How to Use Talkback – A Detailed Guide

TalkBack is an accessibility service for Android phones. It helps users who are blind and visually impaired to easily use their phones. It uses spoken words, vibrations, and other audible feedback to guide the user as to what’s happening on their screen. But not a lot of users know how to use TalkBack so here’s a guide on how to.

In 2017, this service became a part of the Android Accessibility Suite. It became pre-installed on a lot of many Android devices to accommodate users who are blind or have visual impairments. 

In the latest improvement of Android 12, it’s one of the things that developers from Google focused on. They worked closely with the blind and visually impaired community to come up with features that will help similar users better.

It uses different kinds of gestures to help the user navigate their way around their Android phones. Let’s dive deeper into what these gestures are and what they do below.

How to Activate or Deactivate TalkBack

Before everything else, let’s talk about how to activate or deactivate your TalkBack. The gestures to be discussed later won’t work if you don’t have TalkBack opened.

  1. Tap on the Settings of your phone.
Tap on your phone's Settings
Tap on your phone’s Settings
  1. Scroll down until you find Accessibility. In some Android phones, this can be found in More settings.
Look for Accessibility. Sometimes, it's inside More settings.
Look for Accessibility. Sometimes, it’s inside More settings.
  1. Once you’ve found it, tap on it to open more options. 
  2. Scroll down until you find TalkBack.
Look for TalkBack and tap on it.
Look for TalkBack and tap on it.
  1. After tapping on TalkBack, you’ll see a toggle to activate TalkBack. Simply tap on that to turn on TalkBack.
Learning how to use TalkBack starts with knowing how to activate it.
Toggling the TalkBack slider will activate or deactivate it.

How to Use TalkBack

Learning how to use TalkBack can be a bit hard at first. There are lots of gestures to learn with their corresponding actions. It has a bit of a learning curve but once you get the hang of it, it will become muscle memory. 

We will be discussing the general gestures that users can use. These are generally easy-to-remember gestures. We will then follow up with gestures that are a bit more complicated along with what they do. Finally, we’ll be discussing angle gestures, the most complicated and vast of the gestures available. 

Let’s start!

General Gestures

These are the gestures that are easiest to learn but are also one of the most useful ones. You’ll be using them a lot so it’s the first thing you’ll learn on your road to learning how to use TalkBack.

Swipe right or leftThis is used to move between items or objects. For example, if you’re on the homepage, swiping right or left will highlight your apps. TalkBack will read the app that is currently highlighted.
Drag your fingerThis will help you navigate your way around compared to swiping right or left. You can drag it around the screen for TalkBack to read what is currently on your screen.
Double-tap the screenThis is used to activate the currently highlighted item. For example, you’re on your home screen and an app is currently highlighted. Simply double-tap on your screen to launch the app.
Swipe 2 fingers up and downTo scroll up and down, you’ll need 2 fingers. For example, you’re browsing a website on Google Chrome. Usually, users scroll up and down with 1 finger. But if TalkBack is activated, scrolling with 1 finger will make TalkBack read what’s on the screen. You’ll need to use 2 fingers to scroll up and down.
Touch or cover the proximity sensorThis will stop TalkBack from talking. The proximity sensor is usually located at the top of your phone, right next to the front camera.
Swipe down from the top with 2 fingersThis accesses the notifications panel.
Swipe down from the top with 3 fingersThis will open the quick settings.

Advanced Gestures

These gestures are only a bit more complicated than the previous ones. They can be pretty convenient and will make navigating around way easier. They are like shortcuts for you when using TalkBack.

Swipe up then downThis will take you to the first item on the screen. This is usually the item on the top left of the screen.
Swipe down then upThis will take you to the last item on the screen.
Swipe right then leftThis will take you to the next page on the home screen. If you’re on a list, this will help you scroll down on the menu. This gesture can also help you increase sliders by sliding them to the right.
Swipe left then rightThis will take you back to the previous page on the home screen. If you’re on a list, this will help you scroll up on the menu.

Angle Gestures

These gestures have a bit of a learning curve so it will take a lot of practice for you to fully utilize them. After a while, you’ll be able to access all of these gestures with only your muscle memory. Learning these gestures can be one of the biggest challenges in learning how to use TalkBack.

Swipe up then leftThis is equivalent to the home button. This will take you to your phone’s home screen.
Swipe down then leftThis is equivalent to the back button. It will take you back to the previous screen or help you exit the app you’re currently in. It depends on where you are and what is currently displayed on your screen.
Swipe left then upThis is equivalent to the overview button. It will show you a list of all the apps you currently have opened.
Swipe right then downThis will open up your notifications panel. As previously mentioned, you can also access this panel by swiping from the top of your screen with 2 fingers.
Swipe up then rightThis will bring you to the Local Context Menu. This menu is for easily accessing things like headings, paragraphs, links, and many more.
Swipe down then rightThis will bring you to the Global Context Menu. This menu helps you navigate around the page you’re on. It has options like Read from next item, Repeat last utterance, Spell last utterance, and Copy last utterance to clipboard. It also helps you access the TalkBack Settings, Text to speech settings, Languages, and Dim Screen.
Swipe right then upThis will bring you to the Actions menu. It’s a menu that has certain actions like Shortcuts, Remove, and Move item. This can be useful when you’re on the home screen and you need to move icons and apps.
Swipe left and downThis is an unassigned gesture by default. You can go to your TalkBack settings to determine what this gesture will do.

Key Takeaway

TalkBack has made it easier for users who are blind or have visual impairments to use their Android phones. It has made technology more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. It has allowed these users to make the most out of their Android phones.

On the other hand, TalkBack also can be quite complicated at first glance. There are so many gestures that you need to learn to fully maximize the feature. Learning how to use TalkBack will become easier once you’ve gotten the hang of it. 

In the long run, the gestures will start to become muscle memory. You wouldn’t need to constantly remember what each gesture is for because it will come to you naturally.

Do you know any other apps that are similar to TalkBack? We want to know your thoughts on the comments below and maybe we can make a detailed guide on that as well!

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