Are smart phones accessible to people with disabilities?
Yes, 20% of us will not be able to use a smart phone to its fullest, because we live with a disability or condition that stops us from using the phone in some way, but all is not lost. There are ways to make the phone more usable and more accessible.
Up until recently, the way to do this would be by putting apps or smart phone computer programs, on your device that will change the way you interact with your phone. However, awareness of the importance of accessibility for everyone has grown immensely over the last few years and many aspects of smart phone accessibility are now built into your device.
How can I make my smart device more accessible?
Your smart phone will have an ‘Accessibility’ menu in the ‘Settings’ section, which usually has an icon that looks like a cog. If you cannot find it, try using the search function instead. There are more than 10 updated versions of Android and iOS, all of which work slightly differently, so the safest thing to do if you are unsure how to find your way around your phone is to consult your user manual, ask a technologically minded friend, or go to a local mobile service provider shop.
So, without further ado, we will introduce you to some life changing accessibility options that will open your smart phone up to you more fully. We have grouped them by the alphabetical need of the user, so that functions to help you see are all together.
Cognition and Understanding
This accessibility enhancement makes sure that when you are using an app, no other apps or functions can get in the way and confuse or affect your activity. If you are reading a text, no other texts, calls, video calls or alarms can activate. If someone tried to call whilst you were watching a video, for example, you get notified of this after your video app is closed.
If you can hear better in one ear or if you are over 30, you can benefit from sound adaptation. This app tests your hearing and adjusts the volume in each headphone ear so the sound matches up in both ears.
If you would like to hear the world more clearly around you, use the Amplify ambient sound function and use your headphones to hear more distant sounds or a quiet conversation.
Hearing Aid Support
You can adjust your phone’s audio so that it works better whilst you are using a hearing aid, or you can connect a Bluetooth hearing aid to your smart phone.
Live Caption listens to sounds playing on your device through the internet or on videos and converts them to text in real time. You can choose to hide profanity and add sound labels, like laughter, applause or music. Caption size and style can also be adjusted.
Live transcribe shows speech as text on your screen so that you can engage in conversations around you. You can type your responses on the screen whilst viewing a transcription, get alerted when your name is spoken and search within a transcription.
Mono sound means that the sound coming through the headphones is the same on both sides (as opposed to Stereo sound, where different parts of the sound or music come through each side)
In order to reduce the risk of seizures, you can elect to turn off animations and screen effects.
Touch and Dexterity
This is a small set of icons that can be pressed on the touch screen for people who cannot easily press physical buttons. Apps can have their own assistant menu, such as the camera, messaging, contact, phone, internet and settings.
Control your smart phone with your voice
Google Assistant and Siri will allow voice commands, like ‘make a call’ or ‘text my daughter’ and the smart phone will do so for you without your touch input.
A single tap on the screen can be used instead of swiping, to make it easier to use the touchscreen functions, which is useful for slide bar controls such as on the alarm and for incoming calls.
A switch is an external device used to navigate around a phone screen, a bit like a mouse, but with buttons for moving the cursor (or highlighted part of the screen). External keypads can also be added to help people who find it hard to use touch controls. The size and speed of the cursor can also be changed.
When using a switch to move around a screen, you can choose to let it ‘click’ when the cursor stops, reducing the amount of touch that is needed.
Point Scan is a way of using a switch to select a part of the screen with 2 lines that move across the screen, one vertically and another horizontally. When the switch is pressed, they make the shape of a cross over the desired portion of the screen.
Touch/ Tap Delay
This setting lets you decide how long a touch, or a tap needs to be held down for it to be registered as a touch or tap action. It is useful for users with motor function challenges.
‘Touch-free actions’ means controlling the phone automatically or with a voice. For example, you can set the phone to answer after 5 rings.
Colour and Contrast
In order to be able to see text more easily if you have reduced vision or colour blindness, it is possible to use bright colour backgrounds with black text to make the text easier to read, such as:
- High contrast font
- High contrast keyboard
- High contrast theme (general phone screen colours)
- Colour inversion
- Detailed colour adjustment options (limiting red, green or blue on screen)
- Add colour filter over screen
Font Size and Style
These can be altered so text is larger, smaller or looks different, so that it is easier to make out letters, words and punctuation.
Read Caller Name
This option says the name of the caller when an incoming call occurs, either with a Bluetooth headset only, or all the time.
This will add a large square to your screen that acts just like a magnifying glass. You can touch the square and move it around the smart phone screen. The level of magnification and size of the square can both be adjusted to suit your vision.
Apps like Bixby Vision (Android) or Voiceover (iOS) will use your camera to see objects in the environment around you – they can recognise shapes like people, animals, furniture and so on, then they describe them to you in order to help you find your way around more easily.
The Talkback app is a screen-reader. When you touch any text, picture or icon on the screen, Talkback will tell you what it is or what it says. It provides spoken feedback so that you can use your device without looking at the screen and is designed for situations or people who have difficulty seeing the screen.
Similar to the Magnifier, screen zoom makes everything larger on screen as opposed to zooming in on specific parts.
In addition to the settings that are already on your phone, there is also a world of apps that are free online and some that you can elect to pay for, that can do even more things to make the world of the smart phone more accessible to us all.
ConnectAbility focuses on your accessibility
ConnectAbility Australia is a NDIS funded company that brings more freedom to people with disabilities and elderly members of the community in Newcastle, and the Central Coast, NSW. Visit them at connectability.org.au, call them on 02 4962 1000 (Newcastle) or 02 4349 3700 (Central Coast) to see how they can help your NDIS funded future.