When comparing a smartphone or tablet running Apple’s iOS operating system, to one running Android, you quickly realize that buying a portable touch screen device is akin to buying a car.
Whether you buy a Chevy or a Lamborghini, they both have seats, air conditioning, a satellite radio, and will get you from place to place. One, however, certainly has more cachet than the other.
In the same way, Android and Apple devices all pretty much do the same things and have very similar features. It’s not what they do, but rather how they do it that often becomes the deciding purchase factor.
That’s certainly true when it comes to accessibility features, designed for those with limited or no sight, hearing, or motor movements. While not the same on a feature-by-feature basis, both Apple and Android offer some pretty compelling options to help those in need.
Apple’s iPhone retains a simplicity and ease of use that the Android operating system—used by LG, Samsung and others—has yet to match. Accessing system tweaks with an iPhone is an easier process, and the overall design of fonts and screens is more elegant than Android’s.
First, open the Settings menu. To do so, with your phone unlocked, click on the Apps icon, and choose Settings.
Under My Device, choose Accessibility.
TalkBack, one of the most powerful accessibility features, makes it easy for those with low vision to use the portable device, by speaking the description of each screen, or reading the actual words that are on the screen.
For instance, with TalkBack enabled, the subject of each Settings menu is read aloud, as well as the number of items in that menu. Scroll up, and a series of rising tones is played; scroll down, and the tones get progressively lower.
Because touching a screen button once reads its description, a double-tap is required when TalkBack is on to activate that button. Two fingers held parallel are used to Scroll up and down on a screen.
Other accessibility options include the ability to:
Speak aloud a password as it’s entered
Magnify the screen by triple tapping. To magnify it only temporarily, triple-tap and hold your finger on the screen; releasing it causes the magnification to disappear.
Spell or repeat the last selected item. To do so, swipe down and to the right at a 90-degree angle, to form the shape of the letter “L.” Then, a circle appears with the option to touch the top of the circle to repeat the last item, or to touch the bottom to spell it.
Change the colors to the opposite of those normally seen (Android 5 Lollipop)
Adjust the screen colors to be more easily seen by those with color-blindness (Android 5 Lollipop)
Alter the rate of speech
Increase text contrast (Android 5 Lollipop)
Use BrailleBack to connect a Braille display to your device.
With BrailleBack, the content on the screen appears on the Braille display; then, use the keys on the display to navigate the device, or to enter text on the screen by using the Braille keyboard.
To enable BrailleBack, first install the BrailleBack App from the Android Play app store, and then enable it in the Accessibility menu.
For those with reduced dexterity, Android includes such features as:
Switch Access—users can pair a mechanical switch to the device. Menu items are scanned at a customizable speed. When the desired menu item is reached, touching the switch selects it.
Assistant Menu—a small sub-menu with a set of commands can be permanently placed on the screen, allowing easier access to the Home screen; as well as Volume, Settings, and Power Off controls, among others.
When it comes to accessibility options, Android holds its own with Apple iOS, feature-for-feature. If you’re happy with the Android system in general, its accessibility features will likely keep you as a happy customer.