Android N Brings Improved Accessibility

Editor’s Note:  This post is concerning a feature in Android N.  As this new version of Android is still in development, the features described in this post could change between the time of the writing and when it is released to the public in the summer of 2016.

There was a time, in the not-to-distant-past, where being visually impaired made using a smartphone or even a PC challenging.  While huge strides have been made on the PC front, the accessibility changes needed on smartphones to help those with vision challenges have been slow to come.  It has improved significantly as both Google and Apple focus on this with their platforms, but there is always room for improvement.  As I dig into Android N further, it looks like those improvements are coming to the next generation of Android in a positive way.

In the new version of Android, visual assistance comes in two primary forms.  First, during the setup of your device, you can enable Vision Settings to make the setup easier.  The logic here is pretty straightforward:  If you need vision assistance while using your phone, chances are you need assistance in setting it up too.  That’s where the Vision Settings comes into play.  Display large on the bottom of the initial setup screen, users can tap it and then select things like triple-tap zooming, larger fonts and Talkback where the device can read the screen contents aloud for users.

Android N
Android N

The second big change is after setup and you access Accessibility in the Settings menu.  While in Marshmallow you had the ability to use larger text and enable triple-tap zooming, you were basically only enlarging the text.  In N, this changes.  It actually changes the screen DPI so everything is larger (or smaller) including things like the navigation keys and the System information at the top of the display. This should make the user experience more uniform for those who need the visual aids.  The good news is that the way this is implemented, most apps should be compatible with this new functionality Day One.

This is quite a bit different than the larger text feature that has been in Android for some time.  That feature only made text and a few other elements on the screen larger but things like the navigation button remained their regular size.  N changes that and it is certainly for the better.