Accessibility Tweaks And Hacks For Android

Posted on November 6, 2013 by Nikhil P Naik

Smartphones are brilliant because they take the power of a computer and put it right in our pocket. This makes the full range of features normally available on a computer far more accessible and far more practical than they ever have been before – but for some of us that won’t quite be enough.

If you are someone who struggles with a disability, with poor vision, or who just severe technology-illiteracy, then you may find that smartphones are still a step too far and that you have a hard time getting the most from them.

Fortunately though, Android phones are highly customisable and involve a great many customisations that you can use to make your phone more accessible and much easier to use. Follow these tweaks and you can make an Android device more suitable for a much wider audience.

BIG Launcher    

When you turn an Android phone on or press the home key to return to the default view, what you are presented with is the ‘homescreen’ or ‘launcher’. This is the main point from which you then launch other apps and navigate your way around to use the phone, the browser and the other utilities.

big launcher

On Android though, this launcher is just another app, meaning that it can be replaced with another one if you don’t like the way your phone looks out of the box.

For elderly users then or those with poorer vision/motor control, it may make sense to find a launcher that will make apps easier to find quickly. A perfect example of this is ‘BIG Launcher’, which uses large user-friendly icons and text to make the phone much easier to use. Essentially this will turn your phone into something more similar to an older phone but with a touch-screen display, and it can make the whole experience a lot less stressful for someone who is perhaps a little less confident.

But the one downside of this app is it’s price – It costs $10. A much high cost as compared to some of the premium Android apps which are easily available in the $1 – $5 range.

One Handed Use

A big difficulty for those who have been victims of stroke, is trying to use devices one handed. Often little things that most of us wouldn’t consider can end up presenting a big challenge and preventing them from using gadgets that would otherwise be fine: a laptop might be too heavy for instance, or the power chord may be too short (or too prone to falling behind the table).

For someone with one hand, using a smartphone can often be very difficult – particularly one with a larger screen. There are a number of solutions to this (the first being to get a device with a smaller screen – though that will risk creating visibility problems), but one of the best is to install a one-handed keyboard. This simply shifts all the keys onto one side of the screen so that they can be more easily reached with a single thumb – it can make a big difference for someone who can’t easily type while holding their phone in a separate hand.

Something else which can help a lot is to turn off the screen’s auto rotation – which can often get in the way unintentionally.

Display Settings

To improve the visibility of your display there are many quick changes you can make. Increasing brightness and white balance for instance will help you to make out writing more easily.

Accessibility Settings

You can also find a lot more accessibility options that will all help you to avoid these problems by going into your phone’s settings, then selecting ‘Accessibility’. Here you’ll be able to increase the size of your text (click ‘large text’), change to spoken passwords and improve accessibility on the web – all of which can help a great deal.

There are also many other apps available on the app store that will further help you to tailor the Android experience to your specific requirements. These includes apps that will change the keyboard, that will give you quick access to commonly used apps, that will allow you to trigger events automatically or through shaking and much more. So don’t dismay if your Android phone is currently inaccessible to you – there are plenty of ways to solve the problem and make it more useable.

About the Author: Jenny Wadlow, the author of this article, is a freelance blogger, currently writing for FreedomLiftSystems, leaders in wheelchair accessible solutions for home and offices. A fun loving person, Jenny loves going shopping and attending art exhibitions in her spare time. You can get in touch with Jenny via Twitter @JennyWadlow.

About Nikhil P Naik

Nikhil Naik has a Master's Degree in Information Systems, and is currently working as a Software Engineer at Microsoft. He also loves playing cricket, listening to music, and traveling. Twitter Handle - @buzz_nikhil.

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