Phone accessibility settings

Most smartphones come with a range of accessibility features. Features vary depending on the make and model of your phone. Some are designed to help with specific tasks, but they may not be right for you. 

By shopping around, you might find some options that work better. Some phone stores may be able to guide you through accessibility features for different phones. Think about the features you need.

There's no right or wrong way of using a phone, so try to adapt it to your needs. For example, there are phone cases to help you unlock the phone if you cannot access the home button.

Smartphone accessibility features

If you use a smartphone every day, it's likely that you spent time researching it to suit your needs. But information about using accessibility features can be confusing and may already be out of date by the time you read it.

Some features are similar on Android, iPhone and Windows. Others may have different names and look different.

Here are some common accessibility features to look for:

Control the phone with your voice (voice activation)

You can control most smartphones with your voice. This can help with tasks like:

  • calling someone by speaking their name
  • writing texts and emails
  • recording notes and reminders
  • searching the internet
  • opening applications and navigating menus


Check your messages for autocorrect

Check your messages before you send to make sure that words have not been changed with autocorrect.

Have the phone read the screen to you (screen reader)

As well as talking to your phone, you can set the phone to talk to you. Screen readers sound human but can take some time getting used to. Depending on the operating system, you may be able to adjust the speed and pitch it uses to read the screen.

Screen readers can be useful for:

  • reading messages and emails
  • browsing the internet
  • knowing if your screen is on or off
  • describing what's on your screen

Be careful. You may not want emails or messages containing sensitive information read aloud in public.


Be careful with screenreaders

You may not want emails or messages containing personal information read aloud in public. 

Adjust text and background

Adjust the text on your smartphone to make reading easier, including:

  • making the text size larger
  • changing how the font looks
  • changing the text and background colour

To help with contrast, you can also adjust the background colour of your screen or use dark mode.

Magnify your screen or zoom in and out

You can pinch the screen on most smartphones to zoom in and out. If this is difficult, there are usually alternative settings. For example, you can magnify the screen by tapping it 3 times or by holding a button on some Android phones.

Turn on subtitles

Turn on subtitles on your smartphone to make videos easier to watch. This usually works across all apps on your phone, including video streaming and social media apps. Some apps have their own settings where you need to turn on the subtitles.

Set the sound for one ear (mono audio)

The default audio setting on most smartphones is set so that you hear different sounds in each ear when using headphones. You can change this so that all sounds play in one ear.

Get alerts by flashing light

You may be able to set your phone to flash the LED light when you receive a message, phone call or other notification.

Adjust the time for touching and holding (touch and hold delay)

Touching and holding the screen carries out different actions on some smartphones, like moving or deleting icons on the home screen. Not all phones have this feature.

You can usually decide how long you need to tap for it to become 'touch and hold'.

Use your phone in one hand

If you mostly use your phone with one hand, there are some features you can use, including:

  • making the screen size smaller with the One-Handed Mode on Android
  • aligning the layout for left-handers and right-handers
  • changing to the one-handed keyboard on iPhone
  • using iPhone features to make it easier to reach things at the top of the screen

Replace button controls with swipes and taps

You can change the controls and gestures you use for different tasks on iPhone. For example, you can adjust the volume by swiping instead of using buttons. Or replace the pinch and zoom gesture with a tap. You can create custom gestures in 'AssistiveTouch' in settings. There are apps available to do this on Android.

Try out the phone first to make sure you can access the features you need.

Lock your phone in a single app (guided access or screen pinning)

Set your phone to stay locked into an app you want to use. You can control what other features you can access on your phone at the same time. 

  • Set this up using the Guided Access feature on iPhone in the ‘Learning’ section. 
  • Use the pin icon on some Android phones.

Other ways of using your phone

You can connect your phone to other devices for control and communication, including:

You may need to install an app and hardware for these to work.

Finding phone accessibility settings

Go to the accessibility section in your phone's settings to see a list of features. They are usually in categories like audio or hearing, vision, display, interaction and controls. You can switch most features on and off individually. 

You can also set shortcuts for certain features. For example, ending a call with the power button or holding the volume button to turn on the screen reader.


Before you switch on the features

Be aware: switching on accessibility features can change how your screen looks and how the phone works. 

You can go back to the ‘general’ section in settings if you need to change back.

Accessibility features for phones

Use these links to find out more or report any problems you have with accessibility features.

Complaints guide for encountering online accessibility barriers

Smartphone tips

As you get used to your smartphone, you may find more ways to use it to make everyday tasks easier, for example:

  • use the camera live or take a photo to zoom in and read things like menus, paper documents and small print
  • take a screenshot to save an image of your screen to your photos to view later or zoom in
  • use the torch when there is not enough light for you to see
  • make notes and reminders using the voice recorder
  • take photos to save information and read it later
  • use Google Assistant to carry out tasks like opening apps, making calls or setting alarms
  • buy a phone with large keys if you struggle to press the buttons or cannot see the numbers

Assistive technology training and support

Talk about assistive technology with our online community

Last reviewed by Scope on: 02/07/2024

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