The HTC First Accessibility Guide (PDF, 129KB) was recently published on the HTC website to coincide with the release of the smartphone. It provides step-by-step instructions on how to enable accessibility features. The accessibility features includes Android's screen reader, TalkBack, and Explore by Touch. Both of these provide audible feedback for items on the screen. These features help people who are blind or vision impaired navigate Android-run devices through audible feedback.
A note in the Guide however, suggests these accessibility features do not currently work with Facebook Home. The Guide states some accessibility features "may work better with Facebook Home turned off." This means TalkBack and Explore by Touch can't be used to access content delivered by Facebook Home.
Launched earlier this month, Facebook Home is a new service that pushes the Facebook newsfeed to the home screen of a smartphone. Once installed, it becomes part of the smartphone's interface. Users no longer have to sign into Facebook or open the app to access their newsfeed. Status updates are pushed straight to the home screen and comments and 'likes' can be made directly onto it. HTC First is the first device to have Facebook Home pre-installed.
Many blind and vision impaired users have found Facebook (the app, mobile website and main website) largely inaccessible through screen readers. As Facebook Home service incorporates content sharing, chat and messages, allowing these to be compatible with Android's inbuilt screen reader would enable blind and vision impaired users greater access to the social network and its services.
Facebook Home is currently available to download for select Android devices. The HTC First smartphone is available in the USA. An Australian release date is yet to be announced.
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