A Guide to Android Accessibility Settings (With Screenshots)

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A Closer Look at Accessibility Settings

Close up shot of hands using handphone
Carlina Teteris / Getty Images

Android has a slew of accessibility features, some of which are rather complex. Here we're looking at a few of the harder to explain settings complete with screenshots so you can see what each setting does and how it works. 

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Talkback Screen Reader and Select to Speak

Talkback screen reader
Android screenshot

The Talkback screen reader helps you as you navigate your smartphone. On a given screen, it will tell you what kind of screen it is, and what's on it. For example, if you're on a settings page, Talkback will read out the section name (such as notifications). When you tap an icon or item, your selection is outlined in green, and the assistant identifies it. Double tapping the same icon opens it. Talkback reminds you to double tap when you tap on an item.

If there's text on the screen, Talkback will read it to you; for messages it will also tell you the day and time they were sent. It will even tell you when your phone's screen turns off. When you reactivate the screen, it will read out the time. The first time you turn on Talkback, a tutorial appears that walks you through the features. 

Talkback also has several gestures you can use to navigate your smartphone and adjust volume and other settings. Tap on the Wi-Fi icon to verify that you're connected and the battery icon to find out ho much juice you have left.

If you don't need everything read out to you all the time, you can enable Select to Speak, which reads to you on request. Select to Speak has its own icon; tap it first, and then tap another item or drag your finger to another item to get spoken feedback.

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Font Size and High Contrast Text

Increase Fonts
Android screenshot

This setting lets you change the font size on your device from tiny to huge to super huge. As you adjust the size, you can see how the text will look. Above, you can see the font size at the huge and super huge sizes. The full text says: "Main text will look like this." The default size is small.

In addition to size, you can also increase the contrast between the text and the background. This setting can't be adjusted; it's either on or off. 

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Show Button Shapes

Button Shapes On and Off
Android screenshot

Sometimes it's not obvious that something is a button, due to its design. It may look pleasing to some eyes and plain confusing to others. Make buttons stand out by adding a shaded background so you can see them better. Here you can see the help button with the feature enabled and disabled. See the difference? Note this option is not available on our Google Pixel smartphone, which runs Android 7.0; this means it's either not available on stock Android or was left out of the OS update.

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Magnification Gesture

Magnification Gesture
Android screenshott

Separately from adjusting font size, you can use a gesture to zoom in on certain parts of your screen. Once you enable the feature in settings, you can zoom in by tapping the screen three times with your finger, scroll by dragging two or more fingers and adjust zoom by pinching two or more fingers together or apart. 

You can also zoom temporarily by tapping the screen three times and holding your finger down on the third tap. Once you lift your finger, your screen will zoom back out. Note that you can't zoom in on the stock keyboard or navigation bar. 

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Grayscale, Negative Colors, and Color Adjustment

Color Adjustment
Android screenshot

You can change the color scheme of your device to grayscale or negative colors. Grayscale grays out all colors, while negative colors turn black text on white into white text on black. Color adjustment lets you customize the color saturation. You start by arranging 15 color tiles by selecting which color is most similar to the previous one. How you organize them will determine whether or not you need color adjustment. If you do, you can use your camera or an image to make the changes. (Note that this feature is not available on all Android smartphones, including our Pixel XL, which runs Android 7.0.)

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Direction Lock

Direction Lock
Android screenshot

Finally, Direction Lock is another option for unlocking your screen, in addition to fingerprint, pin, password, and pattern. With it, you can unlock the screen by swiping in a series of four to eight directions (up, down, left, or right). This requires settings up a backup pin in case you forget the series. You can opt to show directions and read the directions aloud as you're unlocking. Sound and vibration feedback can also be enabled. (This feature is also not available on our Pixel XL smartphone, which may mean it has been phased out of Android updates.)

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