Android 101

audio version (opens in a new tab)

 

I have been using an Android smartphone for almost 5 years. I value the device because it is more accessible and useful compared to older mobile phones I used in the past. For example, I can send and hear text messages on Android, which was not possible with the older phones I have experienced. Additionally, a Google search can be performed on an Android phone without using a computer. In this article, I will provide a brief overview of Android accessibility features, the Google play store and apps.

 

The accessibility function of Android which I value most is TalkBack, part of Android Accessibility Suite from Google. If this software is not currently on your Android phone, it is available from theGoogle Play Store. If downloading it is necessary, you can

download Android Accessibility Suite here.

TalkBack screen reader provides spoken feedback. After TalkBack is turned on, I found it beneficial to enable TalkBack’s Explore By Touch setting to hear where I am on-screen as I navigate. More information about Explore By Touch can be found in this Android Accessibility

article by Google: “Navigate your device with TalkBack”.

People who only need text-to-speech feedback occasionally could try the accessibility Select To Speak option, which speaks text when selected. Other readers of this article might find Switch Access useful, which enables phone usage using a keyboard or switches. On my smartphone, the various Google Accessibility Suite options can be found by going to settings, general, accessibility. Since there are so many different smartphones and Android versions, it is possible the Accessibility menu might be in a different section of settings. I will now discuss the Google play store.

 

Google’s Play Store is where Android apps can be obtained. For those unfamiliar with it, here is a link to

the Google Play Store.

When the Store app is opened, it is possible to scroll through a list of suggested apps. You can use the Voice Search button to speak what you are looking for or the Search button to type in same information. When I find an app of interest, I double-tap on it to open the app’s page on the Store. If the app is compatible with your device, there should be an Install button. Updates for installed apps are released from time to time. I find them by double-tapping when I hear TalkBack say “open navigation drawer button”, then select “my apps and games”. A list of app updates is then displayed. Speaking of apps, it is time to discuss them in detail.

 

Android apps are crucial because they can enable your phone to do more things. As I explained above, they can be downloaded from the Google Play store. A free to use app which I find incredibly valuable is

Free Notification Reader from any App by Marius Pelix.

After sufficient configuration, Free Notification Reader can verbalize notifications from apps installed on your smartphone using text-to-speech. I use it to receive spoken notifications about incoming calls and text messages, as well as alerts when the battery needs to be charged. The app developer, an individual, makes clear in app description that his app is not intended for Android beginners. If you are new to Android and might find the app useful, I recommend downloading and trying it after acquiring some Android experience. After installation, I also recommend reading the help pages by selecting the “help” button in the app. There are Beginner and Expert modes. I have been using the app’s Expert mode for months because it gives me more control over app options. For example, using the “Force Text-To-Speech Engine” in the Expert mode, I set the app to speak using a speech engine other than Google to prevent a conflict iwth TalkBack. I want to publicly thank the developer for considering and implementiong suggestions I made over a period of several months to improve app accessibility for TalkBack users. Whichever apps readers of my article choose to use, there is certain to be something worth trying in the Google Play Store!

 

Question for readers: If you use Android, which apps do you find beneficial and why? I will return next week with another article.

 

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