Android Device Accessibility

If there's one thing we can be certain of, it's that mainstream technology is largely targeted toward an able-bodied demographic. Smartphones and tablets are among the most popular of these devices, and are regularly used by people around the globe. As a quad-amputee, I can't use a phone in a conventional fashion. There are a lot of people with disabilities that have this in common. While most people use their fingers to access their devices, we use our lips, our arms, our feet, and even our noses.

Kyle, a quad-amputee, uses his Android phone

Recently, the operating systems of smart devices have begun to include accessibility features. Android devices are leading the way in integrating a variety of accessibility tools in their operating system. The Android Accessibility Suite offers multiple methods for users to interact with their devices, including the Accessibility Menu, Switch Access, Select to Speak, and the TalkBack screen reader. All of these features are essential for people with varying kinds of disabilities, and improve our quality of life by granting access to a higher level of productivity and independence.

Android accessibility menu

Accessibility Menu

The Accessibility Menu offers an on-screen method of accessing physical hardware buttons, gestures, and navigation features. Specifically, this feature is intended to aid those with mobility and dexterity challenges. These features are crucial for people who experience challenges related to pressing physical buttons on their devices or performing certain actions such as swiping and scrolling. The Accessibility Menu can be found within the device's Settings. Once activated, the icon will rest at the bottom-right corner of the screen.

Accessibility Suite & Switch Access

In addition to the Accessibility Menu, there are even more options for navigating Android devices. The Android Accessibility Suite allows users to utilize external switches, and even a keyboard. Switch Access has been streamlined, giving users access to feature such as highlighting, deleting, undoing, cutting, copying, and pasting. To make this process both more efficient and practical, menus are populated closest to the item that the user is selecting. Additionally, scroll arrows indicate areas on a page that can be scrolled.

Select to Speak

Select to Speak is a feature that seems reminiscent of scenes from classic science fiction. This feature actually makes use of the device's camera. After opening the camera and pressing the Accessibility Menu button, select an area on the image by highlighting it on the screen. Select to Speak will then describe the scene or read text to the user.


Finally, the TalkBack screen reader was originally its own separate app, but has since been fully integrated into the Android operating system. This feature offers spoken, audible, and tactile feedback for content depicted on the device screen. This functionality is vital for people with blindness or other visual impairments.

Android accessibility menu

The Android Accessibility Suite offers insight into the future of accessibility and smart devices. By integrating these features into the Android mobile operating system, Google is acknowledging that their users with disabilities are important to them. In the age of the Android Accessibility Suite and devices like Microsoft's Xbox Adaptive Controller, people with disabilities are beginning to gain equal access to technology.

About the Author


Around the age of one, I contracted bacterial meningitis. When I was three, I began using a power wheelchair. I've always embraced my disability and taken pride in knowing that I was different than my peers. My desire to learn more about disability led me to study critical disability theory both as an undergrad and a graduate student. I've always been passionate about gaming, which influenced me to write my Master's thesis on accessibility and video games as it relates to gamers with disabilities. In my spare time I love competing in local tournaments for Super Smash Bros., reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, and writing.

Kyle's ride is a QUICKIE S-636.

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Date: 1/22/2019 12:00:00 AM

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