This post is about using iOS and Android software on a smartphone for accessibility.

There are differences, advantages and negative things between iOS and Android systems, I’ll use them both in a similar way to see if features are possible in both. I have previously reviewed an Android system and it’s my feeling that the features still need improving for individuals who are visually impaired.

Features Comparison

The experience I’ve had with using different devices has been mixed. It will depend on the nature of the visual impairment of the individual and what things they would like to use their devices for – or continue using. However, typically the built in software on an iOS device still far outpaces that which is on an Android device.

On Android you can say ‘OK Google’ to set alarms, write reminders, send an email in a similar way to the iOS device using Siri; but it’s worth noting that the google service sends the email without a subject line, so the person receiving your email will see no subject for it. The iOS service asks you what the subject is, and then what your message is.

How easy is it to change a Setting?

Another difference between the two systems is the ability to turn a setting on or off easily. When using iOS (an iPhone or iPad) you can ask it to turn a setting on or off – for example turn on voice over, which is a very important setting! You only need to ask Siri, ‘Hey Siri, turn on voiceover’.

The Android equivalent of asking it to turn a setting on or off doesn’t activate the setting unfortunately, it presents you with a webpage containing the information on how you can turn that setting on or off. It doesn’t actually control the setting for you so is little help. Other issues are when you do manage to find the accessibility setting that you want on for example to turn on ‘talkback’, a similar service to VoiceOver, it doesn’t seem to work with Ok Google.

VoiceOver can be important if you are writing an email purely by voice and listening, if I ask Siri to write an email for me, when I am finished, VoiceOver will read back to me what is now in the email it is writing. Meaning, before I say ‘send’, VoiceOver will read my email content so I know exactly what is being sent. There just doesn’t seem to be a way to get Android to do this easily or with few steps to follow.

Overall, OK Google on an Android phone is getting much better and there are more abilities and information retrieval functions with each release of a new operating system. However, for a visually impaired person the built in ability of iOS and the huge feature set of commands and use makes the device a real usable informative support to any individual. Also, it will depend on which Android device you are using and if you can update it to the current version of Android software or not. Apple have built accessibility settings directly into the operating system which means accessibility works across many apps, giving it great functionality.

See our guides for more information and individual ways a smartphone can help and be used!

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