The beta release of Android O includes updates to the accessibility tools services, settings and APIs that help users access the mobile operating system.
TalkBack, enables a visually impaired user to interact with their device using touch and spoken feedback. With BrailleBack, blind users can connect their phone to a handheld, refreshable braille display via Bluetooth. Switch Access is an alternative to the touch screen for users with limited mobility.
One new feature coming out on Android O will be to adjust the “accessibility” volume on TalkBack separately from media volume. For example, if a user wants to listen to a video without interruption from the TalkBack feature, they can turn down the accessibility volume while leaving the video volume on.
The new OS also comes with gestures for TalkBack, which takes advantage of fingerprint sensors on the back of devices. It allows TalkBack users to use gestures — such as swiping up or down — to launch specific TalkBack features.
Designers should consider accessibility given that one in five people will have a disability in their lifetime, Patrick Clary, product manager on accessibility engineering, said at the Google I/O conference.
80 percent of people living with disabilities come from the developing world, Clary said.
At the same time, accessibility isn’t just about helping the disabled. “Designing for accessibility is designing for the widest range of abilities in the widest possible range of situations,” Clary said.
Clary and the Android Accessibility team stressed this week that developers should test accessibility features themselves and ask others with disabilities to try out their apps. They can also download the Accessibility Scanner from the Google Play store to find ways to improve accessibility on their app.