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Use ScreenReader on Android in App Accessibility

Use the ScreenReader feature on real Android devices in App Accessibility.


Manual accessibility testing for mobile apps is important to ensure that your apps are fully Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliant for differently abled users. The ScreenReader feature enables manual accessibility testing of your mobile apps on supported real Android devices.

Similar to Google TalkBack on an Android device, using the ScreenReader feature on App Accessibility enables TalkBack on the device to allow for element-by-element UI navigation of the app and spoken description of the UI being navigated.

In this guide, you learn about:

Supported Android devices

App Accessibility supports the Screen Reader feature on the following Android devices:

Devices Android Version
Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus,
Google Pixel 6
Android 12

Enable and disable ScreenReader

  1. Log in to App Accessibility.
  2. Go to Screen reader from the left navigation menu.
  3. Select a device on the right panel and upload your app.
  4. In Screen Reader option on the vertical toolbar:
    • Click the Enable ScreenReader checkbox to enable the ScreenReader feature.
    • Click the Disable ScreenReader checkbox to disable the ScreenReader feature.

Note: Ensure that audio is enabled on your system, to hear the spoken description being provided by TalkBack.
Protip: If your keyboard shortcuts are not working after enabling ScreenReader, click anywhere on the device screen to ensure browser focus on the device.

Your app’s end-users accessing your mobile app on an Android device with TalkBack enabled would either navigate your app via using touch gestures or keyboard shortcuts on a Bluetooth keyboard. Navigation behavior on TalkBack (such as moving to the next or previous element or auto-reading from the start of the page) that can be undertaken with these two methods will be referred to using the term “TalkBack actions” from here on.

Both ways are essentially similar in that they undertake TalkBack actions on the device UI such as moving to the next or the previous element or activating/selecting the element in focus. It should make no difference to your app’s accessibility rating whether your end-user is using touch gestures or the Bluetooth keyboard. Once you ensure your mobile app’s WCAG compliance with one, it should work with the other.

For the ScreenReader feature on Android devices, use the following keyboard shortcuts to trigger TalkBack actions:

Talkback action MacOS keyboard layout shortcut Windows keyboard layout shortcut
Moving to previous/next item Command + (Left/Right arrow) Ctrl + (Left/Right arrow)
Activate / open element Control + Option + Space Ctrl + Shift + Space
Go back Esc Esc
Pause or resume speech Control + Option + Z Ctrl + Shift + Z
Read from next item Control + Option + P Ctrl + Shift + P
Move up the slider Control + Option + U Ctrl + Shift + U
Move down the slider Control + Option + D Ctrl + Shift + D
Go to home screen Control + Option + H Ctrl + Shift + H
Go to recents Control + Option + R Ctrl + Shift + R
Go to quick settings Control + Option + Q Ctrl + Shift + Q

The following is a video demo of the above actions using the shortcuts:

Note: You do not hear the TalkBack audio in the demo videos provided in this guide. However, while testing your app after enabling the Screen Reader feature on App Accessibility, you will hear TalkBack audio.

How to test for end users who use touch gestures on their phones

Any Android device can be seen to have two modes of behavior depending on the kind of action they generate when using touch gestures:

  1. During regular use.
  2. When TalkBack is turned on.

For example, during regular usage, a swipe left or swipe right gesture may trigger the following actions, depending on where you are on the device:

  1. Moves to the previous/next screen on the homepage.
  2. Move to the previous/next picture in a photo gallery.

When TalkBack is turned on however, the same swipe left or swipe right gesture may trigger a TalkBack action which is moving focus to the previous or the next UI element on the screen.

These two modes of UI actions/behavior are referred to as regular mode and TalkBack mode respectively in this document.

However, even when using TalkBack with the ScreenReader feature in App Accessibility, touch gestures trigger regular mode actions and not TalkBack mode actions, as defined in the official TalkBack documentation page.

Regular-mode-like behavior on using left and right swipe gestures when TalkBack is enabled on App Accessibility

Then, how should you test your mobile app accessibility for end users who use touch gestures on Android phones with TalkBack enabled?

The answer is, you don’t have to. Simply ensure that your app is accessible via keyboard navigation on real devices in App Accessibility.

WCAG compliance and accessibility is for ensuring aspects such as:

  1. UI elements and controls on your app are reachable and in the correct order when traversed in linear order via touch gestures like swipe left/right, or corresponding keyboard shortcuts for moving to previous or next element.
  2. The description of UI elements and controls on your app is such that it makes sense to a user hearing them via the TalkBack audio readout.

Hence, it makes no difference to your app’s accessibility rating, whether the end user navigates the app via the keyboard, or by using touch gestures when TalkBack is enabled. This is because the underlying ordering of UI elements, their reachability, and their description remains the same. Ensuring that your app is accessible by testing with one mode (keyboard or touch gestures) would ensure that it is accessible even if the end user is using another mode.

Modify TalkBack settings

After you have TalkBack enabled on the device by enabling the ScreenReader feature, you can access and modify TalkBack settings as follows:

  1. Navigate to Home Screen.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. On the Settings menu, click Accessibility.
  4. On the Accessibility menu, click Installed Apps.
  5. On the Installed Apps menu, click BSTalkback.
    The BSTalkback option is turned on when TalkBack is enabled.
  6. On the BSTalkback menu, click Settings to view or modify your TalkBack settings.

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