Android accessibility reviewed

Wednesday, 1 December 2010 17:27pm

Media Access Australia has recently reviewed Google’s operating system Android for mobile phones, tablets and netbooks, revealing some potential advantages and disadvantages of Android smartphones for sensory impaired users.

Just like computers run an operating system such as Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X, your mobile phone runs an operating system such as Android or iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system. Android is an ‘open source’ system allowing it to be modified and customised to create different interfaces and functions for users.

Launched in 2009, Android is fast becoming the operating system of choice for an increased number of manufacturers in Australia, including Sony and Samsung. But despite Android devices outnumbering Apple iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch, Google has not yet matched Apple’s level of accessibility.

The following is a list of some of the key advantages and disadvantages as outlined by Media Access Australia.


  • Android has three core accessibility services that provide spoken, auditory and vibration feedback respectively.
  • User interface enhancements are available specifically for use by people who are blind or vision impaired. These include:


  • Different Android smartphones run different versions of Android that are not always the latest version with the most advanced accessibility features.
  • Most manufacturers modify Android for individual smartphone models, and if accessibility has not been considered in the interface design, Android’s core accessibility functions may not work.
  • While Google does regularly update Android, there is a lag time as manufacturers have to release their own version for their customised smartphones.
  • Android does not have what is commonly known as a screen zoomer, or universal support for large font sizes.

Despite these access barriers, the relatively new operating system continues to improve its accessibility features, with further improvements expected in the future.

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