Accessibility Tips for Smartphone Users

Accessibility Tips for Smartphone Users

You might not realise it, but your smartphone is fully equipped with a full arsenal of features designed to make it as accessible as possible. Whether you suffer from visual or hearing impairments, or you require assistance when it comes to dexterity, both Google and Apple have ensured Android devices and iPhones can be enjoyed by absolutely everyone.

Explore the range of accessibility options currently available on iPhone and Android handsets below.

iPhone Accessibility

Apple has ensured iOS 13 (alongside older variations of its operating system) are full of accessibility features to help every user. All you need to do is change a few simple settings on your device to activate them.

Activating Assistive Touch

Assistive Touch has been designed to make it easier to access certain apps, controls and gestures on the iPhone. Once switched on, you'll notice a semi-transparent circle will pop up which can be moved to any position across your screen.


The Assistive Touch button will always be visible, whether you're browsing the web, on the home screen or using apps like YouTube or Facebook. To turn Assistive Touch on, and customise what it can do, just head to Settings > Accessibility > Touch. Switch on the toggle, and then scroll down to see how you can customise it for your own personal use.

First up, changing what a single tap, a double tap and a long press on the Assistive Touch icon can do. There's a huge range of options available, such as assigning a single tap to open up the Assistive Touch menu, a double tap to automatically lock your handset, and directing a long press to take a screenshot for you.


Under the assistive touch menu, you can add up to eight icons to the Top Level Menu for quick access to a multitude of gestures and controls. Options include Lock Rotation, App Switch, Control Centre, Siri, SOS, Apple Pay and various scrolling features.


Smartphone screens keep getting bigger, with the largest iPhone models offering displays that measure 6.5 inches. While this is fantastic for cinematic viewing and immersive gaming, it can make it difficult for some users to reach certain parts of the screen - especially using one hand.

Reachability helps to solve this, by providing you with the option to bring the top of the screen closer to the centre whenever you need it. To enable Reachability, open Settings > Accessibility > Touch and turn Reachability on.

For iPhone models that use Face ID, you'll need to swipe down at the bottom edge of your screen to bring everything closer to you, then swipe back up to return the screen to normal. For iPhones that have a physical home button, the Reachability feature can be activated by double tapping (not pressing) the home button. To return, just double tap the home button once more.

Type to Siri

Everyone knows how useful Siri can be when it comes to carrying out tasks on your iPhone with a voice command, but if you have any trouble communicating to Siri using the spoken word, it is possible to still access the intelligent assistant. Instead, you can type to Siri - just head to Settings > Accessibility > Type to Siri.


If you're struggling to see something in detail - such as text in a book or on a sign - Apple's Magnifier can help. Designed as an aid for the visually impaired, Magnifier essentially acts as a magnifying glass and zooms in on objects around you.

To activate the Magnifier shortcut, you'll need to visit Settings, click Accessibility and turn on Magnifier. Once this is done, iPhones with Face ID require users to triple-click the side button to launch Magnifier, whilst iPhones that still have a physical home button require this to be pressed three times.

Enable subtitles and captioning

Closed captioning can be quickly enabled on any iPhone with just a few taps. Head over to Settings > Accessibility, select Subtitles and Captioning, and activate the feature. When available, your iPhone will then display closed captions over media to help those who are deaf or have difficulty hearing.

Android Accessibility

Just like the iPhone, you'll find loads of accessibility features built into the Android operating system. Whether it’s a Huawei, Samsung, Oppo or another Android handset you own, the following features should be available on your phone.

Android Accessibility Suite

Pre-installed, or ready to download from the Google Play store, Android's Accessibility Suite has a large range of options to assist the visually impaired or blind.

TalkBack & Select to Speak

You'll be able to choose between two forms of screen reader on most Android devices: TalkBack and Select to Speak. TalkBack provides spoken feedback to help you use your phone without looking at its screen, and it can be switched on easily in Settings. With TalkBack enabled, you'll be able to do an endless number of tasks on your phone, with spoken feedback guiding you through each step. For example, you can assign shortcuts to various gestures (such as swipe down, swipe up), instruct TalkBack to read everything on your screen, edit text and so much more - all while hearing helpful, spoken guidance from the device.

Select to Speak, meanwhile, will not provide a continuous spoken feedback experience. Instead, you will be able to manually select items on a screen to be read or described aloud - the help will be there whenever you need it.


Android also offers support for Braille displays, via an app called BrailleBack. This app needs to be downloaded separately from the Google Play store, but once installed it enables the content on your smartphone's screen to appear on your Braille display. Working with TalkBack, BrailleBack provides a combined braille and speech experience. You'll be able to enjoy the content on your smartphone's screen in braille, and interact by inputting text on your Braille keyboard.


Switch Access

With Switch Access turned on, you can operate any Android device using a switch (which is the term given to a device designed to send a keystroke signal to your phone). Created to assist anyone with dexterity issues, this feature means you can navigate and type on your phone using a larger, easier-to-access device (like an external keyboard, for example).

Visibility and Audio Enhancements

Heading into Settings > Accessibility will introduce you to a number of visual and audio options created to ensure everyone can use their Android handset without any difficulty. You'll be able to adjust the display and font size from this menu, change contrast and colour settings on your screen and also enable Magnification, which works in the same way as the feature mentioned above, that's found on iPhones.

You'll also find a number of audio and on-screen text features via the Accessibility menu. You can enable Captions, use Live Transcribe to capture real-time speech and convert it into text, pair a hearing aid to your Android device and even use text during a phone call to communicate if speaking aloud is not an option for you. Google Pixel users may also turn on Live Caption, which will add closed captions to any media playing on your handset.

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