.
    2. Release the power button.
    3. Touch and hold two fingers until you hear audio confirmation (about 5 seconds).

Android 8.0 Oreo Updates:

New Way to Turn on Talk Back

  1. Press both volume keys for 3 seconds.
  2. If TalkBack doesn’t turn on right away, press both volume keys again for 3 seconds.

Notes:

The first time you try the shortcut, you might need to confirm setup in a confirmation dialog.

If the steps above don’t work, follow the steps below:

Turn on the accessibility shortcut

Use the accessibility shortcut

Unlock your device

There are two ways to unlock your device once TalkBack is turned on:

Explore by touch in TalkBack

Basic touch exploration

To explore by touch, slowly drag one finger around the screen. TalkBack announces the icons, buttons, and other items as you drag your finger over them. When the focus reaches an item you’d like to select, double-tap anywhere on the screen to select the focused item.

Linear navigation

To explore your screen one item at a time, swipe left or right to move through the items in sequence.

Text editing

Type text with the virtual keyboard

When you enter a text editing field, a virtual keyboard appears on the bottom of the screen. You can explore this keyboard by touch just as you would other screens, but the activation works differently. (Note: If you’ve installed a keyboard other than the default Android keyboard, you might have a different experience.)

To type a letter:

  1. Slide your finger over the keyboard until you hear the character you’d like to type.
  2. Lift your finger to type the focused key.

Review text that you’ve typed

To review text in an input field character by character, press the volume keys.

Use your Home screen with TalkBack

Your Home screen is the screen that’s displayed when you first turn on or unlock your device. You can get to the Home screen at any time by swiping up then left in an L-shaped gesture.

Here are some tips for navigating your Home screen with TalkBack:

The Home screen typically has the following elements:

Use TalkBack gestures

TalkBack gestures let you navigate quickly on your Android device.

There are three types of gestures in TalkBack: basic gestures, back-and-forth gestures, and angle gestures. For all gestures, use a single motion, a steady speed, and even finger pressure.

Basic gestures

Action Gesture
Move to next item on screen Swipe right
Move to previous item on screen Swipe left
Cycle through navigation settings Swipe up or down
Select focused item Double-tap

Back-and-forth gestures

Action Swipe
Move to first item on screen Up then down
Move to last item on screen Down then up
Scroll forward
(if you’re on a page longer than one screen)
Right then left
Scroll back
(if you’re on a page longer than one screen)
Left then right
Move slider up
(such as volume)
Right then left
Move slider down
(such as volume)
Left then right

Angle gestures

These gestures are two-part swipes at a right angle. For example, the default gesture for going to the Home screen is to swipe up then left at a sharp 90-degree angle.

Action Swipe
Home button Up then left
Back button Down then left
Overview button Left then up
Notifications Right then down
(see note below)
Open local context menu Up then right
Open global context menu Down then right

Two-finger gestures

All TalkBack gestures use one finger. As long as you only use one finger on the screen, your touch or gesture is only interpreted by TalkBack.

When you use two or more fingers, your touch or gesture goes straight to the application, rather than to TalkBack. For example, on most pages you can usually scroll by slowly dragging one finger. With TalkBack on, you can scroll by dragging two fingers.

In some applications, you can zoom by putting two fingers on the screen and pinching them together or pulling them apart. These gestures work normally with TalkBack on, since they use two fingers.

Customize TalkBack gestures

For the one-finger gestures listed above, you can keep the default gestures or assign new actions to the gestures.

To reassign actions to gestures:

  1. Open your device’s Settings app
  2. Select Accessibility TalkBack Settings Gestures
  3. Select the gesture to which you want to assign a new action
  4. Select the action that you want to assign to the gesture. Along with the actions listed in the tables above, you can assign the following actions to gestures:
    • Open Quick Settings
    • Read from top
    • Read from next item
    • Show actions

Android 8.0 Oreo Updates:

Customizable TalkBack Gestures

If your Android device has a fingerprint sensor, you can use fingerprint gestures with TalkBack.

Open and close apps with TalkBack

You can open apps, switch between apps, and show two apps at once with split screen.

Open apps on your device

  1. To go to the Home screen, swipe up then left.
  2. Navigate to the Apps icon, and double-tap to open it.
  3. Navigate to the app that you want to open, then double-tap to open it.

Switch between recent apps

  1. To open your app Overview, swipe left then up.
  2. Navigate to the app that you want to open, then double-tap to open it.

Show two apps at the same time

To display two apps at once, you can create a split screen view.

  1. Open the first app.
  2. Navigate to the Overview button, then double-tap and hold to split the screen.
  3. The top screen shows the first app. The bottom screen lists your recent apps.
  4. In the bottom screen, move focus to the second app then double-tap to select.

Note: In landscape mode, the screen splits between left and right instead of top and bottom.

To adjust the size of the split screen:

  1. Explore by touch or swipe to the split screen divider.
  2. To open the local context menu, swipe up then right.
  3. Select Actions.
  4. Choose an option such as Top full screen, Top 50%, or Bottom full screen.

Note: In landscape mode, options include left and right instead of top and bottom.

To exit split screen view, navigate to the Overview button, then double-tap and hold.

Exit an app

To get out of an app, go to the Home screen by swiping up then left.

Answer and hang up calls with TalkBack

When you receive an incoming call, TalkBack automatically announces the caller, unless you’ve turned off this option in TalkBack settings. You can answer or reject the call as follows:

Use TalkBack to browse the web with Chrome

Use TalkBack with Chrome

You can get spoken feedback using TalkBack in the Chrome browser.

Explore web pages with TalkBack navigation settings

To cycle through the TalkBack navigation settings:

  1. Open a web page in Chrome.
  2. Swipe up or down until you reach the setting that you’d like to use.
  3. Swipe right to move forward or left to move back using the chosen setting.

You can also choose navigation settings from the TalkBack local context menu:

  1. Open a web page in Chrome.
  2. To open the menu, swipe up and then right in one smooth motion.
  3. To explore the menu, drag your finger. The menu is a circle or a list, depending on your TalkBack settings.
  4. Lift your finger to choose an item and close the menu.
  5. Swipe right to move forward or left to move back.

The navigation settings include the following options for the Chrome browser:

Explore web pages with a keyboard

If you use an external keyboard with your Android device, you can use TalkBack keyboard shortcuts to navigate web pages.

Separate tabs and apps on your Android phone or tablet

In the latest version of Chrome, tabs and apps are merged under a single button. On tablets, it’s the Overview button. On smartphones, it’s the Recent Apps button. For TalkBack to say how many browser tabs are open, you’ll have to turn this function off.

  1. Make sure TalkBack is turned on and your Chrome browser is open.
  2. In the Chrome browser, go to the upper right corner of the screen.
  3. Double-tap More Options.
  4. Open Settings.
  5. Open Merge tabs and apps.
  6. Drag your finger until you hear the On switch. Double-tap to turn it off.
  7. Double-tap OK.

Use global and local context menus

As you navigate using TalkBack, two context menus are available to help you find settings and controls. The global context menu contains commands that work anywhere, and the local context menu varies depending on the focused item.

Context menus can appear either as circles or as lists. You can set this preference in Settings > TalkBack settings > Touch exploration settings > Show context menu as list.

When the menus are shaped like circles, you can drag your finger in a circle to hear the different options.

When the menus are regular lists, drag your finger up and down the list to hear the different options.

Global context menu

To use the global context menu, follow these steps:

The following options are available when you activate the global context menu:

Local context menu

The local context menu contains controls that relate to the focused item. The options available in the menu change depending on the item. If there are no relevant options, TalkBack announces “No menu items.”

To use the local context menu, follow these steps:

  1. Swipe up then right. (You can choose a different gesture in TalkBack settings.)
  2. Drag your finger over the menu to hear menu items.
  3. When you hear the item that you’d like to select, release your finger.

When you open the local context menu, the menu provides options that are relevant to the current context. Options might include the following:

Use seek controls with TalkBack

To adjust a seek control, such as volume slider or or video playback:

  1. Navigate to the seek control by swiping or exploring by touch.
  2. Choose one of the methods below to adjust the seek control.
    • Option 1: Press the volume up or down button.
    • Note: Starting in Android 7.0, the seek control moves 5% at a time. Before Android 7.0, it moves by 20%.
    • Option 2: Enter a number value.
    • Open the local context menu by swiping up then right.
    • Select Edit seek control level.
    • In the text field, delete the current value, then enter a number from 0 to 100.
    • Select OK.

Basic Android and TalkBack settings

You can adjust the look, feel, and functionality of your device so that it suits your needs and preferences. This page describes several settings that can improve your experience using Android and TalkBack.

Learn how to adjust your settings

Open Quick Settings

The Quick Settings panel contains some commonly used device settings, such as airplane mode, Bluetooth, and volume.

Open the Settings app

The Settings app lists all device settings. There are several ways to open the Settings app:

Recommended Accessibility settings

To review or change your Accessibility settings, open the Settings app, then find the Accessibility section.

The following Accessibility settings may improve your experience using TalkBack.

Auto-rotate screen

If you’re using TalkBack, rotating the screen can interrupt spoken feedback. To turn off this setting in Accessibility settings, uncheck Auto-rotate screen.

When the Auto-rotate screen setting is turned on, the screen automatically rotates when you move your device between portrait mode and landscape mode. The screen might also rotate if you’re in a moving vehicle or if you’re carrying your device in a pocket or bag.

Speak passwords

This setting controls TalkBack spoken feedback as you type passwords. To protect your privacy, this setting is off by default.

To change this setting in Accessibility settings, check or uncheck Speak passwords.

Power button ends call

When this setting is turned on, you can simply press your device’s power button to end a call. This setting can make it faster and easier to hang up.

To turn on this setting in Accessibility settings, check Power button ends call.

Recommended keyboard settings

For the best experience with TalkBack, make sure you’re using the Google Keyboard.

To check what keyboard you’re using:

  1. Go to Settings > Language & input.
  2. Under Keyboard & input methods, check that the Current Keyboard is the Google Keyboard.
  3. If you don’t have the Google Keyboard, you can download it from Google Play.

Recommended TalkBack settings

To open TalkBack settings, navigate to Settings > Accessibility > TalkBack > Settings.

Shake to start continuous reading

TalkBack has a setting that lets you read text continuously by shaking your device. This shortcut can be useful for reading a long document, email, or webpage to the end.

To change this setting in TalkBack settings, turn on “Shake to start continuous reading.” You can choose among several different intensity levels: Very light, Light, Medium, Hard, and Very hard. You might want to try two or three different settings to find what’s best for your device and your personal preferences.

Another way to read continuously is to open the global context menu by swiping down then right, then select Read from next item or Read from top. Learn more about the global and local context menus.

Change TalkBack volume

Android has different volume levels for different audio sources. Pressing the volume up and down keys changes the ringer volume. To change TalkBack speech volume, place a finger on the touch screen and press the volume up or down keys.

Android 8.0 Oreo Updates:

Separate volume control

Change earcon volume

Earcons are the sounds made by TalkBack other than the voice. Depending on what text to speech engine you’re using, you might need to adjust the volume of the TalkBack earcons. You can change the earcon volume in “Other feedback settings” with the “Sound volume” setting. For example, if the volume of the TalkBack earcons is too loud, you can set the sound volume to 50% of media volume.

Focus speech audio

To ensure that TalkBack speech is never drowned out by other audio sources, such as music or videos, you can turn on “Focus speech audio” in TalkBack settings. When this setting is on, other audio volume decreases when TalkBack is speaking.

Android 8.0 Oreo Updates:

This feature is labeled as “Audio ducking” in Android 8.0