Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Smartphones can often pose a usability challenge for people with disabilities. But thanks to the efforts of Google and third-party developers, Android is now a lot more approachable and easy to operate for all users.
You can turn your Android phone into a sound amplifier, your personal transcriber, or control it with your face. Here are the best accessibility apps to set up an Android phone to work perfectly for your needs.
1. Voice Access
You’re probably familiar with using Google Assistant commands to execute hands-free actions on your phone, such as “turn on Bluetooth.” But Google’s Voice Access app takes voice control to the next level and allows you to navigate all around your device by voice.
Once you’ve set up the app, it launches an always-on module. This proactively listens for your commands and assigns a number to every action available on the screen.
Instead of touching an app icon or menu element, for instance, you just have to call out the assigned digit. Voice Access links fixed phrases to fundamental actions, like “scroll down” for moving around pages and “go back” to return to the previous screen.
Voice Access’s speech recognition capabilities feature the same technology behind Google Assistant. Therefore, it’s fairly accurate—in our testing, we rarely had to repeat our commands.
Download: Voice Access (Free)
2. EVA Facial Mouse
EVA Facial Mouse is another app to assist those who have issues with touch interactions. It provides people with amputations, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries another way to operate their phones.
EVA Facial Mouse adds a cursor on your phone which you can manipulate through facial movements. To move the pointer, you simply have to move your head in the appropriate direction. When the cursor is over the element you want to select, wait for a moment or two to input a single tap.
You also have the option to switch on a dock for quickly accessing a handful of essential actions including home and multitasking. While EVA Facial Mouse can take a few attempts to learn, it is surprisingly responsive and works as advertised. Plus, you can edit the cursor’s sensitivity and speed to your liking.
Download: EVA Facial Mouse (Free)
3. Sound Amplifier
Sound Amplifier is an Android accessibility app for users that suffer from hearing loss. As its name suggests, the app can amplify the sounds around you. However, it doesn’t do this for every kind of sound.
Sound Amplifier helps you hear conversations better. It sifts through whatever your microphone is picking up, boosts the speech-related frequencies, and curtails the rest.
The app comes with a handy interface from which you can precisely adjust its sound enhancement and noise reduction intensities. In addition, you can apply the volume and fine-tuning settings independently for each ear.
When you install Sound Amplifier, it will be available inside Settings > Accessibility instead of the app drawer. At the time of writing, Sound Amplifier only works with wired earphones and devices running Android 6.0 or above.
Download: Sound Amplifier (Free)
4. Android Accessibility Suite
Android Accessibility Suite is a collection of a few accessibility services by Google. Most stock Android phones come preloaded with these. However, if your phone doesn’t have them, this is for you.
Android Accessibility Suite brings four new options to your phone’s accessibility settings:
- Select to Speak reads aloud selected text (or any image’s content) when you point your phone’s camera at it.
- TalkBack Screen Reader gives you spoken and vibration feedback when you interact with anything on the touchscreen.
- Accessibility Menu gives you quick access to a range of core actions like pulling down the notification panel.
- Switch Access lets you operate your phone using an external keyboard or physical switches.
Download: Android Accessibility Suite (Free)
5. Live Transcribe
For people who are deaf or otherwise find Sound Amplifier inadequate, Google offers Live Transcribe. This app can perform a real-time transcription of speech in over 70 languages and dialects.
When you’re about to enter a conversation, simply fire up the Live Transcribe app and place your phone close to the other person. The app will actively transcribe the speaker’s voice. You can either talk to reply or type in your response on the app itself.
What’s more, Live Transcribe has bilingual support. Thus, if the speaker converses in a different language, the app will automatically translate their and your replies and display them on-screen.
On top of that, you can enable haptic feedback to know when somebody starts or resumes speaking. Live Transcribe can also detect a handful of other types of sounds. For example, if there’s a dog barking near you, the app will prompt a “dog sound” alert.
Download: Live Transcribe (Free)
Lookout is the perfect digital companion for the visually impaired. Powered by the same underlying technology as Google Lens, Lookout can recognize all sorts of objects and dictate their descriptions as well as direction.
For instance, say you’re at a store and the clerk hands you some change. To verify it’s the right amount, you can direct your phone’s camera at the bills and Lookout will tell you their denominations.
Lookout can remain always-on. Hence, Google suggests you wear your Android phone on a lanyard around your neck or put in the front pocket of your shirt. You can even invoke it by knocking on the rear of your phone when it’s on a lanyard. Lookout has a couple of modes for various scenarios, like Shopping for reading barcodes and Quick Read to scan signs or labels.
For now, Google Lookout only supports Google, Samsung, and LG phones, and works in the United States.
Download: Lookout (Free)
Make Use of Your Computer’s Accessibility Tools
Advancements in computer vision and other technologies have made phones much more accessible for all users. These apps help make Android devices handy companions irrespective of any disability.