Have You Tried These Smartphone Accessibility Features?

women in wheelchair uses accessibility features on smartphone

Our smartphones come with lots of built-in or add-on accessibility features. So many in fact, that most of us only really use a fraction of what they offer. However, this article’s handy list of accessibility features will help fast track your selection of what you need and want to try.

Who knows, you might discover your phone has a helpful tool that makes your day that much simpler. Just like a wide range of the latest assistive technology innovations can.

For example, features like voice activation and screen reader are useful for people with limited dexterity or visual impairment. Simple functions like changing the audio and brightness settings can help limit sensory overload. And for people living with a writing and/or reading disorder, being able to talk to their phone and have it talk back to them can be a lifesaver.

Then there’s the wonderful Google Assistant who can tell us jokes, answers our questions and helps navigate the world wide web on our behalf. Read on for wonderful everyday smartphone accessibility features that’ve been developed to make life easier.

Where to find accessibility features on your phone

Accessibility features exist on all smartphones and cater to varying levels of physical and motor, vision and hearing requirements.

From one operating system to another, they may differ slightly in functionality and ease of use as well as what they’re called. Regardless of whether you’re on Android or iOS, you can find most accessibility features under phone ‘settings’ area then under ‘accessibility’.

If you discover a particular feature, function or app you’d like to try, but you’re not sure how to find it on your phone do a quick online search for it together with the phone’s make, model, and operating system to see if it’s compatible with your phone.

Find accessibility features under 'settings'

Sensory overload accessibility features

When it comes to tech, the toll of sensory overload is one of the easiest things to solve with simple adjustments to your phone settings. While not strictly ‘accessibility features’, here are some general settings to slow down the pace and help take the edge off:

  1. Display. Change font size and brightness (especially great for light sensitivity and reading issues)
  2. Sounds. Get your calls to vibrate rather than ring, to reduce audio overload
  3. Do not disturb. This mutes all incoming calls and alerts except for calls and messages from specific contacts you choose

It’s easy to forget you can change these settings to suit your every occasion, but these small changes can make a world of difference to your comfort levels.

Just imagine how reducing the brightness could potentially offset a migraine or even a seizure? Find out about different types of seizures in our article on epilepsy awareness.

girl adjusts accessibility features to reduce sensory overload

Accessibility features for visual impairment and blindness

Your phone is packed with features that assist with low levels of sight as well as blindness. Some general features for vision impairment (or sensitivity) are:

  • Zoom. Zoom or magnification lets you adjust the level of magnification and zoom into, drag or pan any area of the screen
  • Colour inversion. Most screens are lit with a white background, which can be too bright. Switch this around so the background is dark and the font is light.
  • Contrast. Adjusting contrast can reduce pressure on your visual system by softening the contrast between light and dark

Here are some of our favourite accessibility features to aid or replace visuals when using your phone:

Screen reader

Screen reader is a built-in feature on smartphones that describes what’s happening on your screen. This function is great if you have no or low vision because your phone will tell you which app you’ve selected, and what’s happening on the screen. This can also be useful for people living with learning disorders or cognitive issues.

Screen reader also adapts the phone’s control functions for navigating with touch and sound instead of sight. Under your accessibility features, it might be called ‘voice assistant’ or ‘screen reader’ and iPhones use the term ‘voice-over‘.

This video explains how to use a screen reader on different smartphones:

Text to speech

Text to speech is another great accessibility feature that doesn’t require vision or the ability to read and write/spell well. Unlike screen reader, which describes what’s happening on your phone and helps you navigate between pages and apps, text to speech helps you by reading your documents and web content aloud.

As usual, depending on the phone you have this feature might be called something different. For example some phones call it ‘TalkBack’, while others call it ‘spoken content’. Either way, you can access this feature by going to settings and looking under your accessibility features.

man changes hearing settings on his phone

Accessibility features for different hearing requirements

Whether you’re sensitive to sound, deaf or hard of hearing smartphones house numerous features to assist you while you use their technology. Here are some examples:

  • Audio panning. If you only hear in one ear, or have better hearing in one ear, you can choose ‘left/right sound balance’ or ‘mono audio’
  • Noise cancellation. This setting helps keep the line clear and reduce crackle and other ambient sounds/disturbances during your phone calls

Some of our favourite accessibility settings for all levels of hearing related needs are:

LED flash for alerts

If you’re hard of hearing or deaf, your phone can assist by using the inbuilt LED light flashing to signal when you notifications or calls. Depending on your phone, this accessibility feature might be called ‘flash alerts’ or ‘flash notification’

Subtitles

A great accessibility feature on smartphones is ‘subtitles’. This brings up subtitles in place of audio and you have the option of choosing closed captions for translation into another language from the original.

Voice control accessibility features means you can use your phone hands free

Adaptive smartphone features for physical disabilities

Accessibility features on smartphones range from using adapted touch, so you can tailor your phone to correctly interpret your selected gestures, and features that entirely replace the need for physical actions.

Below are some more of our favourite smartphone accessibility features. Plus, find out how smart assistants can help you too…

Voice control

Voice control is like a magic wand that allows you to control nearly every aspect of using a phone with just your voice. This is very useful for quadriplegics and people living with significant physical disability as it gives you the ability to command your phone’s controls via speech rather than swipes, presses or gestures.

You can navigate and interact easily with on-screen elements. You can write emails or just about anything else you need to by dictating it to your phone. There’s also the option of then editing the text through dictation afterward.

On Android phones these accessibility features are called ‘voice access‘ while if you’re on an iPhone look for ‘voice control‘.

Smart assistant

Everyone could do with an assistant – and smart assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant can all help you be more productive in everyday life. For example, they can tell you what’s in your calendar, translate a conversation from another language, set your alarms and help you search the internet all on command. Google Assistant can even make your phone calls for you.

Virtual assistants are great because you can speak to them and they can make sense of what you’re asking. So you don’t have to take a hands on approach. Instead Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa will patiently answer your questions and to a certain extent follow your instructions to help you be more productive.

Plus they can be very charming and tell awesome jokes. Everyone needs some light in their life, right?

adaptive smartphone technology can make learning easier

Your smart assistant can control smart home devices

Virtual assistants can also control a range of smart home devices. To start, you’ll need to purchase smart home devices that are compatible with your smart assistant… From door locks and light switches to appliances and thermostats. You can operate these devices by asking your virtual assistant to unlock doors and lock, turn on and off. Or even turn down, in the case of dimmer lights, music devices and more.

The general opinion is that Google is the smartest virtual assistant, but they all have a lot to offer. Watch the video below to see how each responds to commands. Note Google Assistant’s default voice is female, but like the guy in this video, you can select a male if you prefer:


Smart car insurance for people with accessibility needs

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