Accessibility Settings for Android Phone

Originally posted on veroniiiica.com

Ever since getting the myTouch 4G in 2010, I have used Android phones exclusively in my day-to-day life for activities like calling, texting, using social media, messaging apps, and so much more. Over the years, my phone has evolved from being a way for me to talk to friends after school into being one of the most valuable pieces of assistive technology that I own, as it helps me to make verbal and written communication accessible so that I can better understand people. One of the main things that makes this possible is the built-in low vision accessibility settings for Android phones that make my phone easier to see, so today I will be sharing my personal low vision accessibility settings for Android phones, and how to make Android accessible for low vision.

HOW TO ENABLE ACCESSIBILITY SETTINGS FOR ANDROID PHONES

The exact location for accessibility settings in Android phones may vary slightly depending on what phone and software version a user has, though almost all Android phones have the accessibility settings menu listed in the Settings application. On my current phone (Google Pixel 2), the accessibility settings menu is the 12th item in the Settings list, between the Accounts menu and the Digital Wellbeing & Parental Controls menu. Once a user opens the accessibility settings menu, they are taken to a list with several different accessibility options, starting with the Screen Readers section.

SCREEN READERS

A screen reader is a software program that reads all of the text and layout information that is on a screen using a synthesized voice. Android has two screen reading tools built-in for users with low vision- Select to Speak and TalkBack. While Select to Speak and TalkBack use the same settings when it comes to text-to-speech, the main difference is that TalkBack is always on and reading the information, while Select-to-speak can be accessed with just a push of a button whenever needed.

SELECT TO SPEAK

Select to Speak is an on-demand screen reader from Google that reads selected text on the screen, as well as alt text and other elements on the page that would traditionally be read out loud by a screen reader. Users can tap the play button to hear everything on the screen, or tap/drag their fingers to select single or multiple items when Select to Speak is enabled. This feature is available in all Android versions starting at Android Lollipop (version 5).

To enable Select to Speak:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Screen Readers” section, select the option for “Select to Speak”
  3. Move the slider to “on”

TALKBACK

TalkBack is a built-in screen reader that reads all of the text on the screen, as well as alt text and other navigational elements so that users can navigate their phone without looking at the screen.  TalkBack works similar to other mobile screen readers- it can be used in conjunction with a voice assistant to navigate between apps and input text, or with on-screen gestures. TalkBack can also be connected to a Braille display.

To enable TalkBack:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Screen Readers” section, select the option for “TalkBack”
  3. Move the slider to “on”

TEXT-TO-SPEECH OUTPUT

In this menu, users can customize the voice used for Select to Speak and Talkback.  This includes choosing the language that is used, as well as the speech rate and pitch.

RELATED LINKS

DISPLAY

The Display section allows users to customize the appearance of their device to make it easier to see for users with vision loss. It is one of the most important parts of enabling low vision accessibility settings for Android phones, as many of these settings help users with low vision tremendously with accessing their phones

FONT SIZE

Font size allows users to adjust the text size on their device to be as large as they need it. I have my font size set to the largest, though I downloaded an additional app called Big Font which allows me to set the font size on my device even larger so that I can see it clearly. With Big Font, my phone’s font size is equivalent to a size 36 point font, which is what I typically use for reading. I talk more about Big Font in a later section  of this post.

To increase font size:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Display” section, select the option for “Font Size”
  3. Adjust the slider accordingly to a comfortable reading level

DISPLAY SIZE/SCALING

In order to make everything on my screen larger, not just text, I set my display size to the “larger” setting, which is a 4 on a scale of 1 to 5. Since my phone screen is not very large, I prefer the “larger” setting over the “largest” setting because it doesn’t cut off information or text.

To increase display size:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Display” section, select the option for “Display Size”
  3. Adjust the slider accordingly to a comfortable reading level

DARK THEME

Dark mode (sometimes called dark theme or night mode) is a light-on-dark color scheme that uses light-colored text, icons, and graphical user interface elements on a dark background. It has grown in popularity over the years as a way to help prevent screen fatigue for users and make text and other elements easier to read or interact with for longer periods of time. Dark mode can be beneficial for all users, though it can be especially beneficial for users with low vision and light sensitivity.

Some of the advantages to using dark mode for low vision include:

  • Inverted text is easier to read for longer periods of time and is less likely to cause eye strain or fatigue
  • Some apps use simpler color displays when dark mode is available or use high-contrast color schemes
  • Many users find that light-colored text and objects pop better against a dark background and are easier to locate on a screen
  • It can make devices easier to use at night or in low-lighting conditions
  • For some devices, dark mode can help to conserve battery since it doesn’t require as much power to display dark colors on OLED displays

To enable dark mode:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Display” section, select the option for “Dark theme”
  3. Tap the slider to turn dark theme on or off

COLOR CORRECTION

For users with color blindness, Android provides several options for adjusting the display of colors on the screen, including settings for deuteranomaly, protanomaly, and tritanomaly. Users can also choose to have a shortcut enabled so that they can turn the color correction mode on or off more easily, though users cannot have multiple settings connected to the accessibility shortcut- for example, color correction and color inversion cannot both have a pinned shortcut.

To enable color correction:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Display” section, select the option for “Color Correction”
  3. Select which color correction mode to enable from the list

COLOR INVERSION

While dark mode is supported in many apps, users may choose to enable an inverted color display that makes all backgrounds dark and that changes the color of media and images. Like color correction, users can have a shortcut at the bottom of their screen enabled so that they can quickly invert the screen.

To enable color inversion:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Display” section, select the option for “Color Inversion”
  3. Tap the slider to turn inversion on or off

RELATED LINKS

MAGNIFICATION

Need to zoom in on the screen? Magnification allows users to quickly zoom in on the screen with the magnification shortcut to display content more clearly. There are two different options for using Magnification on Android, both of which involve a Magnification shortcut that is pinned to the bottom of the screen. Users cannot have multiple accessibility shortcuts pinned to the bottom of the screen, i.e users cannot have both magnification and color inversion pinned to their screen.

ENABLING THE MAGNIFICATION SHORTCUT

To enable the Magnification shortcut:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Display” section, select the option for “Magnification”
  3. Tap the slider to turn Magnification on or off

ZOOMING IN WITH MAGNIFICATION

To use magnification for a long period of time:

  1. Tap the Magnification shortcut
  2. Tap the screen
  3. Drag two fingers to move around the screen and adjust the viewing window
  4. Pinch with two fingers to adjust the zoom level up/down
  5. Tap the Magnification shortcut again to stop magnification

ZOOMING IN TEMPORARILY

To use Magnification for a short period of time:

  1. Tap the Magnification shortcut
  2. Touch and hold anywhere on the screen
  3. Drag one finger to move around the screen
  4. Lift finger to stop magnification

RELATED LINKS

INTERACTION CONTROLS

The Interaction Controls section has several awesome low vision accessibility settings for Android phones, as they influence how the user physically interacts with their phone.

ACCESSIBILITY MENU

The accessibility menu gives users a large on-screen menu for controlling their phone for people that have difficulty using buttons or gestures that is activated by pressing the Accessibility shortcut at the bottom of the phone screen. Some of the features included in the Accessibility menu are:

  • Locking the phone
  • Controlling volume and brightness
  • Turning the phone off
  • Taking a screenshot
  • Enabling Google assistant
  • Viewing recent tabs

At this time, items in the Accessibility menu cannot be customized or rearranged, though their size can be increased within Settings if needed.

To enable the Accessibility menu:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Interaction Controls” section, select the option for “Accessibility menu”
  3. Tap the slider to turn the Accessibility menu on or off

POWER BUTTON ENDS CALL

I find it easier to click my phone’s power button to end a phone call instead of looking for the button to hang up a call. While this means that I can’t take a screenshot without hanging up a phone call, I still prefer to have the option to end a phone call with one button press

To enable power button ends call:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Interaction Controls” section, select the option for “Power menu ends call”
  3. Tap the slider to turn the option on or off

AUTO-ROTATE SCREEN

I don’t like to use my phone in landscape mode very much and find it disorienting when my phone accidentally rotates. For this reason, I have auto-rotation permanently disabled in my phone’s settings.

To disable auto-rotate screen:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Interaction Controls” section, select the option for “Auto-rotate screen”
  3. Tap the slider to turn the option on or off

SYSTEM NAVIGATION

For users that prefer to navigate their phone with gestures, or even entirely with gestures,  there are several options for customizing System navigation to have three buttons (default), two buttons (which removes the app switcher), and no buttons (exclusive gesture navigation). I personally prefer the two-button navigation, as I do not frequently use the app switcher.

To customize system navigation:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Interaction Controls” section, select the option for “System navigation”
  3. Select which system navigation mode to enable from the list

AUDIO AND ON-SCREEN TEXT

While audio settings are not commonly associated with low vision accessibility settings for Android phones, I have both hearing and vision loss and have customized my phone to allow me to read captions in large print as needed, which  includes the following settings.

LIVE TRANSCRIBE

Google Live Transcribe is a free Android app that provides real-time captions and is powered by Google’s speech recognition technology. While it is designed for users that are d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing, it can also be beneficial for people who are experiencing temporary hearing loss due to an ear infection or that are in a room with lots of background noise. Google Live Transcribe will need to be downloaded from the Play Store before users can enable additional settings in the Accessibility menu, including the shortcut.

To add a shortcut for Live Transcribe:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Audio and On-Screen Text” section, select the option for “Live Transcribe”
  3. Tap the slider to turn Live Transcribe on or off

CAPTION PREFERENCES

Caption preferences allow users to customize how they want captions to appear in various applications on their device, as well as whether they want captions to be enabled by default. For my phone, I have the text size “very large” selected, with white text on a black background.

To customize Caption preferences:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Audio and On-Screen Text” section, select the option for “Caption preferences”
  3. Tap the slider to turn Caption preferences on or off, and select “Caption size and style” for further customization options

RELATED LINKS

EXPERIMENTAL

The only Experimental setting that I have enabled is for high contrast text, which puts a white outline around black text so that it is more readable on colored backgrounds.

To enable high contrast text:

  1. Open the settings menu and navigate to the “Accessibility” section
  2. Under the “Experimental” section, select the option for “High contrast text”
  3. Tap the slider to turn high contrast text on or off

FURTHER CUSTOMIZATION

For users that want to customize low vision accessibility settings for Android phones even more, there are several third-party apps available for download that can customize the appearance and functionality of Android phones. I have an in-depth post linked below that covers apps such as Big Font for large print, Buzz Launcher custom homescreens, AI  Type custom keyboards, and others.

RELATED LINKS

SUMMARY OF LOW VISION ACCESSIBILITY SETTINGS FOR ANDROID PHONES

  • There are two screen reader options for Android- Select to Speak and Talkback
  • The Display section allows users to customize their device’s font size, display size, and how colors show up, as well as enable Magnification
  • Interaction Controls allow users to access their device without pushing any buttons, end calls with the power button, and choose what navigation options they want on their phone
  • Audio and On-screen Text gives options for large print captions
  • In the Experimental section, users can enable high contrast text that is easy to read on  colored backgrounds
  • Android phones can be further customized for accessibility with third-party apps.
Read more about: Assistive Technology