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What Are Android Accessibility Features?

Jun 20, 2017

Android accessibility features allow users to customize their device by modifying accessibility settings or apps to improve their experience. This allows individuals with a range of disabilities, such as visual, hearing, physical, or speech impairments, to enhance their ability to access and interact with web pages and apps.

The features also give persons without disabilities improved capabilities in situations where they might be functionally disabled, such as when driving, carrying items in one or both hands, or using their device in low light or noisy environments.

Some accessibility functions — such as increasing volume, magnifying text, or customizing the keyboard— can be implemented through the standard features of the device itself, or via the main available web browsers. However, the Android accessibility features include a range of additional specialized tools that significantly improve accessibility.  

The Android accessibility feature set

  • Spoken feedback The TalkBack function allows the user to interact with their device using touch and spoken feedback. The TalkBack tool describes each user action and provides spoken alerts and notifications.
  • Select to speak Select to Speak limits the spoken feedback function to only user-selected items on the screen, reading or describing them aloud.
  • Switch access For users with limited mobility, Switch Access provides an alternative to the touchscreen. This enables the user to instead use a switch, keyboard, or mouse.
  • Voice commands If using a touchscreen is difficult, the Voice Access app allows users to control their device using spoken commands. This feature can be used to open apps, navigate, and edit texts hands free. Voice Access is currently only available as a beta release in English only.
  • Braille display The BrailleBack feature allows people to connect a refreshable braille display to an Android device via Bluetooth. BrailleBack can also be integrated with TalkBack for a combined speech and braille experience.

Other useful accessibility options

Android devices also contain several settings people can use to make their screen easier to see:

  • Display size and font size — These settings allow users to change the size that items are displayed on screen as well as the font size.
  • Magnification gestures — Allows temporary zooming or magnification of the screen.
  • Contrast and color options — This can be useful for people who are color-blind or have partial visual impairment to improve the legibility of text through inverting colors, or applying color correction.
  • Captions — Users can turn on captions for their device as well as specify the language used and make style adjustments to the captions.

Designing accessible apps

For Android app developers, Google has also developed a useful tool, Accessibility Scanner, that helps identify opportunities to improve apps for users. The tool analyzes the accessibility of apps based on aspects such as content labels, touch target sizes, clickable items, and text and image contrast levels.

Modern mobile device designs, operating systems, and web browsers have all made significant progress in helping to improve the accessibility of mobile devices and the content they display. By familiarizing yourself with the features that are available, especially the newer features, such as Voice Access, that are still in early stages of development, it is possible to significantly improve the experience of using mobile devices.

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