Hiding at the bottom of the Settings app is a nifty little tool

Android knows that we all have different needs

Class is in session, and this one is ADA-compliant!Android is for everybody, and that includes people who need help seeing/hearing or otherwise operating their device. To this end, there are system-wide accessibility settings baked right into Android, and you can control them through the Accessibility section to the Settings app. It's right at the bottom near "About phone" and developer settings.

Your own device may have much, much more — the LG G3, for example, has enough to fill a post all its own — but so long as you have Android, you should at least have these.

Open it up and let's explore it together.

  • Services: Many apps can take advantage of Google's Accessibility APIs in order to better serve their users, and in order to make our phones do more. If you've checked out Tasker or AutoVoice and been asked to turn them on in the Accessibility tab, here's where they pop up. Here's also where you can turn them off should you decide you no longer need their services. By default, there's only one service in the Services list: TalkBack.
  • TalkBack: Talkback gives verbal, audio, and vibration cues for visually impaired users by acting as a built-in screen reader. It can be turned on or off here, and you're given a shortcut to the TalkBack settings, which include changing the volume and pitch of the readout, when the speech should and should not stop, and what feedback it should provide with vibration and during touch. Advances features in TalkBack like Explore on Touch can be amazing, but it can also observe and repeat sensitive information like credit card information and passwords. Be mindful of surroundings and volume when using these features.
  • Captions: This will enable system-wide closed captioning, allows videos to conform to the user's preferences on caption style/size when applicable. This was introduced in Kit Kat, so phones still on Jelly Bean or ICS may not support system-wide captioning.
  • Magnification: With magnification, we get into the accessibility features that could prove useful to Android owners who do not have a disability. Triple-tap to zoom in or out, and triple-tap and hold to magnify what was under your finger. Useful for older users or for use with apps that don't scale well on smaller devices, like Vudu.

This is large text. Maybe too large text.

  • Large text: This one's pretty self-explanatory. If you click this, all text will get bigger across the entire device, instantly. There's no finesse, no setting a particular size, just regular or large. This is helpful for those who have trouble with small text, whether they're severely visually impaired or just needing a little help without their reading glasses.
  • Power button ends call: Another quick setting, this one can also be useful to a wide variety of users. If you want a physical button to end the call, this is your answer. Just be mindful of it if you're someone who turns back on the screen frequently during calls.
  • Auto-rotation: No idea why this is here, but it is. It's a duplication of the auto-rotate setting in the display section, and it works the same way. Check to enable, uncheck it to lock screen rotation.
  • Speak passwords: This could understandably get very back very quickly, so enable only if/when you absolutely need it.
  • Accessibility shortcut: This will allow you to quickly enable accessibility features, even while the device is locked. This can come in handy on tablets with multiple accounts, and on the
  • Text-to-speech: This will take you to the sub-menu that will allow you to pick the text-to-speech engine of your choice. Google's is the default, but there are a vast array of replacement services out there one can utilize. You can also select the speech rate and deal with languages if you're using more than one.
  • Touch and hold delay: This will change the duration of time that you must hold for any press and hold actions. For those with dexterity issues, having a longer delay can help while navigating their device.

While there are many settings here, there are a couple that I don't see. The one that screams at me the most is the one I would actually use: Inversion. Inverting the screen to that users can have white text on black backgrounds for apps can help improve readability. For those who are used to dark environments or have photo-sensitivity — which can accompany eye strain or migraines — inverting and darkening the screen is a godsend. Thankfully, it looks like inversion is coming in Android L.

And, again, your phone might well have extra accessibility settings. These are just the bare minimum you can expect to see in Android.

 

Reader comments

Basic accessibility settings in Android

3 Comments

A quick heads-up on Talkback and Magnification Gestures:

Talkback will speak sensitive data like credit card numbers, but it will not speak passwords unless that additional check box "Speak Passwords" is checked. Otherwise it just says "dot" for every password character. VERY IMPORTANT: If you decide to try Talkback out, be aware that it changes the way you interact with the phone. You need to go through the first few pages of the Explore by Touch Tutorial or else you won't understand why your phone isn't responding to your taps correctly. You can always turn Talkback off and restore the phone's regular gesture response.

Magnification Gestures is awesome, but it decreases the screen responsiveness. This is more evident in apps where you have to enter digits like the phone dialer, calculator and a PIN for the lock screen. Also, most games do not run properly when magnification gestures are enabled so remember to turn these off the next time you want to beat your high score of 12 in Swing Copters.