Veronica With Four Eyes

How To Use Select-to-speak on Android

As someone with fluctuating vision, I don’t need to use a screen reader all the time for accessing media, but find it helpful to have text read out loud on occasion. Instead of using a screen reader that is always on, I use text-to-speech tools like Select-to-speak for Android so that I can have an on-demand screen reader at the push of a button. Here is how I use Select-to-speak on Android as a user with low vision and print disabilities.


A screen reader is a tool used by people with vision loss that reads information out loud on a webpage or in an application. Screen readers allow users to navigate their device using a keyboard or a series of gestures, and are typically “always on”- if someone has a screen reader enabled, it is reasonable to assume that the user would be unable to use their device if the screen reader were turned off.

Text-to-speech or on-demand screen readers are tools used by people with vision loss or print disabilities that impact the ability to read standard text. They can be activated on an as-needed basis by selecting a shortcut, pressing a button, or using a keyboard/gesture shortcut. Once text-to-speech finishes reading all the information on a page, it shuts off until the user activates it again. Text-to-speech does not use any specific gestures or require the user to change how they interact with their device.


What is Select-to-speak?

Select-to-speak is an on-demand screen reader from Google that reads selected text on the screen, as well as alt text and other elements on the page that would traditionally be read out loud by a screen reader like TalkBack or ChromeVox. Users can tap the play button to hear everything on the screen, or tap/drag their fingers to select single or multiple items when Select-to-Speak is enabled. This feature is available in all Android versions starting at Android Lollipop (version 5).

Related links

Is there a difference between Select-to-speak and TalkBack?

While Select-to-speak and TalkBack use the same settings when it comes to text-to-speech, the main difference is that TalkBack is always on and reading information, while Select-to-speak can be accessed by pressing the accessibility shortcut or using a two finger swipe-up gesture.

As a user with low vision, I prefer to use Select-to-speak over TalkBack for the following reasons:

  • I prefer to read large print or use screen magnification whenever possible
  • My phone has a custom gesture layout that I designed with Microsoft Launcher, so I don’t need any assistance accessing my phone’s homescreen
  • Google Assistant can make calls, send texts, and do a lot of other tasks for me so I don’t have to worry about constantly listening to a screen reader.

I’m not sharing these reasons to “back talk” about TalkBack, but rather to show my own technology preferences for how I use my Android phone with low vision.

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How to enable Select-to-speak

To enable Select-to-speak on Android, follow these instructions:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to the Accessibility section
  3. Under the Screen Reader section, turn on Select-to-speak, which is above TalkBack
  4. Activate Select-to-speak by tapping the accessibility shortcut in the bottom right-hand corner of the phone screen.

To enable Select-to-speak on Chromebook, follow these instructions:

  1. Press the keyboard shortcut Alt-Shift-S
  2. Select Settings
  3. Select Accessibility
  4. Under text-to-speech, turn on Enable Select-to-speak

Add as an accessibility shortcut

There are two options for enabling Select-to-speak on an Android phone, including turning on an accessibility shortcut and using a two finger swipe up gesture. I prefer to use the accessibility shortcut as it is pinned to the bottom of my screen and I can press it inside any application such as Messages, on social media apps, or other device content.

I’ve linked another page on how to activate Select-to-speak on Chromebook, as there are several different methods.

Related links

Adjusting text-to-speech output

There are a couple of different ways to adjust the text-to-speech output for Select-to-speak, though it’s worth noting that these are the same settings used for TalkBack. Users can access the settings for Text-to-speech output under the “Screen Readers” section.

Google Text-to-speech engine

By clicking the settings option, users can select from the following options:

  • Use Wi-Fi only for downloading voice data (I have this turned off by default)
  • Amplify spoken text to make spoken text louder than other audio
  • Intonation- change speech patterns, mine is set to Expressive
  • Number processing for improving how dates and times are spoken (mine is on)
  • Language detection for improving how foreign languages are detected (mine is set to conservative, which does not detect language changes as well)


Users can set the language of their choice to be used for Select-to-Speak and TalkBack. Even though I live in the United States, many of my friends and I prefer the English (Australia) language setting for my screen reader because it sounds different from the other virtual assistant tools that I interact with, and sounds distinctive when I am in a room with other screen reader users.

Other settings

Users can also adjust the speech rate and pitch for their Text-to-speech voice. I choose to have mine be slower than average and at a normal pitch. I recommend enabling Select-to-speak when testing voice settings as it tends to read at a faster rate than the preview option in the settings menu,

What I use it for

Here are the ways I have used Select-to-speak in the last hour:

  • Reading an image description on Twitter
  • Checking a text message from a friend
  • Showing a different friend with no usable vision a strange email I received
  • Accessing a food delivery app
  • Having a list I wrote in Google Keep read out loud

Related links

More tips on how to use Select-to-speak on Android with low vision

  • Users can have TalkBack and Select-to-speak enabled simultaneously, and activate Select-to-speak by swiping up with three fingers. Though to be honest, I’m not sure why someone would want to have both tools enabled- maybe to have different voice speeds?
  • Want to recognize text from a screenshot? I recommend using Google Lens For Low Vision
  • Select-to-speak is only available on Android and Google devices, but there are similar text-to-speech tools available on Apple, Microsoft, and other mainstream technology devices- even TVs! Learn more at Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: Televisions

How To Use Select to Speak on Android. When you need a screen reader, but don't need it all the time, look no further than Android's Select-to-speak feature!