As a rule, in Android, navigation through menu items can be carried out using a special hardware control: a joystick, trackpad, or trackball. There are four directions and a choice of an active item are available here (Potentially, the function in some custom versions of the system may work outside the box). That is why, when purchasing Android devices for non-visual use, it is important to choose just such a model where these controls are present. Otherwise, you will have to use the touchscreen for navigation, which may not always be convenient or even affordable.

In addition, the following keys are also important for operation:

  • Home – Returns to the home screen.
  • Back – Returns to the previous menu or cancels an action.
  • Menu – Opens the menu.

(System response to short and long key presses may differ.)

With the help of these four controls, basic navigation through the Android OS menus is carried out, therefore their presence in hardware is extremely important for the convenience of using the device for a person with a blind or impaired vision.

Specialized settings

Along with the general settings of the device, information about which can be obtained in the instructions attached to it, there are options specifically targeted at blind and visually impaired users.

  • Accessibility – This is where the basic accessibility settings are located.
  • “Text-to-speech” or “Voice Input & Output” in Android 1.6-2.1 and 2.2 and above respectively – these are the settings related to speech synthesis and recognition.
  • “Sound” or “Sound & display” – here are the parameters responsible for the sound and tactile notifications of the system.

When setting up the device by a blind or visually impaired user, he should pay special attention to these sections.


User feedback is supported by the device through sound or tactile signals, as well as voice (when the screen reader is installed and running). Unfortunately, Android OS does not currently support the ability to connect braille displays. Special notifications are also an important element of interaction with the system.

Notifications are messages about missed calls, received messages, programmed events, and more. When the screen reader is running, they will be read in the background, and to view them, open a special notifications panel from the main menu. Typically, when clicking on a notification message, the user will be taken to the appropriate application, for example, an email client or a diary.


For non-visual use of an Android smartphone, it is desirable that it have separate hardware keys for accepting and ending a telephone conversation. In addition, in Android 2.2 and higher, there is a flag in the “Accessibility” section of the settings, when activated, the end key will become the button for disconnecting the device.

If there are no hardware buttons for receiving and ending a call, then these operations will have to be performed through the touch interface, which is less convenient.

  • To accept an incoming call, slide your finger from left to right or press the corresponding key.
  • To reject a call, slide your finger from right to left or press the end key.
  • To end the conversation, press the corresponding touch or hardware key. Please note that the screen may be locked during a conversation, so it will need to be activated first.

Android Market

Android Market is an application store for Android OS, through which you can download a variety of programs, both for free and for money. Unfortunately, at the moment, not all sections of the Android Market are available for screen readers. However, basic use of this function is quite possible.

First, you need to click the Market shortcut in the main menu.

At the first start, you must accept the license agreement, without which the use of the store will be impossible. Unfortunately, it is not readable by screen readers. However, this text can be found at .

At the bottom of this window there will be two buttons “Accept” and Reject, which will already be available.

The main Market window contains a list of application categories in which you can search for applications of interest. Alternatively, you can select Search and enter a search term. After pressing Enter, a list with the results will be displayed below.

If you open a page for a specific application, then it will consist of two main sections: with comments (Comments) and with information about the program (About).

To install the application, click on the “Install” button located in the program description section. However, this is not always possible, as this button may not be available on some pages. To overcome this difficulty, use a similar key on the bottom of the touch screen.

First, the user will be shown some information about the installed application. Click “OK” here to start the installation process. Upon completion of the operation, the system will issue a corresponding notification.

The installed software can also be updated. To do this, select “Downloads” from the main Market menu, which will display a list of previously downloaded programs. At the top of the list will be those applications for which there are updates.

Use Google Checkout to purchase commercial software from Android Market (see Wikipedia for details ). In addition, some mobile operators provide the ability to make purchases in the Android Market through a subscriber account, but this is rare in Russian-speaking countries.

When installing paid software, the program page will not have an “Install” button, but a “Buy” button. After clicking it, a page will open with an aftorization form and payment options, as well as a “Buy Now” button and a final price.

If the application does not suit the user for one reason or another, then if it is removed within twenty-four hours after the purchase, the funds will be refunded. This can be especially useful if the application becomes inaccessible to screen readers.

The application can also be removed through the “Downloads” section of the main Market menu.

Installing software from third-party sources

Android Market is an official service where programs are tested for security before being published. Therefore, it is recommended not to install programs downloaded from third-party sources. However, it should be noted that there have already been cases when software located in the Android Market also turned out to be malicious, so this also does not provide a 100% guarantee of virus safety.

However, unlike, for example, iOS, Android officially provides the ability to download programs from third-party sources. To enable this function, open the Applications section in the main menu “Settings” and check the “Unknown sources” checkbox.

After that, it will be possible to install applications not only from the Android Market. In particular, test builds of the Spiel screen reader are distributed just bypassing the official store.

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