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Android Accessibility

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Cellphones continue to be an irreplaceable part of everyday life. Let's find out what Android Accessibility can offer to support people with disabilities.

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Android Accessibility

Cellular devices have taken the world by storm and have extended far past the reach of making phone calls. Cell phones are used more for music streaming, audiobooks, internet browsing, and emails than they are for making a simple phone call. As cell phones continue to be an irreplaceable part of everyday life, the usability of cellular devices for all audiences is of paramount importance. 

Android devices are one of the most common types of cell phones, comprising slightly under 50% of all cell phone users. Because of its large market base, Android has made some very inclusive moves in terms of the accessibility settings and tools available on its devices to support the vision, physical and motor, hearing, and learning needs of those with disabilities or impairments.

From the Android Accessibility Menu, features such as gestures, hardware buttons, and navigation can be controlled. In addition, from the menu, users can:

  • Take screenshots

  • Lock the screen

  • Open Google Assistant

  • Open Quick Settings and Notifications

  • Adjust volume

  • Adjust brightness

To turn on the Accessibility Menu of an Android device, take the following steps:

  • Open the Settings app

    • Select “Accessibility” 

      • Select “Accessibility Menu”

        • Turn the “Accessibility Menu” shortcut on.

        • To accept the permissions, tap OK.

        • To change your shortcut, tap the “Accessibility Menu” shortcut.

To open the Accessibility Menu, use the Accessibility Menu shortcut:

  • Swipe up with two fingers. Use three fingers if TalkBack is on

    • Select “Accessibility” or the floating Accessibility button

      • On the menu, choose the desired feature

      • For more menu options, swipe between screens

To make the Accessibility Menu buttons larger, open the settings app and select “Accessibility,” then “Accessibility Menu.” Go to the Settings of the Accessibility Menu and select “Large Buttons.”


TalkBack screen reader

Another of Android’s accessibility services is the TalkBack screen reader allows for eyes-free control of the Android device. The app describes actions and speaks alerts and notifications for the blind or visually impaired. 

There are several ways to turn on the TalkBack screen reader:

  • Use the volume key shortcut

    • On the side of the Android device, press and hold both volume keys for 3 seconds.

    • To confirm that you want to turn TalkBack on or off, press both volume keys for 3 seconds again.

  • Use Google Assistant

    • Say “Hey Google.”

    • Say “Turn off TalkBack” or “Turn on TalkBack.”

  • Use device settings

  • On the Android device, open Settings

    • Select “Accessibility”

      • Select “TalkBack”

        • Toggle the feature on or off

          • Select Ok

Speechify

As an alternative, text-to-speech softwares, such as Speechify, can also assist with screen reading. Speechify is the #1 rated text-to-speech app that will read any text including PDFs, textbooks, and much more. 

Text-to-speech apps are sometimes more desirable as an alternative to accessibility settings because they tend to be more customizable for the specific needs of the user. For conditions such as ADHD and dyslexia, Speechify is an extremely helpful tool. Turn all reading materials into audiobooks with text-to-speech apps, such as Speechify.

With the Speechify Android App installed, anything that is copied to the clipboard can be read with the app. Simply copy the content of text messages, emails, or word documents and open the Speechify app. Speechify will recognize the text that is sitting in the clipboard and offer it as an option to be read aloud. 

For documents such as PDFs, share the files with the Speechify app. Once the file is shared, open it in the app to select the specific pages or text desired. By selecting the specific text, the app allows you to crop out the noise that is found in the headers and footers of documents. Once these crops have been made, Speechify app lets you apply the settings to all pages in a document to keep the reading selections consistent throughout a single document.

Additionally, pictures can be taken with the Android smartphone directly from the Speechify app. These pictures can be cropped similarly to PDFs to remove any noise that makes its way into the photo, then the text from the photos can be read aloud. For example, roughly 15 seconds of photographing pages from a book can get you 20 minutes of audio reading. 


Alter your display

Android Smartphones allow for adjustments in display and font size features as well as inverting colors and dark themes for easier readability by changing the way the content appears on your device. 

To change the display settings for accessibility features on an Android device, take the following steps:

  • Go to Settings

    • Select “Accessibility”

      • Select “Visibility Enhancements” 

        • From there, select from the following features to be adjusted:

          • Display size and font size can be adjusted to the desired size. 

          • Magnification can be used to zoom or magnify the screen.

          • Contrast and color options allow the user to adjust settings for high-contrast text, dark themes, color inversion, or color correction.

          • Select to Speak allows descriptions of items viewed through the camera lens to be spoken aloud. 

Interaction controls

While some accessibility features are available on the Android device itself, other applications can be downloaded that allow for ease of device functionality to assist those with disabilities:

  • Lookout is an application that utilizes computer vision to assist those who are visually impaired or have low vision with navigating their surroundings. The software speaks information about the

  • Voice Access is an application that allows the user to control their android device using spoken commands to open other applications, navigate, or edit text. 

  • Switch Access is an accessibility option on the android device and allows users to navigate the functionality of the device using an external switch. This option is helpful for those who cannot interact directly with the touchscreen of their device. 

    • Switch Access can be found by taking the following steps:

      • Go to Settings

        • Select “Accessibility”

          • Select “Interaction and Dexterity”

            • Select “Universal Switch”

              • Integrate the switch device

  • Action Blocks is an app that assists those with cognitive disabilities by assigning a function to a “block” on the device’s home screen that may have text or a photo of a loved one. By pressing the block icon, the programmed action is enabled, such as making a phone call. 

  • Time to take action is an accessibility setting on the android device that allows the user to extend the duration of time that the device will leave action notifications up on the screen while they await action from the user. Action notifications are messages that require the user to take action, but are only available for a short period. With Time to take action, the user can extend the time window up to 2 minutes. 

    • The Time to take action feature can be found by taking the following steps:

      • Go to Settings

        • Select “Accessibility”

          • Select “Advanced Settings”

            • Select “Time to take action”

              • Adjust the time window to the desired duration. 

Braille display

For those who wish to use a Braille keyboard to interact with their device, the TalkBack braille keyboard allows the use of 6 fingers on the screen to enter 6-dot braille. The TalkBack braille keyboard is available in Unified English Braille, Spanish, and Arabic.

To set up the TalkBack braille keyboard, take the following steps:

  • Open the TalkBack menu:

    • On mobile devices with multi-finger gestures support (Android 10 & up) use a three-finger tap

    • On mobile devices without multi-finger support, swipe down then right in one motion

  • To enable the braille keyboard:

    • Select “TalkBack Settings”

      • Select “Braille keyboard”

        • Select “Set up braille keyboard”

After the braille keyboard has been enabled, open an app that you can type in, like Gmail. (It is important to note that the braille keyboard is not compatible with google docs)

  • Access the keyboard by moving focus to the text field and double-tapping

    • Select “Switch input method Input’ or ‘Next language Globe’

      • Select “TalkBack braille keyboard”

        • When opening the braille keyboard for the first time, a tutorial is launched to give further information on keyboard operations. 

Captions

Caption preferences are available with supporting apps to offer support for those with hearing impairments.

To turn on captions, take the following steps:  

  • Go to Settings

    • Select “Accessibility”

      • Select “Hearing enhancements”

        • Select “Caption preferences”

          • Select “Show captions”

          • The size and style of the captions can also be adjusted under caption preferences. 

For additional options with captions, additional applications for the hearing impaired can be found under the “Hearing enhancements” tab under the “Accessibility” settings. 

  • LiveCaption is a feature that captions speech on the android device, such as phone calls.

  • LiveTranscribe is an accessibility tool that allows speech and sound to be transcribed into text and displayed on the device screen

  • The Sound Notifications feature assists with auditory notifications around the home such as smoke alarms and doorbells. 

  • Real-time text (RTT) allows the user to use text to communicate with someone during a phone call. 

Audio

Android offers a few major accessibility features for the hearing impaired that do not involve captions. These features can be found under the “Hearing enhancements” tab under “Accessibility” settings. 

  • Sound Amplifier allows the user to use of wired or Bluetooth headphones to filter, augment, or amplify the sounds in the surrounding environment or on an Android device.

    • Sound Amplifier may need to be downloaded if not included in the software on the user’s device.

  • Hearing aid support allows users to pair a hearing aid with the Android Device to assist with hearing application streams, phone calls, and notifications more clearly. 

    • Hearing aid compatibility allows users to adapt the sound coming through the hearing device or to mute all sounds.  


Find more Android accessibility apps & services

Many android accessibility apps are included in the software on the android device. For Android versions earlier than Android 9, the Android Accessibility Suite can be downloaded through the google Play Store. 

There are many additional accessibility apps and services for Android outside of the android accessibility suite, such as Speechify, that can be found by exploring the available options in the Google Play Store.

 

PEOPLE ALSO ASK

How do I turn off Android accessibility?

To turn off the Android Accessibility Menu, open your Android device’s Settings app. 

  • Select Accessibility. 

  • On the Accessibility screen, scroll down to the Interaction controls section and select Accessibility Menu. 

  • On the next screen, set the toggle switch for Accessibility Menu to Off.

Where is accessibility on my Android?

To access the Accessibility features on an Android device open the Settings app and select Accessibility from the list. 

How do I enable Accessibility Mode?

To enable the Android Accessibility Menu, open your Android device’s Settings app. 

  • Select Accessibility. 

  • On the Accessibility screen, scroll down to the Interaction controls section and select Accessibility Menu. 

  • On the next screen, set the toggle switch for Accessibility Menu to On.

What do the accessibility settings do?

Accessibility settings are tools available on Android devices to support the vision, physical and motor, hearing, and learning needs of those with disabilities or impairments.

How do I make text larger on Android?

  • Go to Settings

    • Select “Accessibility”

      • Select “Visibility Enhancements” 

        • Display size and font size can be adjusted to the desired size.

What is TalkBack?

The TalkBack screen reader allows for eyes-free control of the Android device. The app describes actions and speaks alerts and notifications for the blind or visually impaired. 

Why is the accessibility mode turned on?

Accessibility mode can be enabled to support the vision, physical and motor, hearing, and learning needs of those with disabilities or impairments.

What is the difference between Android accessibility and TalkBack?

TalkBack is one accessibility feature that allows control of the Android device without relying heavily on vision to do so. 

Accessibility refers to a broad spectrum of features on the android OS that allow for ease of use for those who have disabilities or impairments.

What accessibility features are available on Apple with iPhone and iOS?

iPhone and iOS include a number of accessibility features to assist users with vision, hearing, motor, and cognitive disabilities. VoiceOver, for example, is a screen reader that speaks aloud the text that appears on the screen. Users can also enable Zoom to magnify the screen, or use AssistiveTouch to create a virtual Home button. In addition, Apple has developed a number of apps specifically for users with disabilities, such as Switch Control and Siri Eyes Free. These accessible features make it possible for everyone to enjoy the many benefits of iPhone and iOS.

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