WeCo Certified Test Consultant seated on a sofa using a smartphone.

Nina, a WeCo Certified Test Consultant, using a Smartphone.

Smartphones and tablet PCs have revolutionized mobile technology and the way we communicate today. These mainstream, more affordable, devices provide people with mini-computers they can use “on the go”.

Most smartphones and tablets provide a handful of accessibility features that work with different operating systems that makes them easier to use for people living with a variety of disabilities.

Below are some of the access features integrated into the two main operating systems, Android and Apple iOS for those with motor skill disabilities.

Apple Operating System (iOS)

The Apple iOS is the Operating System used for Apple iPad tablets, iPhone smartphones and the iPod touch. This operating system has multiple built-in accessibility features that can help people living with motor skill disabilities.

  • Siri: A voice recognition feature that’s helpful for people living with motor skill disabilities as this feature allows you to perform tasks on your phone hands-free, just by using your voice. You can send messages, for example, schedule meetings, make phone calls, and more. It also acts like a voice-over tool, allowing you to ask a question, and receive an answer that is read back to you.
  • Dictation: This is a speech-to-text feature that allows the user to speak the text into certain programs such as an email or Word document. This app also allows you to complete task hands-free on your smartphone.
  • Assistive Touch: This feature lets you adapt the Multi-Touch screen of your iOS device to your unique physical needs. For example, if you have difficulty with some gestures, like pinch, you can make them accessible with just a tap of a finger. You can create your own gesture. If you have trouble pressing the Home button, you can activate it with an onscreen tap. Gestures like rotate and shake are available even when your iOS device is mounted on a wheelchair.

Android Operating System

Android is another operating system developed by Google and is used on a range of different devices including smartphones and tablet PC’s. This operating system also has multiple built-in accessibility features that can help people living with motor skill disabilities.

  • Voice Access: This feature allows you to control your android device with your voice by speaking commands to activate on-screen controls, launch apps, and navigate the device.
  • Switch Access: This feature lit’s you interact with your Android device using one or more switches. This can be helpful for users with mobility limitations that prevent them from interacting directly with the Android device.

As the use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets grows, the number and complexity or mobile websites and apps has increased. Mobile devices have also become more accessible to many users with disabilities through the built-in accessibility features. The other operating systems for mobile devices such as, Windows Mobile OS and Symbian OS are not as widely used and do not have as many accessibility features as the two main OS systems above, but they are all working on improving accessibility in newer versions of their operating systems.