The Accessible Android blog is back.

Access Ana's Android blog is back.


This time she decided to go with


Be sure to keep up with her blog at


You may recall that there was a similar blog by her hosted on Google's BlogSpot however, that blog deals primarily with the older versions of Android.


Should you be using an older version of Android, why not visit the older blog at


We will keep an eye on that blog and naturally link to any interesting posts.

Accessibility in Android’s Ice cream Sandwitch


Google’s Android operating system has definitely come a long way since speech and other accessibility features were introduced in Android v1.6.

In light of saving some of you some time, I can’t say yet that everything with regards to accessibility on Ice Cream Sandwitch is perfect and working the way I’d like it to work but, I am not going to dismiss it either.

If you are just looking for an out of the box experience where everything just works and you don’t have to make any changes or ask for any assistance, Apple’s iOS devices would probably fit the bill. Oh, and if you have the money to spend.

On the otherhand, if you don’t mind asking for help with the initial setup and like to try out new things, Android’s Ice Cream Sandwitch may just be the thing you’ve been looking for. Even the older versions, like gingerbread, is reasonably useful; provided that you use the right combination of applications on the right device.

For those with Visual impairments, Ice Cream Sandwitch makes it easier for them to use devices running on Ice Cream Sandwitch through constent improvement on their set of accessibility features. The developers are also very active on the relevant mailing lists, absorbing what users has to say and interacting with them.

A quick overview of accessibility features in ICS

Let’s quickly look at a few accessibility features available in Ice Cream Sandwitch:

  • TalkBack is a preinstalled accessibility service provided by Google. It uses spoken feedback to describe the results of actions, such as launching an app, and events, such as notifications and incoming calls. It also lets you set up these additional types of feedback:
    • Vibration feedback lets you assign vibration patterns to different actions on your phone. (Also known as KickBack.)
    • Sound feedback lets you assign sounds to different actions on your phone. (Also known as SoundBack.)
  • Explore by Touch is a system feature that works in conjunction with TalkBack, allowing you to touch your phone’s screen and hear what’s under your finger via spoken feedback. This feature is helpful to users with no vision.
  • Accessibility settings let you modify your phone’s display and
    sound options, such as increasing the text size, ending a call using
    the power button, and more.

Related settings:

To view all the Accessibility settings available, go to Settings > Accessibility.

To control vibration and sound feedback and other TalkBack behaviors, go to Settings > Accessibility > TalkBack and touch Settings at the bottom of the screen.

More about TalkBack

As mentioned above, TalkBack provides spoken feedback to help you navigate your phone, describing what you touch and activate. Note: Sighted assistance is needed for users with no vision to enable TalkBack if it wasn’t turned on during the initial setup. Drawing of the rectangle during setup doesn’t always activate TalkBack.

To turn TalkBack off or on:

  1. From a Home or All Apps screen, touch the Settings icon.
  2. Go to Accessibility > TalkBack.
  3. Slide the TalkBack switch to the On or Off position.
  4. Touch OK.

When you turn on Talkback, spoken feedback starts immediately. As you navigate your phone, TalkBack describes your actions and alerts you of events, such as notifications and incoming calls.

Change TalkBack settings

  • To modify TalkBack settings, go to Settings > Accessibility > TalkBack and touch Settings at the bottom of the screen.
    When to speak.
  • Ringer volume. Determines whether spoken feedback occurs in Silent or Vibrate mode.
  • Speak when screen is off. Check to turn on spoken feedback when the screen is off.
  • Speak caller ID. Check to hear the caller’s information when you receive a call.
  • Use proximity sensor. Check to silence spoken feedback when you put your phone to your ear or place your hand near its top.
  • Bluetooth output. Check to turn on automatic connection to mono Bluetooth headsets.

Feedback settings

  • Vibration feedback. Check to turn on vibration feedback for actions using Explore by Touch.
  • Assign vibration patterns. Available when Vibration feedback is enabled, it lets you assign vibration patterns when you hover over or take action on items.
  • Sound feedback. Check to control navigation sounds.
  • Sound volume. Available when Sound feedback is checked. Select to match the speech volume or set to 75% or 50%.
  • Assign sounds. Available when Sound feedback is checked. This lets you assign sounds to indicate when you’re hovering over or taking action on specific items.

Control speed of Text-to-Speech

To control the speed of TalkBack’s speech, open Settings from a Home or Apps screen and choose Language & input > Text-to-speech output > Speech rate.

Manage TalkBack volume

To change the volume settings for TalkBack, open Settings from a Home or Apps screen and choose Sound > Volumes. Use the slider for Music, video, games, & other media to change the volume level.

You can also use the volume control on the left side of your phone when you hear the spoken feedback.

Accessibility settings

To modify your phone’s Accessibility settings, go to Settings > Accessibility.

A list of options displays:

  • TalkBack. Controls spoken feedback for visually impaired users.
  • Large text. Check to increase the text size on all your phone’s screens. (For users with low vision)
    This option changes the font size to the largest available. For more fine-grained control over font size, go to Settings > Display > Font size. Note that this setting does not apply to Browser—it has a separate large text setting.
  • Power button ends call. Check to use the Power button to end calls in progress.
  • Auto-rotate screen. Check to have the screen rotate automatically when you change the phone’s orientation.
  • Speak passwords. Check to get spoken feedback while typing passwords.
    If this option is not checked, you will need a headset to hear the letters you type for passwords.
  • Touch & hold delay. Lets you adjust the delay required for the phone to notice that you’re touching and holding an item (for example, to move an app to a Home screen).
  • Install web scripts. Enable this option to have the Browser provide spoken feedback as you browse and interact with web sites and applications.
    To make sure specialized accessibility apps work correctly on your phone, be sure to turn on this option.

I will be doing a more detailed podcast on these features in the near future.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S III

Hopefully by next week, we might get the Samsung Nexus back after a software update.

According to reports, the update of ICS addressed various accessibility issues. We’ll have to wait and see.

The availability of the Samsung Galaxy S III is also somewhat of a challenge. I know that many of you have asked me to do a review of this beauty however, this phone is in such high demand, that they can only let me have one of the test phones in July.

I promise, I will post news the moment I get it.

Hang on and don’t upgrade just yet….

Samsung Galaxy Gio S5660, not as accessible

At just over r2,200.00, The Galaxy Gio S5660 is another entry-level phone from Samsung that offers a really bright display and visually attracktive body. However, this phone is not recommended for totally blind people due to the fact that it lacks a  decent form of navigation.


A virtual trackpad is available from the TalkBack screenreader but, something in the setup is preventing it from being activated.


I was able to get the speech to work on the phone and, I even managed to swipe around and get to some items but, the main problem I faced was the lack of a navigational keypad, be it software or hardware.  Without this, it is not easy to navigate.


It is possible though that some of the new accessibility applications currently under development, might actually address this.


The – TouchWiz v3.0 UI provides smooth navigation and a generally good experience to a sighted user.


Inside, the Gio is powered by a Qualcomm QCT MSM7227-1 Turbo 800 MHz processor running on Android OS, v2.2 (Froyo), upgradable to v2.3 with 158 MB of internal storage and 278 MB RAM.


The phone weighs 102 g and measures 110.5 x 57.5 x 12.2 mm   
Connectivity wise the Gio has the usual v2.0 microUSB, Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP, WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot, 3G HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps, EDGE and GPRS.


A 3.5mm jack can be found at the top of the phone, more towards the righthand side, if the phone’s screen were to face you.


The loudspeaker is not the best that there is but, it is doable.  If you really want to listen to music, use earphones.


It has an average 3.15 MP, 2048×1536 pixels with autofocus.  According to other users, the camera is relatively good.  I wasn’t able to judge the quality of images since I am totally blind myself.


The phone has rounded corners and is light enough to slip into a pocket without making it feel too uncomfortable.


In conclusion, the Samsung Galaxy Gio is a nice phone with reasonable specs that may serve a partially sighted person when speech is activated.  However, there are other more suitable options available, even for the partially sighted.



Alternatively, it is also available on Prepaid from Hi-Fi Corporation at r1,700.00 on Vodacom, for how long, I won’t be able to say.


Mtn is also offering the Samsung S5660 Galaxy Gio on an Off Peak 50 MTN contract at r50 PM for 24 months Available from 16 to 30 November 2011 or while stocks last. Also note that there is a cost involved for Once-off SIM and connection fee.

Go to your nearest MTN Store to enquire.


Thanks once again to Samsung Mobility for providing us with a demo device.