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Top mobile accessibility tips for Android users

As we become more reliant on mobile devices to stay in touch with loved ones, Accessibility Specialist, Jo Dowdall, shares her collection of tips on how to make Android mobile devices easier to use for everyone.

I’m always surprised by how few people know about the accessibility options that are built into smartphones and tablets. They can be life changing for people when they learn about them, even for people who wouldn’t consider themselves to have a disability.

Please think about sharing these tips with your friends and family, particularly those who are older or vulnerable and likely to be isolated from their normal face to face social contact.

These tips are for users of Android smartphones and tablets – but you can read about accessibility tips for Apple devices here.

1. Text size

Screens are getting bigger and easier to read all the time, but I often find that the text is still too small to read without straining my eyes. Did you know that you can enlarge the text and display size to suit you?

The menus vary between Android devices, but you should find what you are looking by selecting ‘display’ in the ‘settings’ menu.

This example is taken from a Huawei P20.

Settings > Display > Text and display size

Left image of Huawei P20 phone settings menu with display feature highlighted with red box. Right hand side image of display settings menu with 'text and display size' highlighted with red box.

2. Missing notifications

Do you sometimes miss a notification or a call because you didn’t hear your phone ring? Perhaps you had the music up a bit loud or had turned up the volume on the TV for your favourite movie. Or maybe (like me) you have the ring volume turned down because you are fed up of jumping out of your skin every time it rings unexpectedly!

Did you know you can set your phone to flash, as well as or instead of making a noise?

Android varies between devices, however I really like the screen flash option on this Samsung S8, although the camera flash option is also available.

Samsung S8 example: Settings > Accessibility > Advanced Settings > Flash notification

Screenshot of Samsung S8's 'flash notification' settings menu with screen flash selected

3. Extending ringing time

Does your phone always stop ringing just as you get to it? You can extend the length of time it rings for before it goes to voicemail up to 30 seconds.

For any device on the O2 network, using the phone keypad (as if about to dial a number) enter **61*901*11*30#.

If you want it to ring for less than 30 seconds, simply replace ’30’ with the number of seconds you’d like it to ring for but note: it only works for multiples of 5 seconds.

Length of ring Code to dial
5s **61*901*11*05#
10s **61*901*11*10#
15s **61*901*11*15#
20s **61*901*11*20#
25s **61*901*11*25#
30s **61*901*11*30#

4. Easy mode

Did you know most Android devices have an ‘Easy Mode’ or a ‘Simple Mode’? This is a great option for many older people who are nervous of a smartphone. It varies a bit between devices, but it tends to make things bigger, easier to see, and strips out unnecessary/confusing clutter from home screens. The demos here are from a Huawei P20 and a Samsung S8.

Huawei P20 example: Settings > System > Simple Mode

First image: Huawei P20 screenshot of the simple mode menu with enable button highlighted by red box. Image Two: Screenshot of Huawei P20 without simple mode enabled with smaller app buttons and text. Image Three: Screenshot of simple mode enabled, with big buttons and text, and the time showing.

Samsung S8 example: Settings > Display > Easy Mode

Image One: Samsung S8 screenshot of easy mode settings menu with easy mode highlighted with red box. Image 2: Screenshot of homescreen with small icons. Image 3: Screenshot of homescreen with larger icons and text

5. Easy screenshots

Do you struggle to take a screenshot? Or operate any of the manual buttons on your device? Did you know you can have a touchscreen button on the screen permanently to enable you to do all these things just by simply tapping the button on the screen and using the pop-up menus?

In Android it varies between devices. Samsung refer to it is Assistant menu and the icon appears as a grey circle with four darker grey squares inside it.

Samsung 8 example: Settings > Accessibility > Interaction and dexterity > Assistant menu

6. One-handed keyboards

With Android phones seemingly getting bigger all the time, one handed typing is becoming increasingly challenging. Did you know that your Android phone now comes with ‘One-Handed Mode’. It takes the normal keyboard, shrinks it down, and forces it over to either the left or right hand side of your screen.

These examples show how to switch to one-handed mode temporarily, but if you prefer you can set your device to make the one-handed keyboard the default setting.  This can be adjusted in the settings menus on most devices.

Huawei P20 example: open keyboard > three dots > One-handed

Image 1: Screenshot of text to 'Work' with three buttons on keyboard highlighted with red box. Image 2: Screenshot of text to 'Work' with one-handed option highlighted with red box. Image 3: Screenshot of text to 'Work' with arrow on the right hand side of the keyboard, pointing right, highlighted with a red box.

7. Reaching across the screen

This is another great tip for users who find it challenging to reach every part of their screen with one hand. One-handed mode makes all the device’s user interface easier to reach, by shrinking the screen elements and pushing them towards one of the lower corners of the screen.

Huawei P20 example: Settings > Smart assistance > One-handed mode

Once enabled:

If you’re not using three-key navigation, swipe up diagonally from one of the bottom corners.

If you are using three-key navigation, swipe across the navigation bar.

Image 1: Screenshot of Huawei P20 'one-handed mode' settings menu with one-handed mode highlighted with red box. Image 2: Screenshot of Huawei P20 homescreen. Image 3: Screenshot of Huawei P20 homescreen moved to the bottom right hand corner.

I hope this has been useful and you’ve learned some new tips, as well as shared them with friends and family. There are many more hidden gems within settings menus that I’ve not covered here, but I’d encourage you to explore the menus and use the options available to personalise your device. You never know, you might even find something that makes you fall in love with your device all over again!

At O2, we provide a broad range of tips, advice and support concerning accessibility, whether you need help with choosing a suitable mobile phone, understanding your bill, or simply getting in touch. Find out more here.

If you’d like to connect, you can find me on LinkedIn here.


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