My Experiences Switching to Android, Part 2: Tips, Tricks, and Lessons Learned

It’s been a little over three months since I’ve started using Android as my only mobile platform. In that time, I’ve found a lot of useful apps, tips, and tricks that have only improved my enjoyment of using Android.  If you haven’t read my initial post, I suggest you do so.

In general, Android has been a very positive experience, and the strides Google has made in all accessibility areas, with the significant exception of Braille, have become even more noticeable. Especially as Android 7 begins to show up on more and more devices, accessibility will continue to improve. Despite some quirks, and a few bugs which I have noted below, Android has been a mostly enjoyable experience.

Commitment Is More Than Checking a Box: Uber Fails to Get It

The National Federation of the Blind is the leader in nonvisual accessibility. We work diligently to assist those in government, education, and the private sector to gain a true understanding that accessibility is not an expensive burden that stifles innovation. Accessibility is an enhancement that makes products and services available and usable by people with disabilities, while simultaneously making the same products and services better and easier to use by everyone. The ever-growing integration of devices that talk and devices you can operate with your voice are examples of the innovation that emerges while striving for accessibility. We realize that in order to be successful, it is essential to consider accessibility throughout the lifecycle from concept, to design, to development, to implementation. Consumer involvement in this process at every stage is essential.

My experiences switching to Android


I’ve used Apple devices since 2010, first an iPod Touch, and then several iPhone models. Over the years I’ve played with Android several times and have always been disappointed and frustrated with the experience. Recent updates to Talkback and Android have changed things considerably. As I detailed in my post in May, gestures are much more responsive, web navigation is much better, and the whole Android experience is the best it has been. So, I decided to take the plunge and switch to an Android phone full time. I settled on the Motorola Moto G Plus 4th Generation, as I felt it had reasonable specs, and a nearly stock (original) version of Android. Plus Motorola has a reputation for getting updates out faster than most other manufacturers.

BrailleNote Touch: accessing and using third party apps

The BrailleNote Touch (Touch) from HumanWare has full access to the Google Play Store. Many third party apps are made available in a notetaking device for the first time. While this provides a lot of opportunity, there are also many chances for things to go wrong when developers haven't made their apps accessible. The Touch handles many third party apps very well, but sometimes the Braille keyboard interface can cause some interesting interactions, and there are also the expected issues when encountering partially inaccessible apps. In general, the TalkBack gestures translate well to keyboard commands either with TouchBraille or the physical keyboard. It is also possible, by pressing the previous and next thumb keys together, to turn on explore by touch mode and access many of the usual gestures that Android users will be familiar with.

The BrailleNote Touch as a Braille Notetaker- How Does It Stack Up?

The BrailleNote Touch is an impressive feat of hardware and software engineering. It is an Android tablet with full-fledged Braille support, a skinned and simplified interface running custom-built accessible programs, full visual display, and the option, but not requirement, of using an external Braille keyboard. It is also a Google certified Android device, capable of running the vast majority of applications in the Play store. Furthermore, it does what it sets out to do quite effectively. The BrailleNote is indisputably ambitious, and in some ways it is already an impressive device. That said, how does it handle the traditional tasks of a Braille Notetaker? Is it worth the $5500 asking price? Let’s take a closer look.

KNFB Reader: The Convention Chronicles

I was relieved to find the schedule for the airport shuttle on the company website.  I was only mildly dismayed to find it was an inaccessible PDF document.  One pass through KNFB Reader and I was good to go.


Wouldn’t you know—Summer storms delayed my flight.  So I decided to grab some lunch while I waited.  Not so long ago, I would have had to have someone read the menu to me. Now, I snap a few pictures with my phone and let KNFB Reader talk me through it at my own pace.  I’ll be sure to save a copy. I connect through here on the way home.


Not only could I read my lunch receipt independently, but I saved a copy for my accountant. I never knew how organized I would become, now that I have a way  of dealing with the swarm of unidentifiable documents always building up.


Browsers: why it matters what you use

The latest WebAIM screenreader survey listed the following as the top six web browsers among screenreader users:
•    Internet Explorer 10+ (34.9%)
•    Firefox (30.1%)
•    Internet Explorer 6, 7 or 8 (12.8%)
•    Safari (7.9%)
•    Chrome (6.3%)
•    Internet Explorer 9 (5.8%)

The B2G - This Is Not the Droid I’m Looking For… Yet.

Seldom have I come across a device that has left me so conflicted. As regular readers know, I have a tendency to gush, or condemn products pretty universally, often with little middle ground. Not so with today’s entry. The B2G is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in a quandary for. I don’t know what to think of it. Hardware, software, and documentation all leave me scratching my head a little. There are things I love about each aspect of the device, and yet, I cannot give my love to it wholeheartedly as I often want to fling my hands up in desperation, and give up on the whole mad experiment of even reviewing it.

Android 6.0 and Talkback 4.5 Accessibility Improvements

With Android 6.0 and Talkback 4.5, some significant accessibility improvements have been made. The gestures seem more forgiving when inputs aren’t perfect, web browsing is much better, and the overall experience feels more fluid. I’ve attempted to use Android a few times in the past, but have always been frustrated by inconsistent interpretation of my gestures, random focus jumping if any other part of the screen is touched, and a lack of navigation granularity on the web and in other apps. With the current versions, things are much better. While the overall navigation is not as seamless as on iOS, the gap has narrowed significantly. Unfortunately, as Brailleback has not received an update since December and the introduction of Unified English Braille, Braille accessibility was not tested for this review.

Spreading the Good News About Technology Accessibility

In the Federation, we know that technology accessibility is critical to the success of blind people, and people with other disabilities, in the twenty-first century. After all, today technology is ubiquitous at home, at school, at work, and in the community. Unfortunately we have all experienced technology that was not built upon the principles of accessibility and as a result poses tremendous barriers for us. On the web, unlabeled buttons, images without alternative text, poorly labeled links, and poor heading structures are the everyday reality for blind users.


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