If you ask a blind or visually impaired person which smart phone they use, they will most likely respond with “iPhone.” However, there exists a substantial number of Android users.
Once considered inaccessible to the blind and visually impaired, Android phones have become a viable option. Similar to iPhones, the two main accessibility features on Android are a screen reader and a screen magnifier.
The screen reader is called Talkback and the screen magnifier is called Magnification.
Here we will provide a general overview of these two features that are considered adaptive technology for the blind.
As a screen reader, Talkback provides text-to-speech feedback. Turn on Talkback in settings. Find it in the accessibility settings under “Vision”.
Once turned on, using some basic gestures and taps will give you full access to the phone’s contents and features. Moving a single finger across the screen will provide voice feedback for the highlighted item.
Double-tapping with one finger will activate an item. Swiping left to right will move forward/backwards. Talkback will also speak notifications, text messages and information displayed in apps.
The second major accessibility feature is called Magnification. As the name implies, this feature magnifies the contents of the screen. Magnification can also be enabled under the Vision options in the phone accessibility settings.
Once turned on, a single finger triple-tap will activate Magnification. Adjusting the level of magnification is done by using the pinch gesture. To zoom in, place your thumb and index finger on the screen and slowly spread them apart.
To zoom out, reverse the gesture by bringing your thumb and index finger closer together. To move around the screen, place two fingers on the screen and move them up/down or left-to-right. Both Talkback and Magnification work on all apps. This gives you full access to all of Android’s functionality. This includes text messaging, email, and browsing the mobile web.
Once you activate Talkback or Magnification, you will be prompted to go through a short tutorial. It is strongly recommended that you run through these tutorials. They will provide you with a basic introduction to the accessibility features.
These tutorials are worth going through because both these accessibility features alter the way you navigate and interact with the phone. Jumping right into these features without a basic introduction can be very overwhelming and confusing.
Another important note is to utilize the accessibility shortcuts. These give you quick access to accessibility features. This avoids having to repeatedly go through the settings menus. Accessibility shortcuts let you turn Talkback and Magnifier off and on quickly. Depending on the model of your phone, this is done in one of two ways.
Accessibility features available
The first is by pressing and holding down the volume up and down buttons. Another option is to place an icon on the screen that will bring up the accessibility menu with just one tap.
Once you have the basics down, go ahead and play around with the variety of accessibility options. Talkback settings allow you to change the voice output, the speech rate, and a whole lot more.
These adjustments will allow you to customize Talkback in a way that best suits your preferences. Magnification also offers customization.
For this post, we focused on the two main features for the blind and visually impaired. However, there are other options that can be very useful. These include high contrast mode, large fonts, and bold text.
It’s worth exploring the options under the Vision section of android accessibility settings. Go ahead and play around with the different options–you won’t break the phone! If you do not like a setting, you can easily turn it off.
If you are interested in learning even more about Android accessibility, phones or other devices, your next step is to check out the Adaptive Tech program at Outlook Enrichment. This program offers tech training for computers and mobile devices. It can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming learning new tech, but an Adaptive Tech trainer can help guide you and provide further instruction.