7 Android tweaks.
The open nature of Android is a boon when it comes to modifying it to suit your specific needs. Here we list all the apps, accessories and devices that make it ideal for people with disabilities
Android , more than any other mobile operating system, should be the defacto standard for anyone with certain types of visual impediments. Not only can you choose from multiple devices (with different screen sizes), you can do simple modifications like change the launcher, easily automate routine tasks, use many different types of voice assistants, voice commands and voice-activated apps.
Make everything larger
People with myopia (shortsightedness) might have trouble reading small fonts, differentiating between icons and even typing on the onscreen keyboard. You can choose to go into the Accessibility settings and enable the ‘Show Magnifier’ function that lets you enlarge the text in a virtual magnifier, but its use is very limited. Thankfully, there are dedicated apps that can help. A free app called BigFont lets you increase the default font size by up to 300% for easy viewing.
It works on phones running Android 2.3 and above and shows a preview of the increased font size before you decide to use it. Samsung smartphone users can also try the free iFont app, which not only lets you increase the font size, but also allows you to install custom fonts on the phone (for better legibility). If you feel that the icons on your device are too small, get an app called Giganticon. It lets you place your favorite app icon on the homescreen and increase or decrease its size. For the onscreen keyboard, an app called Big Button replaces your stock keyboard with one that has large keys for each alphabet — this makes it a lot easier to see and tap the keys.
Customise your experience
One of the great things about Android is the unbelievable amount of customisation options you have. There are various launchers available for Android that completely change the look and feel of your device. Some launchers even let you customise the app drawer, fonts, icons and various other things. However, to just make everything larger, try Big Launcher. It has a free version with limited functionality.
If you like it, get the paid version for Rs 500. The ease of use that it offers is well worth the price — it replaces your home screen with large, easy-to-read tiles. It even changes the app drawer layout to make it easier to view. Your phone dialer, call logs and SMS inbox are overhauled with larger fonts. You can also customise the launcher with high contrast colour schemes and choose from three-font sizes to suit your vision.
Use more voice
It may take some time to properly configure and train your device, but using voice is a great way to control Android. You can launch apps, make calls, write text messages, set reminders and even capture photographs with just the sound of your voice. Google has its own free Talkback app for vision-impaired users (activate it from accessibility settings). This reads out the selected function or action performed on the touchscreen. There’s also Google Now (Android 4.1 +), a voice assistant which lets you search, dial numbers or send messages using voice. There are many other free apps with voice control.
Most of them require internet connectivity for voice analysis. We recommend a free app called Robin — one of the most responsive and intelligent apps we have seen. The app even alerts you of incoming messages and asks if you want them read aloud to you. If you want an app that works offline, check out a free app called Utter. You can control various functions of your device apart from the usual calling, launching apps and creating various custom voice commands Samsung has its own S-voice assistant that is preloaded on select Galaxy devices. It has fantastic voice recognition ability — you can use it to launch apps, compose and send texts, answer incoming calls and update social networks.
Not everything on Android needs a button press or a voice command — if there are certain things you do by routine, why not automate them? Automation involves certain conditions or triggers. For instance, you could automatically switch on your device’s Wi-Fi when you reach home/office or reduce screen brightness as the battery level lowers beyond a point. There are various ways to do this – Tasker (Rs 200) is the most popular app that you can use to get started. There are various online guides and videos to help you create your own tasks.
If Tasker seems too complex, you can try Automagic (Rs 200) which simplifies the trigger-consequence sequence using a flowchart – it also has a pretty handy tutorial built in. However, the beauty of Android is that if you would rather not spend money on apps, youll usually find án app that does the same thing for free. In this case, AutomateIt is a free automation app (although there is a paid ‘Pro’ version with more features for Rs 120). The kind of things you can do with automation is immense. Some of the triggers include connecting the charger, Bluetooth on/off, battery level, WiFi on/off, a particular time of the day, USB connected/ disconnected, outgoing calls, incoming SMS and so on. The actions that can be performed range from playing a sound, adjusting speaker volume, launch/kill an app, dial a number, send an SMS, shutdown or simply speak out the text on the screen.
Even on large screen devices, individual buttons on the keyboard can be hard to see. The best way to easily type text is with an external keyboard – not only are the physical keys larger but computer users will also be used to the placement of keys.
You can use any Bluetooth keyboard with Android devices. If your device has a USB host port, you can also use any commercially available (and inexpensive) USB keyboard.
If you’re short sighted, the best way to see everything clearer is on a larger display. You can use any HDMI monitor or flat panel TV as a larger display — just make sure that your device has TV out functionality first. Many Android tablets have HDMI (or mini/micro HDMI) output built in, so you only need a cable. Smartphones with TV out tend to have MHL ports (for both USB and HDMI). In this case, you will need an MHL to HDMI adapter and HDMI cable.
Don’t underestimate the usefulness of the good old magnifying glass to help you see better. To make it easier to carry around, this Bausch & Lomb 2x magnifier is foldable, made of unbreakable acrylic and comes with a carry pouch.
The best part is that it can do double duty – use it with digital screens and when you need to read small text in print, it has a built in LED light. You can get it for Rs 4,800 from eBay Global Easy Buy.