Mobile technology

More and more people use smartphones or tablets to carry out tasks, keep in touch with family and friends, access entertainment, and shop online and much more.

These devices operate using touch screens and there is a variety of accessibility functionality to help people with disabilities get the most out of this kind of technology.

Here is an overview of accessibility functionality on smartphones and tablets from Apple, Google (Android) and Amazon's Kindle Fire, specialist software you can install on an Android device to make it easier to use and the NGT Lite text relay service from BT.

Screen readers

Apple products (IPhones, IPads, and IPods) have a built-in screen reader called Voiceover. Android's screen reader is called Talkback, while on Amazon's Fire tablets, the screen reader is called Screen reader.

Generally, the screen readers perform the same functions, although the way you interact with them may differ across devices.

Because there is no physical keyboard for a tablet (unless you choose to attach one using Bluetooth), the screen readers for mobile devices are gesture-based. They allow people who are visually impaired to hear information and interact with their device.

Using Voiceover, Talkback or Screen Reader, it is possible to move your finger around the screen, hear information about what you are touching and interact with the various apps on the device.

Using a touch screen can take some getting used to and you may prefer to use a braille display with your phone or tablet.

Both Apple and Android devices allow you to connect a braille display using Bluetooth to your device and it is then possible to carry out the functions that others perform using the screen in braille. If you are a fast braillist, you may find this particularly useful when typing, for example, an email or text message.

If you need to make the screen easier to see, it is possible by using gestures to magnify your screen or change the overall font of the device and invert the screen colours to make the print stand out more.

For entertainment, such as watching videos, subtitles can be enabled or you can switch off stereo sound.

For users of Apple devices, there are a number of hearing aids that are directly compatible with Apple products meaning they can be linked via Bluetooth to the device. For a list of the compatible hearing aids, visit the Apple website.

There are also a large number of Bluetooth streamers that can be connected to an Apple, Android, or Amazon Fire device meaning that sound will be delivered directly to the person's hearing aid or cochlear implant.

It is possible to access your device using switches or pointers. For specific information on this, you will need to refer to the accessibility instructions of your chosen device.

Text Relay

Text Relay is a form of telephone conversation for someone who is unable to hear the phone. It works by a relay assistant relaying the phone conversation between a text user and a phone user.

The text user speaks by typing to the relay assistant who then speaks the text to the phone user. The phone user speaks and their words are converted back in to text by the relay assistant.

Next Generation text (NGT) service from BT works in a similar way to the old text relay service you may be used to. You can still make calls using your old text phone or telephone.

The NGT is available on home, office or mobile phone lines, both those operated by BT and by other fixed and mobile phone service providers.

As well as using text phones or telephones, you can download the NGT Lite app which works on computers, smartphones or tablets.

Currently, there is limited support for NGT Lite and braille. The NGT Lite app is, at the moment, compatible with braille displays and Windows computers and laptops. It is not, however, currently accessible if you are using a braille display with a mobile phone or tablet.

For more information about the NGT service, visit the NGTS website.