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A smartphone is a mobile phone with advanced computing power. In addition to making phone calls and sending text messages, smartphones can be connected to the internet. In essence, it is like carrying around a small computer that allows you to communicate with others, access the internet and install advanced applications just like you would on your desktop computer.

The accessibility of a smartphone depends largely on the operating system that is installed. Currently the two biggest competitors in the smartphone market are Apple iOS and Google Android. The most popular Android smartphone is currently the Samsung Galaxy S.

The Apple iPhone is widely regarded by the blind and vision impaired community as the most accessible smartphone on the market, mainly due to its advanced inbuilt screen reader VoiceOver. However, in recent years the accessibility of Android has been greatly improved. Because Android smartphone manufacturers can pick and choose which features to include, not all Android phones are accessible. Some features, including the TalkBack screen reader can be downloaded through Google Play.

Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association offers the Global Accessibility Recording database which lists some of the most common mobile phones and their accessibility features.

Common accessibility features

  • Screen reader: this converts text and other information into synthetic voice for people who are blind.
  • Screen magnifier: Screen magnifiers enlarge text and images on the screen. This is useful for the blind or vision impaired.
  • Adjustable colour schemes: For people who are colour blind or who are vision impaired, the ability to adjust the colour contrast is helpful. Most smartphones give you the option to adjust the colour contrast settings so it is more comfortable to use.
  • Voice recognition: iOS’s Siri and Android’s Voice Search allow users to speak to the phone instead of typing. This can be very useful for performing tasks such as sending a text message.

Accessibility apps

There are many apps which have been developed which aim to make daily tasks such as typing or navigating easier for people with disabilities. These can be found through searching for terms such as “accessibility” and “disability” in the App Store or Google Play.

App reviews

Our Digital Media team tests apps with the VoiceOver screen reader. Currently the accessible app reviews are focussed on the accessibility of Apple iOS apps and for people who are blind or vision impaired. iOS app accessibility reviews are also offered by AppleVis while the American Foundation for the Blind maintains a list of accessible Android apps.

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