Enabling Accessibility

Devices with Android 4.0

On devices running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and above, accessibility can be enabled from the initial setup screen. After turning on the device for the first time, draw a closed rectangle with your finger, starting from the upper left corner of the touch screen: draw a straight line from the upper left corner to the upper right corner, then a horizontal line from the upper right corner to the lower right corner, then to the lower left corner and back to the upper left corner. The device will respond with a beep when it recognizes the user’s gesture. It may take several tries to draw a rectangle within the borders of the screen.

After enabling accessibility, an introductory help for accessibility supported in Android 4.0 opens. You can skip reading this help by clicking the Skip button in the lower right corner of the screen.

This will return to the initial setup screen and the user can complete the device setup.

Devices with Android 3.1 and below

Accessibility is disabled by default on devices running Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) and below. A totally blind person will not be able to independently (without the help of the sighted) enable accessibility on such devices. However, after enabling accessibility, the help of a sighted person is no longer required, since accessibility features will remain enabled the next time the device is booted.

To enable accessibility, do the following:

  1. If the device asks for Google account settings, or is in training mode, press the button to skip this step (and make these settings later).
  2. Press the Menu button. Android devices usually have a menu button on the front or at the end.
  3. Click Settings or System Settings.
  4. Open Text-To-Speech preferences (this can be inside the “Voice input and output” item). Click “Listen to example.” If there is no speech, click Install voice data. you can adjust the speech rate and language of the synthesizer.
  5. Return to the settings screen and open Accessibility.
  6. Check the box for Accessibility. Click the OK button in the warning dialog.
  7. Check the box on TalkBack. Click the OK button in the warning dialog.
  8. It is also recommended to check the box for KickBack. Click the OK button in the warning dialog. KickBack provides tactile feedback through vibrations. This is especially useful when you have to use the touchscreen from time to time.

After a few seconds, the device will begin to sound the user’s actions (pressing the navigation keys, etc.).

Additional options that may be helpful to the visually impaired user can be found under Sounds or Sounds & Display.

If accessibility is not preinstalled on the device

Some phones do not come with accessibility tools (such as TalkBack, KickBack, and SoundBack) in the preinstalled software. You will have to install these applications from Google Play (Android Market) yourself. This cannot be done without visual control, so the help of a sighted person is needed.

After checking the Accessibility checkbox in Settings, a No Accessibility Related Applications Found warning will appear. You will also be prompted to install a screen reader from the Android Market. If you click OK, you will be prompted to sign in. to the system under a Google account or create such an account After logging in to the system or creating a new account, you can access Android Market and install a screen reader.

Attention! When creating a new Google account, the last step is to enter a graphic verification code.

Quick installation of Accessibility apps

IDEAL Apps4Android has released an installation package with a set of Accessibility applications. Includes all applications from the Eyes-Free suite (Talkback, Kickback, Soundback, Accessibility Preferences, Eyes-Free Shell, Talking Dialer, Rock Lock, Walky Talky, Intersection Explorer), and useful applications from other developers (such as IDEAL Web Reader, IDEAL Magnifier and K9 Mail). Using such an installer greatly simplifies the installation process, but does not make it available to a blind user (unless a screen reader is preinstalled on the device and accessibility features are not enabled). Here’s how to use this installer:

  1. Go to Google Play (Android Market).
  2. Search for the phrase “accessibility installer”.
  3. The list of results will contain “IDEAL Accessibility Installer” (practically, the first line).
  4. Install and run the application.
  5. Follow the instructions in the app. Click install / OK for all applications. Error messages are possible, since not all applications are available for all phones. Such messages can be ignored.

Getting Started

After you have enabled accessibility, you can start using your phone. The following describes some of the most common ways to interact with the device and explains specific terms.

It is especially worth emphasizing that the placement and behavior of user interface elements (such as app icons or notifications) on the screen of specific devices may differ from those discussed below. We can say that in this article we are talking about a “pure” version of the Android OS, free from modifications by the device manufacturer.

Navigation by touch

On devices running Android 4.0 and higher, the user can listen to information about the screen content that appeared under his finger when he touched it. This screen navigation is an accessibility feature called Explore by touch. You may need to check this box first in the Accebility preferences. When you check this box, a dialog will appear with a description of this option, a button to go to the tutorial and a button to enable the option.

The tutorial consists of two lessons: the first teaches you how to touch and activate an element, and the second one you can use to scroll through a list. If “Russian” is selected as the system language on the device, then the text of the lessons will be in Russian.

The very process of navigation in the groping mode, as a rule, does not cause serious difficulties. If, when navigating to the touch, the device responds with a noticeable delay or the screen reader does not speak the element under the finger, then the reasons for this may be a slow or faulty touch screen of the device; an additional graphical shell installed by the device manufacturer and does not interact well with accessibility features; or an outdated or incorrectly installed version of the preinstalled screen reader (usually TalkBack). In the latter case, it will be enough to install a later version of TalkBack to fix the situation.

In order to use an element under your finger, for example, to press a button, you must take your finger off the screen and touch the screen again in the place where the button is located. If the user wants to activate an element without touching the screen, then for this he needs to quickly double-tap the screen at the location of the element of interest.


When the user, feeling the screen, comes across content that does not completely fit on the screen and can be scrolled, for example, a list, the device beeps, raising its tone. To scroll through the content, you need to touch the screen with two fingers and, without taking them off the screen, move them up or down. In accordance with the movement of the fingers, the contents of the list will be scrolled, while the user will hear a beep with an increase or decrease in pitch to get an idea of ​​his position relative to the beginning of the list. If the user pauses after scrolling through the list, he hears a message about the current position in the list.

Navigation bar

On devices with hardware D-pad or arrow keys, it is generally possible to navigate through user interface elements without using the touchscreen. This navigation is available for visually impaired users and does not require the inclusion of special features. However, assistive technology supports screen sound, which is essential for blind and visually impaired users.

The type of hardware navigation bar varies by device, but many phones have one of the following options:

  • trackball;
  • arrow keys;
  • joystick.

For devices without a hardware navigation bar, the user can install the Eyes-Free keyboard, which will display a virtual navigation bar on the screen.

This panel allows you to move in four directions and press a button to select items on the screen. Depending on the screen reader used, the user will receive speech, sound and / or tactile (so far with the help of vibration, but soon also with the help of a braille string) accompaniment of his actions and events on the screen.

There are three hardware buttons that the user will have to use more often than others. For productive work, you need to learn how to easily find them on the device case:

  • The Home button makes the home screen active, where you can launch applications, check notifications, and much more. Navigating the Android home screen is straightforward for most users. However, if necessary, you can install alternative applications that replace the standard home screen. For example, Eyes-free shell provides an easier way for visually impaired users to interact.
    If you press and hold the Home button for a long time, a window with shortcuts of recently opened applications will appear.
  • The Back button allows you to return to the previous screen. For example, if the user is reading email, then pressing the Back button will return him to the mailbox message list screen; pressing the Back button again will return the user to the list of mailboxes, and pressing the Back button again will take him to the home screen. The Back button can be used to close most dialogs or leave most screens if the user has opened them by mistake or cannot find their way. Some devices do not have a hardware Back button (however, there is usually a virtual Back button on the screen in the lower left corner).
  • The Menu button opens menus related to the current screen. Some Android functions that require the touchscreen are also available via the Menu button, which should be kept in mind while using the device. The menu items that open when this button is pressed are usually located from left to right and from top to bottom. Use the up, down, left, and right arrows to move around the element. Press the Back button to close the menu.

Long press

An important navigation mechanism in Android is the long press. To perform a long press, you must press and hold a hardware key or your finger on the screen. If the manipulation is done correctly, the phone will respond, for example, with vibration and perform the action associated with a long press.

A long press can be used, for example, to open a menu that is specific to the active item or application (this is similar to context menus in the user interface of desktop operating systems). For example, by long-pressing a track in the Music playback application on Android 2.2, you can get to a menu that allows you to add or remove a track from the playlist.

To perform a long press, which will open the context menu, press and hold the hardware (or virtual) selection key or trackball.

As mentioned earlier, the user can, by long pressing the Home button, open a window with shortcuts of recently launched applications. A long press on the Search button activates the voice search function.

Home screen


Android system settings are accessible through an item in the home screen menu (that is, press the Menu button when the Home screen is active and select System Settings). There will be many different settings here; The following are those that are relevant to the usability of the device by persons with disabilities:

  • Accessibility. Used to enable or disable basic accessibility options.
  • Language & input Android 4.0 and above) or Voice Input & Output in earlier versions. Controls general text-to-speech settings, including speech rate and synthesizer language.
  • Sound (or Sound & display.) Adjust sound and vibration (haptic feedback).


Notifications are the main way to communicate something to the user without interrupting his work with the active application. For example, a notification can tell you that emails, SMS messages have arrived, or a low battery warning. Any application can send a notification.

If a screen reader (such as TalkBack or Spiel) is active, it will read notifications when they first appear on the screen. In addition, at any given time

user can open the notification panel from the Home screen menu to read all notifications. Most notifications respond to a tap (click) – clicking will open either the message itself, the application that sent the notification, or more information about the alert.

Launching Applications

One of the important features of the home screen is to provide access to installed applications. From the Home screen, select “All Applications. This will allow

open a screen with a list of all installed applications.

On this screen, application icons are arranged from left to right and from top to bottom, four icons per line. That is, to bypass all the icons on this screen, you must first go through four icons in a line, then go down a line, and so on.

Alternative apps that replace the standard Home screen, such as Eyes-Free Shell, provide an easier way to navigate the list of apps.

Screen lock

When the phone goes to sleep, the screen is automatically locked. This means that the screen is off and the phone does not respond to user manipulation.

Depending on the display settings, the device may go into sleep mode after the specified time interval, and it will be locked shortly thereafter. You can configure the screen so that the device turns off and locks when you press the power button.

By default, when the screen is locked, a screen reader (such as TalkBack) does not support speech and / or sound. This behavior can be changed on the screen reader options page.

Unlocking your phone requires two steps: you need to turn on the screen and then unlock the phone. In order to turn on the screen, you need to press the power button.

When the screen is on, unlocking the phone usually requires a touchscreen gesture, but this may vary depending on the settings made by the device manufacturer.

To perform an unlocking gesture on a standard Android device, do the following:

  1. Keep the screen in portrait mode.
  2. Press with your finger on the lower left of the screen. If the KickBack program is running, the device will respond with a quick vibration when touched correctly.
  3. Swipe right across the entire screen. The device will vibrate again when it is unlocked.

To practice your skills, you can turn off the screen and lock your phone by pressing the power button. TalkBack screen reader (if running) will report “Screen Off”. You must press the power button again to turn on the screen. The unlock gesture can now be performed.

In order for the phone not to sound signals about incoming calls in the off state, you need to perform a gesture similar to the gesture to unlock the phone, but the movement should be from right to left.

Muting the ringer volume does not disable the screen reader’s voice support.

The user can change or disable the above behavior, or choose a different unlocking method.

Phone calls

To answer a phone call on most phones, the user must swipe from left to right, as with the unlock gesture described above. To reject a call, press the power button or perform the unlock gesture in the opposite direction, that is, from right to left.

Some phones (such as the HTC G1 and LG Ally) have physical call and end buttons that can be used instead of gestures.

To end a call on a phone without a physical button, you must press a button on the touchscreen. The button is available, so you can use the navigation bar to find and click the button. However, this cannot always be done quickly.

If your device is running Android 2.2 or later, there must be a checkbox under Accessibility that allows you to use the power button to end the call.

The end call button on the touch screen can be pressed directly: it is located in the center of the screen and slightly downward. However, it should be remembered that some phones turn off the screen during connection (if you bring them close to your ear) (it is assumed that during a call the user cannot see the screen and the system turns off the screen in order to save energy). for this reason, you must move the phone some distance from your head before pressing the end-of-call button on the touch screen.


Most of the accessibility issues have been discussed above. Answers to other questions about working with the device and applications can be found in the user manual supplied with the device, on the Internet, etc. After enabling and configuring the necessary accessibility features, the work of blind and visually impaired users with applications, as a rule, does not differ much from the work of sighted users.

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