Android Accessibility Features

Accessibility features can help people with vision impairment to use tools and functions on their phones and tablets that may otherwise be too difficult to access.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the different accessibility features of Android devices, what they do, and where to find them in your phone or tablet. We’ve included features like voice command, adjusting display settings to make text easier to see and read, screen reader, audio descriptions, and even accessible ways to take a selfie.

Some of the tools in this guide are only available on Android version 11.0 and up. If you’re not sure which version you have, see Google’s check and update your Android version guide.

Some accessibility features require you to touch the phone or device screen. If you can’t interact directly with your Android screen, you can also control your device with Switch Access.

Use voice to control your phone hands-free

Two powerful Android features – Google Assistant and Voice Access – enable you to use your phone and apps hands-free.

Google Assistant 

Google Assistant is Google’s artificial intelligence software. You can hold a ‘conversation’ with your Google Assistant, as it’s programmed to respond appropriately to your voice commands. You wake up your Google Assistant by saying, “Hey Google” or by holding down the Home button. It can answer questions, perform tasks on your Android phone, or search the internet. 

You can also create Quick Phrases for certain commands to streamline your experience so you won’t need to say “Hey Google” every time. To turn this on, go to Google Assistant settings and then Quick Phrases. From here you’ll be able to select the Quick Phrases you’d like to use. 

The Google Assistant feature bypasses a lot of the need to see and touch your screen to access apps and change settings. For example, instead of searching online for bus timetables, you can ask Google for the best way to get from A to B using public transport. It can also send text messages, check emails, play music, provide daily weather updates, take a photo and navigate using Google Maps. 

Google Assistant is available on most Android phones and tablets.

If you would prefer to watch the video without audio description, you can watch the non-described version of How to set up and use Google Assistant on YouTube.

Voice Access

While Google Assistant is the technology that recognises and actions your prompts, Voice Access is the feature that enables you to control your phone with spoken commands instead of having to touch the screen, creating a voice-activated mobile phone. Voice Access focuses on controlling what’s on your phone screen and your phone’s functions, like editing texts or opening apps, rather than searching the internet like Google Assistant.

To find Voice Access, open Settings, tap on Accessibility, then Voice Access.

Adjust your text and display settings

There are several ways to customise your display setting to make it easier to see what’s on your screen and improve the accessibility of your Android mobile phone.

Customise your home screen

You can create widgets on your home screen so you can see your favourite apps’ content more easily. To create a widget, press and hold a space on your home screen and a widget button should appear. Selecting the widget button will bring up a list of all the apps that can have widget shortcuts. Select the apps you’d like to appear as widgets on your home screen. 

Additionally, Nova Launcher is an app that allows you to edit your home screen. For example, you can use the app to change your phone’s theme to light or dark, alter the size and layout of your icons and widgets, and much more. Nova Launcher is available in the Google Play Store. 

Phone magnifier

The magnification feature is a simple way to always or temporarily enlarge what’s on your phone screen. To find the magnifier, go to Settings, then Accessibility, then Display, where you will find Magnification.

Increase the size of the on-screen buttons with the Accessibility menu

The Accessibility menu is an on-screen menu with shortcuts to your most frequent actions and other useful tools and settings. From here, you can enlarge your display and do other useful things, including:

  • Take screenshots
  • Open Google Assistant
  • Open Accessibility Settings 
  • See your notifications
  • Control the volume (separate icons for volume up and volume down)
  • Control the screen brightness (separate icons for up and down)
  • Open your recently visited apps
  • Lock your screen

To activate the Accessibility menu, navigate to Settings, then Accessibility, which is usually a little way down the page. Tap Accessibility Menu, and in the next screen, toggle the Accessibility Menu to ‘On’. Finally, accept permissions by pressing ‘Allow’ and tap OK to complete. 

Increase or decrease text size and display size

Depending on your level of vision, you might find it helpful to customise the size of the text – increasing or decreasing the font size, making it bold, or using high contrast text – on your Android device to make it easier to read. To go to Settings, select Font Size and move the slider to determine the text size. To customise the display size, do the same but in Display Size.

Bold fonts can be turned on within the accessibility settings. Go to Display Size and Text and then turn on Bold Text. High contrast text can be turned on from the same menu. It works by changing the colour of the text to either black or white (depending on the original colour) to make it easier to read.

Colour and motion

You can change the colour and motion settings to help ease stress on your eyes or tailor your screen to suit your own needs.

  • Colour inversion flips the colours on everything you see; for example, white text on a black background becomes black text on a white background
  • Dark theme dulls the brightness of your general phone use but doesn’t affect videos and some apps. Although it’s often used as a battery-saving feature, it can also help if bright screens cause eye strain
  • Remove animations stops animations from automatically showing on your phone, to ease stress on the eyes
  • Large mouse cursor makes the mouse more visible

To find the colour and motion settings, navigate to Settings, then Accessibility and select Display, where you will find Colour and Motion.

Select to Speak talking technology

Select to Speak describes what’s on your phone screen. For example, you can tap on text or an image on your screen or point your camera at external text or an object, and your phone reads or describes it aloud.

To find the Select to Speak feature, navigate to Settings, then Accessibility and then select Display. On this screen, you will find several accessibility options, including Select to Speak.

Reading Mode

Reading Mode simplifies the content on a page by removing distracting elements like ads and sidebars for a more focused experience. Once turned on, you can change the contrast, colour, formatting, and font size. 

It can be used on apps and webpages with long content, but currently is not compatible with PDF files, chat messages or social media feeds. It can also be used to read content aloud, with the reading voice and speed also customisable.

You will need to download the Reading Mode app from the Google Play Store. If you use Voice Access or Switch Access, you’ll need to turn these off before you set up Reading Mode and turn them back on once set-up is complete to ensure they’ll be able to work properly when Reading Mode is on. 

Once you’ve successfully installed the app, you’ll be redirected back to your device’s Accessibility Settings. Go to Reading Mode, then turn on Reading Mode Shortcut. You’ll then be asked for permission for Reading Mode to access content. 

Once that’s done, you should have a floating button on screen when you’re accessing any app or page with long content. You can tap that button to open Reading Mode and change the visual display or read aloud.

Alternatively, you can set up other shortcuts to access reading mode if a floating button is not right for you. 

Within your device settings go to Accessibility, then Reading Mode, then Reading Mode Shortcut. 

If you’d like to access Reading Mode by using the volume keys, go to Hold Volume Keys, or if you’d prefer to use a gesture go to More Options then Use Button or Gesture, and then Gesture.

Google TalkBack screen reader on your phone

Similarly to Select to Speak, Google TalkBack screen reader reads the content on your screen aloud, but it does it automatically, without you having to select it each time. TalkBack also connects with a braille display so you can access your screen content through braille.

You can find this feature by going to Settings, Accessibility, and then TalkBack. On some Android devices accessibility options may be found under Additional Settings. Samsung users can also ask Bixby to turn TalkBack on or off. For more information on setting up, you can watch our video here.

Audio description of what’s happening on screen

With Audio Description, your Android accessible phone can describe what’s happening on screen in some films or shows. To switch on Audio Descriptions, go to Settings, then Accessibility, then activate the Audio Description toggle to on.

How to find accessibility features on your Android phone

Most of the accessibility features in this guide can be found under Settings > Accessibility on your Android device. Find the features you’d like to activate and toggle them on.

iOS accessibility features

The features in this guide are specific to Android devices. Apple devices have their own set of accessibility tools and features, which you can read more about on our Apple Accessibility Features page.

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