Smartphone Accessibility Settings
How-Tos & Tutorials

Smartphone Accessibility Settings: Everything You Need to Know

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Our reliance on smartphones continues to increase with every passing day. But most of us only know a fraction of what these devices are really capable of. With accessibility settings for iPhone and Android, like screen reading, text-to-speech dictation and more, our phones can make everyday tasks more comfortable, especially for people with disabilities.

Android and iOS have revolutionized the world of mobile communication technology. In 2019, about 2.7 billion people had smartphones. According to estimates, around 15% of these 2.7 billion users have one disability or more. Since handheld devices and mobile operating systems began to replace traditional desktops, service providers have constantly been striving to improve the accessibility of their products for users with disabilities.

Using accessibility features built into most smartphones will improve the lives of people with disabilities in the same way that smartphones make everyday life better for everyone. And this smartphone accessibility settings guide aims to educate people about the opportunities of bettering their lives.

What is Meant by Accessibility Settings?

You cannot deny that the term itself gives you a hint of what it may mean. Accessibility features or accessibility settings in smartphones help users have better access to the device, providing them with a better experience. For example, visually impaired users can adjust settings such as brightness and text size to suit their needs.

The fact is that these settings are not just for people with disabilities. Features such as subtitling and voice amplification can help everyone navigate their phones much better.

Whether you’re disabled or just want to use your smartphone more efficiently, find out what these accessibility features are and how to use them on your iPhone and Android devices.

How Can I Get to the Accessibility Features on Android and iOS?

The process of opening the accessibility menu is pretty simple.

For iOS

When you set up an iPhone for the first time, you can immediately activate several accessibility features. Turn on your iPhone and do one of the following:

  • Turn on VoiceOver: Triple-click the side button (on iPhones with Face ID) or triple-click the Home button (on other iPhone models).
  • Turn on Zoom: It requires you to double-tap the screen with three fingers.
  • Turn on Switch Control, Larger Text, Smart Flip, and More: Choose a language and country, tap Accessibility, and select the desired features.

If you’re switching to a newer iPhone model from an older one, you can also transfer accessibility settings.

For Android

Just open the Settings app on your Android device and tap Accessibility. From here, you can access a wide range of resources to aid your experience. Remember, the appearance and name of each accessibility feature may vary depending on the make and model of your phone. You know well that the Android operating system works with many brands.

Open the Settings app on your device.

  • Tap Accessibility > Accessibility Menu.
  • Activate the Accessibility Menu shortcut.
  • Tap OK to accept the permissions.

Now, let’s explore some of the handiest and the most used smartphone accessibility settings and features on two of the biggest platforms, i.e., iOS and Android.

iPhone Accessibility Settings

Apple introduced the first iPhone accessibility feature in 2009, and since then, the brand has expanded its offering. Today, Apple incorporates accessibility into every design process so people can access the technology independently. Experts recommend checking the following accessibility features on iPhones, all listed in Settings> Accessibility.

1. VoiceOver

VoiceOver uses artificial intelligence to provide a sound description of things on the screen, from images to battery life to the caller. It is world’s most popular mobile screen reader, with 70% of the blind using it for assistance in their day-to-day life. This is how you turn VoiceOver on or off: go to Settings> Accessibility> VoiceOver, and proceed by toggling the switch. You can also say, “Hey Siri, start VoiceOver” or “Turn off VoiceOver.”

2. Zoom

Apple Zoom offers a magnification of the content on the screen, presenting you with a range of options for adjusting contrast, colour reversal, and highlighting focus. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Zoom, and turn on Zoom from in there. From here, you can activate the function at any time if you need it by double-tapping the screen with three fingers. To see more of the screen, you need to move the Zoom lens by dragging the screen using three fingers. You can turn off zoom by tapping the three-finger screen again.

3. Magnifier

iPhone Accessibility settings also give you the Magnifier. No reading glasses are required – you can use the iPhone’s camera instead. This feature in iPhone allows you to use iPhone as a magnifying glass to read lowercase letters from things like medicine bottles and printed materials. Go to Settings> Accessibility> Magnifier and toggle the option “on” to try this feature. Then open the app on the home screen and point the iPhone at the text or object you want to zoom in on. Use the zoom slider to zoom in or out or change the look of the image using the Brightness, Contrast, Colour Filters, and Flashlight buttons.

4. Text Size

Customising iPhone text settings can make the screen easier to see, especially for the visually impaired. To learn how to enlarge text on iPhone, go to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size. You can enable the Larger Accessibility Size option in there and adjust the text size with the Font Size slider. By doing this, apps like Settings, Calendar, Contacts, Mail, Messages, and Notes will use the preferred text size instead of the default size.

5. Text Colour and Readability

The iPhone also offers other text customisation options in the Display & Text Size feature, including inverting display colours, increasing the contrast between text and wallpaper, reducing the intensity of vivid colours, and applying colour filters. If you have colour blindness, you can enable the Button Shapes option to underline the hyperlink text or the Enable/Disable Tags option to display numbers on the sliders instead of colours. As with the text size feature, these settings are supported by all Apple apps, including Mail, Messages and Settings.

6. Switch Control

Switch Control in iPhone Accessibility settings helps iPhone users with reduced mobility in performing actions such as texting and opening apps with the click of a button. A switch can be a keyboard key, a mouse button, a trackpad button, a joystick, or an adaptive device. For nonverbal users, Apple recently launched Sound Actions for Switch Control. It can replace physical buttons and switches with mouth sounds like a click, a pop, or ‘ee’. Add a new switch in Settings> Accessibility> Switch control> Switches, tap Add new switch, and select a source. You can then go to Switch Control in Settings> Accessibility> Switch Control and turn the setting on or off.

7. People Detection

With this feature, your iPhone scans the area around you, detects the presence of people nearby, and shares that information with vibrations or sounds. This feature provides another tool to make the world more accessible to blind and visually impaired community members. It’s a helpful reminder of social distancing during a coronavirus epidemic too. To activate it: open the Magnifier, tap the Settings icon, tap the “+” icon next to Detect People and select Detect People. You can customise the measurement units and increase distance and notification type from here.

8. Dictation

Dictation is a built-in voice-over feature on every iPhone. It allows users to write and punctuate text only with their voice, providing a hands-free (and efficient!) way to send text messages, emails, and other notes. To use dictation, open the keyboard in the application you want to use, and tap the microphone button. Start speaking so that the text appears on the screen. You can also enter exclamation marks or punctuation marks by saying so in a place you want to add one. When you’re done sending the message, tap the keyboard icon at the bottom of the screen.

9. Headphone Accommodations

Want to know how to increase iPhone volume beyond standard audio settings? Some Apple and Beats headphones can help you amplify and adjust the sound of music, movies, phone calls, and podcasts on your device. Go to Settings> Accessibility> Audio / Visual> Headset Accommodations. Proceed by tapping Custom Audio Setup and following the instructions to customise your desired settings. When done, test the new settings by tapping

Android Accessibility Settings

Many experts believe that Android accessibility options have increased in recent years in compliance with Google’s mission is to make the world’s information available to everyone.

It’s true that Google initially lagged far behind Apple in terms of the quality and usefulness of its accessibility technology. But in recent years, Google has made some significant progress to the point of getting on par with Apple. Here are some accessibility features that Android users can try and some Android hacks that you need to know about.

1. Android Accessibility Suite

A wide range of accessibility features is part of the Android Accessibility Suite, designed to help visually impaired people navigate their devices. Accessibility is critical to the Android user experience, and it seems that they are passionate about making smartphones useful for everyone, including people with disabilities. Accessibility Suite, available on almost all versions of Android, can be activated in the Settings menu, where you can turn on functions such as a gesture-based screen reader and switch access.

2. TalkBack

Like the VoiceControl feature on iPhone, the TalkBack screen reader on Android provides an audio description of the text and images appearing on the screen. You can turn it on in Settings> Accessibility> TalkBack. Turn TalkBack on or off, then tap OK. Blind or visually impaired users can also use the Braille TalkBack Android keyboard to add 6-point Braille to keyboards without the need for additional hardware. To turn on Braille keyboard mode, go to Accessibility> TalkBack> Settings> Braille Keyboard> Layout. According to sources, this feature was designed by a visually impaired Google employee in Australia.

3. Action Blocks

Action Blocks was one of the first accessibility features for Android. It lends you customisable buttons on the Android home screen for simpler operations like making calls or controlling lights. It is designed to make it easier for caregivers and people with cognitive and age-related disabilities to access and complete tasks using their phones.

You can create your own Action Blocks by downloading the Action Blocks app from the Google Play Store. After downloading, open the app and tap Create Action Block. You can tag it with an image, a name, or both, and when you’re finished, select Save Action Block.

4. Font Display and Size

If a visual impairment makes it difficult to see the device’s screen, you can resize and display the screen to see the items on the screen more clearly. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Font Size and move the slider up or down to change the font size of the text on your screen. You can also maximise images on your phone’s screen in Settings > Accessibility > Display Size and adjust the slider. You can also set High Contrast Text, Colour Inversion, Dark Theme or Colour Correction in Settings > Accessibility to add more visibility to your screen.

5. Magnification

Are you having trouble distinguishing items on your Android phone screen? You can temporarily increase or decrease your Android device’s screen magnification using Android’s Magnification tool. Open the Settings app and tap Accessibility > Magnification > Magnification Shortcut to turn this feature on. Now that you need to zoom in on your screen, simply tap Accessibility and tap anywhere on the screen. Dragging two fingers enables you to move around the screen while pinching with two fingers helps adjust the zoom. Once done, tap the Accessibility button again.

6. Lookout

Using the camera and sensors on your Android device, Lookout can help blind or visually impaired people learn more about their environment. The feature relies on computer vision to recognise an object or text and then describe it to the user. Install the Lookout app from Google Play and open it by saying “OK Google, launch Lookout” or selecting Lookout in the Apps section. Hold the device with the camera facing outwards after allowing the application to access the camera. Your device will now be able to read text, documents, food labels, describe surroundings, and even recognise your currency.

7. Voice Input

Voice input is a text-to-speech feature on Android that allows users with physical or visual impairments to enter text messages, emails, and other comments by saying words aloud. Just launch any app that uses text, such as email or messaging, and tap the text box, and a keyboard will appear on the screen. Then tap the microphone icon and start saying the message. Once you’re done, tap the microphone icon again and tap Send or Save. These smartphone keyboard shortcuts also make texting faster.

8. Amplifier

This Android accessibility feature was first introduced in 2019. It connects to your headphones or hearing aids to highlight and filter sounds nearby or on your Android phone. Its primary purpose is to help the deaf and hard of hearing community by providing an additional opportunity to absorb the world’s sound around them. Sound Amplifier is easy to use. Download the Google Play Store app, connect your headphones to your Android device, tap open the Amplifier app, and follow the on-screen instructions.

9. Switch Access

Switch Access works on Android devices just as it works on iPhones. For users with limited mobility or sensory issues, switch access allows them to navigate the phone with a designated “switch”, such as a keyboard or mouse button, instead of touch. The phone continuously scans the items on the screen, highlighting each item until the user selects one with the switch. After connecting an external switching device or keyboard to your Android device via USB or Bluetooth, you can activate this device in Settings> Language & Input> Select Keyboard. Then tap Display Virtual Keyboard (Android 7.0 or later) or Hardware (Android 6.0 or earlier).

10. Morse Code Keyboard

Google joined hands with developer Tania Finlayson, an expert assistant in Morse code technology, in 2018. The aim was to add Morse code to the Gourd keyboard on Android devices.

Born with cerebral palsy, Miss Finlayson uses Morse code in her daily life to communicate. She believes that developing communication tools like this is essential because it makes life easier for many people.

Android users can set up Morse code on their phone by installing Gboard and selecting Settings> System> Languages ​​& input> Virtual keyboard> Keyboard. Touch Languages> English and scroll through the options directly until you reach Morse code. Select Morse code and tap Done. Then check the mobile phone accessories that you will use every day.

Conclusion

As people continue to rely more on their smartphones to ease their lives, the manufacturers will continue to improve smartphone accessibility settings. Android, iOS, or any other platform interested in making it big, will have to ensure a higher level of accessibility features in their smartphones.
While this betterment continues, let’s make the most of what you have now. And this is the sole purpose of this smartphone accessibility guide. We tried our best to share everything essential on the subject with you, hoping it will help you one way or the other.

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