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Smartphone accessibility tips
13th May, 2021 |
With over 14 million disabled people in the UK today it’s essential that every smartphone user gets to enjoy these incredible machines and the benefits they bring. Indeed, while you might not realise it at first, many smartphones are equipped with a range of innovations to make them accessible to all.
Whether you need accessibility tweaks due to sight or hearing loss, or you have a physical disability, many manufacturers have worked hard to ensure their devices can be enjoyed by everyone.
With that in mind we’ve put together a guide to some of the smartest phone accessibility tips for you to explore. Hopefully you’ll find at least one or two that could make a difference to you or someone else’s life.
When anyone encounters a difficulty accessing their smartphone, they very soon realise how reliant we are on them for so many things. They are a vital lifeline for everything from business and communication to shopping and entertainment, and so much more.
So, what if yours got damaged, lost, or even stolen? Act now to find the best mobile phone insurance by calling the helpful team of specialists at Gadget Cover – it’s sure to make a difference.
Amazing accessibility features
Depending on the make and model of your chosen smartphone there are a whole host of accessibility features built in, but they might not all be right for you. So here are some of the most common features you might come across.
Set up voice activation
The ability to control your smartphone with your voice is useful for a whole range of tasks and situations. There are many times touchscreens and fiddly buttons become tricky and this tip could help in many of them.
Indeed, if you set it up correctly you can use your voice to perform most phone tasks – from making calls and writing texts or emails to searching the web and using apps.
For iPhones users:
- Go to Settings > Accessibility
- Select Voice Control > Set Up Voice Control then tap Continue and a software download will begin.
- Once the download is complete a microphone will appear in the status bar to show your iPhone is listening.
After the initial set up you can turn Voice Control on or off by using Hey Siri, the iPhone accessibility shortcut or tapping the Voice Control toggle in Settings > Accessibility.
To see a list of useful commands either say ‘Show me what to say’ or go to Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control > Customise Commands.
There are several options open to you including:
- Language - Change your chosen language to control Siri.
- Customise commands - Lets you create and edit new commands.
- Vocabulary - Lets you teach Siri new words for commands.
- Show confirmation - Lets you know if Siri has understood.
- Play sound - Audio confirmation that Siri has heard your command.
- Show hints - Offers real-time tips and suggestions for commands.
- Overlay - Give each on-screen element a number value. This is an invaluable way to use your voice commands to specify what buttons or parts of the screen you want to access.
This won’t change your ability to use touch to control your phone. And after the initial download you won’t need a Wi-Fi connection for Voice Control to work.
For Android users:
- Check you’ve got the latest version of the Google app and Android 5.0 or later.
- Turn on Hey Google through Google App > More Settings > Voice > Voice Match.
- Open up the Google Play app and download Voice Access.
- Once download is complete go to Settings > Accessibility > Voice Access and select Use Voice Access.
The first time you turn on Voice Access you’ll be shown a guide to Hey Google settings and be taken through a tutorial on how Voice Access works.
You can start Voice Access in several ways by saying ‘Hey Google, Voice Access’, through the notification shade, on the home screen or tapping the Voice Access activation button. You can set up this button through Settings > Accessibility > Voice Access > Settings > Activation button.
There are many commands you can use to control your phone such as Open Gmail, Scroll Down, Tap Compose. The Android Accessibility Help page has a huge list to get started.
Set up your phone to read text aloud
Having text notifications, messages, emails and web pages read aloud to you is another vital asset in your accessibility armoury.
For iPhone users, simply go to Settings > Accessibility > Spoken Content. Here you can adjust any of the following options:
- Speak Selection - Select text and tap the Speak button.
- Speak Screen - Swiping down with two fingers from the top of the display means your phone will read out the whole screen.
- Speech Controller - Provides quick access to Speak Screen and Speak on Touch.
- Highlight Content - As words and sentences are spoken the iPhone can highlight the text in a range of colours and styles.
- Typing Feedback - As you type the iPhone can speak each character, entire words, auto-corrections, auto-capitalizations, and typing predictions. If you want to hear typing predictions, then you’ll first need to turn on predictive text in Settings.
- Voices - Choose from a range of reading voices and dialects.
- Speaking Rate - Drag the slider to change the speed of reading.
- Pronunciations - If you want certain phrases or words spoken in a particular way then change them here.
For Android users open Settings > Accessibility > TalkBack. Then select Use TalkBack and press OK.
As well as reading everything on your screen and editing text, TalkBack is an uber-useful Android feature enabling you to do an endless number of tasks on your phone. From navigating your phone and apps to using a braille keyboard or assigning shortcuts to certain gestures, TalkBack can do so much more. All with spoken feedback helping you every step of the way!
Adjust the look of text and background
While we all know we can use the triple tap or the pinch gesture to zoom in and out of our screens, what if you want to make your screen easier to read all the time? It’s easy to do in your phone’s settings.
For iPhone users:
- To change screen font size, go to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size and tap Larger Accessibility Size. Then use the slider to select the size you want.
- To change the size of items on your screen such as widgets and app icons go to Settings > Display & Brightness. Go to Display Zoom settings and tap View. Select Zoomer and then press Set. Then restart the iPhone.
For Android users:
- To change Screen font size go to Settings > Accessibility > Font Size. Use the slider to select the font size you want.
- To change the size of screen items, go to Settings > Accessibility > Display Size. Again, use the slider to select the right size.
Whether you’re using an Android or Apple device, you can also adjust the background colour of your screen or use dark mode to help with contrast. While changing your screen’s colour or applying filters can help if you have a colour vision deficiency.
Change sound settings
Struggling to hear phone calls, music, or movies? Are you missing notifications and other useful sounds from your phone? As well as using the obvious volume controls and speakerphone, there are other ways to pump up the volume.
iPhone users can go to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual to adjust several features. You can set mono audio so all sounds play in one ear when using headphones, change volume balance, control noise cancellation, create LED flash alerts, and make a variety of Headphone Accommodations.
If you have a Made for iPhone (MFi) hearing aid then you can pair them with your iPhone using Bluetooth. If you go to Settings > Accessibility > Hearing Devices > MFi Hearing Devices then you can adjust settings further.
To reduce interference and improve audio quality go to Settings > Accessibility > Hearing devices and turn on Hearing Aid Compatibility. There’s more information on the Apple Support page.
As well as toying with the phone’s internal sound settings Android users can also use the Sound Amplifier app downloaded from the Google Play store. Using headphones, it lets you filter, augment and amplify both sounds around you and on your phone.
You can pair hearing aids with your Android phone through Settings > Connected devices > Pair new device. Once your hearing aid is paired you can tweak it to your liking through Settings.
Turn on subtitles and captioning
Turning on subtitles on your smartphone will not only make videos easier to watch but it also usually works across all apps on your phone, including video streaming and social media apps.
To turn this on iPhone users can head over to Settings > Accessibility, select Subtitles and Captioning, and activate the feature.
While Android users can open Settings > Accessibility > Captions Preferences and tap Show Captions. You can also change the caption size and style here.
Some Android phones also have a feature called Live Caption that’s well worth exploring.
Change touch controls
For iPhone users Assistive Touch is an accessibility feature designed to make it easier to access apps, controls, and other gestures. It’s particularly useful for those with motor skill impairments who may have difficulty performing dextrous actions like pinching to zoom.
When you turn it on, a semi-transparent circle will appear which can be dragged to any position you want on your screen. Whether you're browsing the web, using an app or on the home screen it will stay visible and ready to help.
To turn Assistive Touch on, and customise what it can do, just head to Settings > Accessibility > Touch. Switch on using the toggle, and then scroll down to see how you can customise it for your own personal use.
There’s a huge amount you can do with Assistive Touch and the Apple Support page has further information. You can use it to access menus and controls, instead of pressing buttons, and for multi-finger gestures. You can even create custom actions and create new gestures tailored just for you.
Android developers are getting closer to Apple’s gesture navigation, and are making it much easier to get around Android phones straight out of the box. That said, there’s also a whole range of superb apps that Android users can download to make your Android phone almost completely touch free! Apps such as Open Sesame are a real game changer for users unable to operate touch screens by themselves.
Consider reachability options
As smartphone screens keep getting bigger, there is an unfortunate side effect for some users. While these large screens provide fantastic cinematic viewing and immersive gaming, they can make it difficult for some users to reach certain parts of the screen.
Those large screens can get heavy and pretty unwieldy – so always make sure you’ve got mobile phone insurance in case of any slip ups.
The iPhone’s built-in Reachability feature helps to solve some of these difficulties. To enable Reachability, open Settings > Accessibility > Touch and turn Reachability on. This provides you with the ability to bring the top of the screen closer to the centre whenever you need it – so no more unpleasant finger stretching required!
Also take a look at these 27 amazing iPhone hacks to find out how to enable a one-handed keyboard on your iPhone.
While Android doesn’t have an official mode like Reachability built into it yet (fingers crossed for Android 12), some phone manufacturers have added their own versions anyway.
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