Google Accessibility team unveils Voice Access for truly hands-free phone control

Using your phone hands-free is a luxury to most of us. We cheer when Google Assistant can start a timer while we're washing sticky dough or slimy meat juices off our hands, or helps us make a call without taking our eyes off the road, or rewinds the music while we're jamming out in the shower. For millions with dexterity, motor, and mobility impairments, hands-free is the only way they can interact with a smartphone or computer, and the Google Accessibility team has worked with these users to develop Voice Access, an accessibility service that can allow users to navigate their phones and complete more tasks morre quickly with voice controls.

Voice Access ties into Google Assistant, allowing users to navigate through apps and menus, compose and edit messages and text documents, and complete more tasks than ever before thanks to a new level of granular control. Voice Access lets you translate voice commands into button presses, page scrolls, and precise item selection.

Look at the home screen screenshot with Voice Access turned on. Every app, every touch shortcut in a widget, everything on the screen is given a numeric assignment, allowing you not just to say "Open Maps", but to say "Click 8" to open the weather shortcut in the At a Glance widget, or "What is 12" to figure out what that option is. It's not perfect in every app yet — and it didn't work at all in some games I tried to navigate with it — but it's a great start and I'm sure more improvements are coming.

The best part of Voice Access might be that it's insanely easy to start and stop once you've installed it and given it Accessibility permissions. The voice access numbers that appear on every target disappear the second you touch the screen, but they return when you say "OK Google" or tap Voice Access's "Touch to start" persistent notification.

Because Voice Access integrates with Google Assistant and is easy to turn on and off, this app is handy not just for people with mobility issues, but for everyone who uses Android. Voice Access is a 10 MB app that everyone should download and play with at least once, because — heaven forbid — if you break your hands in a car crash or a workplace accident, Voice Access might become the most important app on your phone.

Voice Access at Google Play

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.