With advancements in technology, mobile apps have made life easier for everyone. However, not all app developers make it easy for users to access their apps. This will be a problem especially for people with disabilities. Undoubtedly, Android offers an array of accessibility features and options. For app developers, making such features easily accessible and easy to use is often an afterthought.
It is even more challenging when you turn to different resources to get an idea on how you can use accessibility features. This is because of a few mentions and if you find wealthy information, it isn’t always straightforward. Here, we take a look at how to setup and use accessibility features in Android.
Setting Up and Using Accessibility Features
Add Content Descriptions
Content Description is an amazing accessibility feature that is equally easy to implement. Google often uses descriptions including Checkbox, Image Button and Image view to enhance user experience. It is crucial that you include content descriptions to make every app self-explanatory and easy to use. This way, everyone including the physically impaired can easily navigate on your app.
You can use XML layout or traditional Java methods to add content descriptions.
Work on Focus Navigation
Focus navigation is an easy way to set up your accessibility features without necessarily having to use a touchscreen. Android offers different features including arrow keys, D-pads and trackballs among others that are quite common in most smartphones in the market today. In this case, you need to design and set up apps that support easy navigation.
All your input elements should be easy to access, clickable, focusable for all including the physically challenged. Remember, on Android, each control element is enabled by default. If you wish to customize your features or elements, you can always use Android: Focusable attribute or the Setfocusable feature.
Take Advantage or Enable Accessibility Service
An accessibility service for Android plays a very significant role. It communicates efficiently with users and offers feedback based on user experience. Accessibility services include visual cues, haptic feedback and text to speech among others. You can also optimize Explore by Touch, Magnification, Switch Access and TalkBack Android default feature for users who are physically challenged.
Accessibility services allow you to give a better experience to your app users. Auto Voice and Tasker, for instance, can be turned on or off based on the user’s needs.
- TalkBack gives different cues for visually and physically impaired users because it works as an inbuilt screen reader. Therefore, it gives audio, verbal and vibration cues. Based on the user’s preferences, the feature can be turned on or off. What’s more, it can be customized by adjusting volume as well as the pitch when reading.
- Explore on Touch and Talkback are advanced and you can use them efficiently even when handling sensitive information. This includes content that has passwords or credit card information.
- Magnification feature is also an incredible android accessibility feature that is ideal for users with no disabilities. To zoom in or out, you need to triple tap and magnify by holding on just under the finger.
- Caption accessibility feature is ideal for all android users because of captioning. As such, images and videos are captioned to match a user’s unique needs based on the size, type and size of the caption. System-wide captioning is however not supported in all Android devices.
- Power Button End Calls is an easily accessible feature that is useful for all Android users. It is easy to set and use, but you only need to be mindful of how frequent you use your phone. You can choose a physical button to answer your calls.
- Large Text is a feature that works best for all and more specifically the visually impaired. This is because you can easily enlarge small texts to enhance readability.
- Auto Rotation setting works by enabling you to access the screen from different display options.
- Speak Passwords can be used whenever you need to use it.
- Accessibility shortcut is designed to help you access multiple accounts on your android device.
- Touch and Hold Delay is designed to customize your hold and press tasks or actions. This is crucial when navigating on your device.
- Text to Speech feature helps you to access the submenu, choose your most preferred text to speech engine, and choose speech rate, the language you want to use and other related actions. It is vital if you want to use more than one language.
Test the Tools
Once you have set and enabled accessibility service, you need to test them. This is a vital part of the accessibility features implementation process. It can be done after you have enabled the features you want to use including The Explore by Touch and TalkBack. Try to navigate on your app for directional controls, feedback and audio. It allows you to determine if each feature or element functions as desired and offers the needed feedback.
Testing also helps to prevent unforeseen challenges because of Android guidelines on setting up and using accessibility features. For instance, you need 48 DP in length and width for your focusable elements. Testing, therefore, helps you to ensure all the guidelines were observed for easy accessibility.
To ensure that users with physical and visual impairments enjoy easy accessibility of your app, ensure you have cues that offer notifications and popups. This can be visual cues, haptic feedback, and video playback among other features. Remember, you can always customize your setup for android accessibility that matches your unique needs. This includes;
- Using a screen reader including TalkBack and Select to speak features.
- Change your display (font size, magnification, colour options, contrast, and other items).
- Use interaction controls (switch access, voice access and time to take action).
- Use braille display or Braille Back as a TalkBack for the visually impaired.
- Explore Audio and on-screen text (Captioning, sound amplifiers, hearing aid support and Real-time text when you are in a call).
- Explore different Android Accessibility apps and services.
- Design easily accessible apps.