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.
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:
- From a Home or All Apps screen, touch the Settings icon.
- Go to Accessibility > TalkBack.
- Slide the TalkBack switch to the On or Off position.
- 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.
- 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.
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.