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Android accessibility settings: 5 hidden options everyone should be using

The Android system, whether you own an LG G3, Galaxy S4 or Nexus 5, has a number of accessibility options built in for those hard of hearing, suffering from a vision impairment or any other number of other conditions that might make the standard operation of your Android difficult. These are great features to be sure, but you don't need to be as blind as me to take advantage of them. Here's five accessibility settings you should be using.

AndroidPIT LG G3 Accessibility teaser
Accessibility options are a treasure trove of cool features you probably didn't even know existed. © ANDROIDPIT

Accessibility options come in all shapes and sizes and many are unique to the particular device or Android version that you have. There are some stock Android accessibility settings you'll find everywhere, like TalkBack, font size, captions and ''touch and hold'' delay time settings, but there's lots more, some that are really cool like using your LED flash as a notification LED. So take a look through your particular device's settings and see what you can make use of. Here's the five I think are the coolest though.

AndroidPIT LG G2 Accessibility 1
Some devices have more accessibility options than others. This is the LG G3. © ANDROIDPIT
AndroidPIT Nexus 5 Accessibility Captions Magnification
The basics like captions are great, but magnification gestures are even cooler. © ANDROIDPIT

1. Magnification gestures

You know how we've shown you cool one-handed Google Maps gestures in the past, like for zooming in and out? Well, you can do the same thing system wide with the magnification gestures accessibility option. If you enable the option you can triple tap to zoom in and triple tap to zoom out again. If you triple tap and hold, you can temporarily magnify your screen and pan around, then just release to go back to normal. It's a super useful feature once you start using it.

AndroidPIT Accessibility Magnification Zoom
Magnification gestures let you triple tap to zoom in, even just to temporarily magnify. © ANDROIDPIT

2. Text-to-Speech

Probably the most well known of all accessibility features, you may have even used this already. All you need to do is have the Google Text-to-Speech engine enabled and then download the language pack you want.

I use Text-to-Speech as a simple way to finally get through all the content I save to Pocket for later reading. Which I never get around to. So I simply hit the menu button in an article I've saved to Pocket and let Google read the article to me while I prepare dinner. That, my friends, is the definition of laziness! But I prefer to call it efficiency.

AndroidPIT Accessibility Text To Speech Pocket
You can use Google's Text-to-Speech engine to read articles saved to Pocket. © ANDROIDPIT

3. Negative colors/Color adjustment/Invert colors

If you have a Samsung and don't really like the dark background vibe, you can simply go into the accessibility settings and check the box next to Negative Colors. Et voila! You will now have a white themed TouchWiz interface. 

The same thing works on the LG G3 too, where it is called Invert Colors, but as you can see in the topmost image, you might get some pretty whacky color combinations. Likewise, both Samsung and LG's accessibility options allow you to adjust screen and content colors for your particular visual needs.

AndroidPIT LG G2 Accessibility 2
Accessibility options are really worth getting to know. © ANDROIDPIT

4. TalkBack/Explore by Touch

TalkBack is awesome, especially if your eyesight is as bad as mine or you've lost your glasses. You can even use this if your screen has issues, as long as your touchscreen is still responsive. Once you've enabled the option, whatever you tap, press or activate will be spoken aloud to you. Explore by Touch is the same thing under a different name. The additional settings for TalkBack are enormous and definitely worth checking out further.

AndroidPIT Nexus 5 Accessibility TalkBack Settings
There's no shortage of settings for TalkBack. © ANDROIDPIT
AndroidPIT Accessibility Explore By Touch Interaction Control
Explore by Touch and Interaction Controls are good options to be aware of too. © ANDROIDPIT

5. Interaction control

Interaction control appears on Samsung devices either through the accessibility menu or by pressing Home and the Volume Down buttons. It lets you turn your motion gestures and screen timeout settings on or off, but the coolest part of it is that you can block off specific areas of the screen from responding to touch input, like the status bar or notification shade, for example.

AndroidPIT TouchWiz Interaction Controls
You can select certain areas of the screen not to be responsive to touch feedback. © ANDROIDPIT

Check your particular device's accessibility settings to see if you have these features listed under a different name. For example, the LG G3 calls Interaction Controls, ''Touch Control Areas,'' so a little bit of exploration is definitely worthwhile. I've added screenshots from a Nexus 5, Galaxy S4 and the LG G3 in this article to give you a quick look at the various options available in Accessibility Settings. Here's the rest of the Galaxy S4's accessibility options for rererence.

AndroidPIT Galaxy S4 Accessibility 2
Accessibility options on any device are worth looking into. This is the Galaxy S4. © ANDROIDPIT
AndroidPIT Galaxy S4 Accessibility 1
Accessibility often crosses over into the realm of customizations. © ANDROIDPIT

I won't walk you through every single accessibility setting because there's simply too many, as you can probabyly tell, but these are a few of the ones I use and appreciate. In any case, I hope I've sparked your interest enough to encourage you to check them out for yourself because there's some truly great stuff in there, whether you think you need it or not.

Do you use accessibility options? What is your favorite and what do you use it for?

19 comments

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  • I tried the colour inversion and the phone looked great. Then go to gallery or any app all the colours are inverted there too making it impossible to use.

  • Where did my talk to text go, I used it all the time and now it is gone since the
    Last update. Don't think I want to update this time.

  • all my notices have started to say hidden until I switch phone on this has just started help
    I have Samsung s6 edge plus

    • G'day, if you are still having this problem. Go into your settings, enter "my device" go in to "sounds and notifications" Scroll down to "notifications" press "while locked" and choose "show all content" This should solve it.

  • 18
    anshul 9 months ago Link to comment

    Hi Kris, thank you for this nice article. I have one question that what exactly CAPTION is.

  • Hi there, thanks for a great article!
    However, I've noticed that, sometimes, magnification gestures or large texte options are not enough for people with sight loss issues.
    This is why the company I work for, Claria, has just launched a new android app for elderly and partially sighted people. Claria Zoom offers an easy-to-read interface (big characters, contrasted keyboards) and more than 20 features really desgiend for low vision. The app acts as a launcher so people with low vision can basically do pretty everything using only Claria Zoom. You can visit our website for more info www.claria-zoom.com or watch our latest video!
    Would be great if you could all give a go to our app and help us spread the word about it!
    Have a great one :)
    Salomé

  • One of the problems I noted was that a Samsung Galaxy Light is not listed as an S4 so my problem lies in the fact that even though sometimes referred to as an S4 the device I possess does not possess the accessibility options listed among the I suppose more popular S4's, which is probably due to the fact that these though almost as good as the more popular model, are lacking, because for one thing, they are commonly the sale priced variety, so perhaps there are no fun options for the accessibility area of my device, sorry to have bothered you, but if at some time in the future perhaps you can review any options that might be utilities through the accessibility area of these Galaxy Light phones, because I believe there are quite a few out here, because of the companies offering them at a discounted price for becoming a customer of theirs, thank you for your time, and consideration in not referring to me on some rude manner because of my mistaken idea about my device somehow fitting in with those of the people with enough money to actually afford a more luxurious phone, I though because the reference calls it a four it was an S4,mistakes do happen, and this unfortunately is one more I am able to chalk up as a learning experience. Thank you.

  • These are answers to my comment, seems like all they're lacking is anything to do with mcomments of yesterday but that's all right, because there probably isn't an answer, I went through all my settings there is no negative color setting, or a number of the other ones mentioned,.as far as screen capturing, I tried it several times, before I realized it would only switch my phone to airplane mode, shut it off, restart it, and some other thing that had no function concerning pictures, screens, or other various super abilities, also my phone dies not allow me to cause the bottom of the screen, or the top, of the side, or the middle of my screen to be disabled to touch. I am unsure of how many people have this type of phone, but if you have one, whether, a reader of this, or the writer of this, please check out the phone settings thoroughly, because I looked, and if it's there it's not where you listed it as being, or I maybe missed one setting, after all I was pretty frustrated when everything I could do with my phone, I actually couldn't do with my phone, I know its impossible, unless your Bill Gates, or William Randolph Hearst, to possess each of the types of phones out there, but this is not able to do other things, written up in Drippler, I think it's called. If you really, and I do mean really know how to make these work contact me, all of these comments written here were supposed to be comments on my comments, according to my email. What can I say?

  • I'm using Magnicaton Gesture, sometimes also negative colors(invert colors). Tekst to Speech is not in my lanquaqe, buth it is worth, so as talk back if you need it. I unfortunetly, didn't find haw to make a sreenshot on my Nexus 5...
    Thank's for instructions.

  • I haven't found any of these settings within accessibility anywhere on my Samsung Galaxy Light S4 phone, none of those settings work, perhaps I shouldn't have subscribed to these things, especially if they don't work in my phone. I am unable to locate half or more of the settings you talk about, and some just don't work period, I have yet to find any truth in any thing written here, why is that, I am very familiar with this Android, and it just isn't as you describe in your article perhaps more research is needed, I am not trying to be rude, but I stopped after each thing that supposedly pertained to Samsung, and I found nothing in it that was even simewhat true, so maybe you could revise it to cover phones that don't have these options, and do not work as described.

  • First of all, the options are NOT hidden. They are on the setting menu under their respective areas. I've gone thru all that apply to me several times already.
    But the real question for me is: "Can I get the black background screens without the idiocy of the Negative Colors option?" Yes, negative colors will change the background for Android system apps and the phone app, BUT pictures or video is purely worthless. And flipping the colors creates some menu color combinations that are not particularly readable. Look at the high contrast #2 on windows as an example of a black background color scheme that is usable. Perhaps negative colors is meant for users tripping and in need of visual stimulation, but it is worthless for someone seeking a more readable phone.
    I have monocular double vision in my good eye. What that means functionally is that a white background can make the text on it unreadable, and in some/many cases make it disapopear alltogether. Black backgrounds like Android had in 4.2.2 were much more usable.
    Second. Those cute thin ornate fonts may be all the rage but they are NOT easy to read. Clean thick fonts are what I want.
    So can someone tell me how to get the old Android black background back?
    I sent a mail to the Android development group who is working on accessibility option on 5.0.1, but after two weeks I haven't even gotten an acknowledgement.
    There seems to be a lot of talk about accessibility, but actually getting real features onto the Android phone is sadly lacking.

    • Hi there! I've just read your comment and I thought that you might be interested in Claria Zoom. It's an Android app for people with low vision, and it offers 4 contrasted colors themes to make the phone readable for you! Particularly, we have a black background theme that would probably suit your needs. Claria Zoom works with any Android smartphone with version 4.2 and above, and can be downloaded for free on the google play store. I hope this will help you :)
      Cheers

  • Cool i love negativ colors

  • Its such a joy to have an Android smartphone because of its customization. You can completely change its look and feel at the same time utilize its settings to make it more useful.

  • I tryed that's five accessibility and it works..
    I didn't know that they exist; thank you for information...

  • hey Kris, it would be awesome to have a link to the article about a few developer options, from uhhh about 7 months ago (or a year).
    I was wanting to glance over that one yesterday, but didn't get to search for it (2 kids ). But this seems a prime place for a link.
    good article. keep 'em coming

  • How to add custom theme to the Android Launcher?

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