Whenever my Android phone gets a new software update, I like to immediately check out what’s new in accessibility settings for users with vision impairment. Since I have a Google Pixel 2, I received the opportunity to update my phone’s operating system from Android Oreo (8.1) to Android Pie (9.0) before the update is pushed to more phones this fall. Today, I will be sharing what’s new with Android Pie, and my tips and tricks for making Android Pie accessible for vision impairment.
Search in settings
The settings menu now features a search bar at the top where users can type in what they are trying to change, and then they can select the option that best fits their needs- no more scrolling through a seemingly endless amount of menus trying to find a specific setting. This is perfect for when someone is first setting up their phone for vision impairment.
The accessibility menu is a new feature in Android Pie that allows people to push on screen buttons to activate common functions such as Google Assistant, notifications, volume keys, lock screen, app switcher, and power button. This is especially useful for people with limited hand strength or that prefer to use the screen for navigation.
My phone has four touch screen based buttons across the bottom. From left to right, there is a back key, a home key, a more options key, and an accessibility key. The accessibility shortcut can be configured to be a quick way to activate select-to-speak, magnifier, or the accessibility menu. They can be used in any app without having to navigate to a new menu first.
Volume key shortcut
I frequently use the select-to-speak screen reader and the magnifier functions on my phone. Before the update, the only accessibility shortcut was the bottom button. However with Android Pie, now users can hold down both volume keys and activate select accessibility functions. These include TalkBack, select-to-speak, color inversion, color correction colorblindness display, accessibility menu, or switch access. I decided to configure mine so that select-to-speak is activated when I squeeze the volume buttons.
I was interested in the option to remove animations in accessibility settings since I am sensitive to moving images. While it isn’t a noticeable decrease, I appreciate having the option to turn off parallax and unnecessary flashing effects when possible. I also have this setting on my iPad.
Light or dark theme
Black text on a white background can be difficult to focus on due to glare. With Android Pie, users now have the option to have a dark background with light colored text displayed on select menus, such as in the status bar.
High contrast text
High contrast text has been available in previous versions of Android, but it’s still a little-known feature. For apps with colored backgrounds, the text is switched to be white text with a black outline, or vice versa. This way, text can be viewed with clarity no matter what the background color is.
Rearrange status bar settings
One of the features I enjoy is the ability to rearrange quick settings in the status bar. The default order of settings in the status bar did not make sense for me and my needs. I decided to remove settings buttons I never use and drag the ones I use the most to the first line. I’m glad to have no more scrambling to find night mode when my eyes are fatigued.
Should I upgrade to Android Pie?
Every user is different, but if you are interested in any of the above accessibility features, I recommend updating to Android Pie. The software update will be rolled out to more users in the coming weeks and will also come with bug fixes and other improvements. As for me, I have really enjoyed getting to explore the new vision impairment accessibility features in Android Pie, and look forward to seeing more features added to Android in future releases.