Assistive Technology for Users with Mobility Disabilities: Android Switch Access

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Welcome to the final post in this short series on assistive technology for users with mobility disabilities. Today, we focus on Android Switch Access. For the previous posts, please follow these links for “Computer and Mobile Phone Access for People with Mobility Disabilities” and “Assistive Technology for Users with Mobility Disabilities: iOS Switch Control.”

Android’s Switch Access (Android 5 and higher) can be used with a variety of Bluetooth switches and Bluetooth keyboards. This accessibility feature allows people with significant motor disabilities to operate the device without using the touchscreen.

The Android Switch Access’s purpose is to provide input and access to interactive elements. Most non-interactive content can be read by typical on-screen keyboard users. Due to Android being an open source OS, different Android devices have varying support for Switch Access. While iOS is only on Apple products, the Android OS runs on thousands of devices built by hundreds of manufacturers.

Bugs with Android Switch Access are common, so accessibility testers may need to differentiate between assistive technology bugs and accessibility errors with the website or application. For example, Android Switch Access works with the Google Chrome browser but not with the Mozilla Firefox browser.

Auto-scan is an option that will cycle through the elements on the screen until you select an element. This is best used with a one button switch. When the scan mode’s box is around the full window, the full window can be activated to scroll the screen forward or backwards. Unlike iOS Switch Control, there is no point scanning and the menu tools are much more limited.

Besides Switch Access, Android has two other tools for users with limited manual dexterity.

  • Touch and Hold Delay adjusts the amount of time a finger must be held down to be interpreted as a “touch and hold” gesture.
  • “Ok Google” voice search and actions allow the user to use the Google app or Chrome browser to search and perform basic tasks such as getting directions and setting reminders.

Testing for accessibility with Android devices is more difficult than testing with iOS devices, but an experienced company like SSB BART Group can help you make your apps accessible to the largest amount of users possible.

Video Transcript

To set up Android Switch access, first ensure that the Bluetooth switch is connected. Then set the display to turn off after 30 minutes.

Now, open Accessibility, then Switch Access. Tap on Settings and then tap Assign Keys for Scanning. Then, select Auto Scan, press the first switch and select OK. Now tap on Select, press the second switch and select OK. Return to the Switch Access main screen and toggle the switch to On. Activate OK.

Now we are going to use Google’s search to go to SSB’s website. Select the row and then wait and activate the letter you would like. Now, wait for the scan feature to select SSB’s website from the search results.

When focus is around the full screen, activate it to scroll forward. Activate the full screen again and select Scroll Forward to scroll again.

Now wait for the scan feature to move to the First Name text box and press the Select button. Focus now moves to the keyboard. Select the row you would like and then the letter. Note that rows are not split into sections like they are in iOS. Repeat these steps to finish typing Daman in the First Name text box.To access the backspace key on Android takes longer because the keys are not grouped. We have now shown how to access a website, using scrolling and input text using Android Switch Access. (End of video)

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