Accessible Reading: Using an Android device to support readers with ASN
In this blog, Allan Wilson from CALL Scotland explores the accessibility features available to support reading on a tablet with children and young people with additional support needs.
When I’m at a conference or meeting with parents or teachers, somebody will always ask, “What apps should I get to help my dyslexic child / pupil?”. I usually reply, “Do you know about the support features that are built into iPads and Android tablets?”. In almost every case, parents/carers and teachers just aren’t aware of the support features available. This article gives detailed instructions for a number of features which you will find helpful and useful on an Android tablet. If you have an iPad read our blog on accessibility features for iPads. Explore the image gallery below for helpful screenshots to guide you through each process.
Android Accessibility Features
The Android operating system (usually found on Samsung, Asus and Huawei phones or tablets) has accessibility features to support people with dyslexia. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to say which facilities will be available on an individual device as the operating system is updated regularly and older devices may not be able to access new software. This blog gives a general overview of the features available.
The Google Text-to-speech engine links with other apps to provide usable text-to-speech for people with reading difficulties. It can be accessed by going to 'Settings', then selecting 'Languages & Input' (or 'Accessibility' depending on your device) and 'Text-to-Speech Output' (image 1).
Android tablets and phones have access to a wide variety of high quality voices, which can be downloaded and used across your device. Most of the CereProc Scottish voices are available from the Play Store. Once you have installed the voice you want, go back to 'Text-to-Speech Output' and select it.
Select to Speak
Select to speak allows to the user to choose certain words or sentences to be read aloud. To turn it on, go to 'Settings', 'Accessibility' and then switch on 'Select to Speak'.
When Select to speak is on, you will see a small grey icon with a speech bubble on screen. Double-tapping the icon allows the user to listen to the text on-screen. You can either read the entire screen by tapping on the play button or put a blue frame round a selected area of text (image 2). Rewind and fast-forward options are also available.
Android devices do provide colour filtering (choose 'Settings', "Display' then 'Screen color mode'), but it can be complicated to use (image 3) and I would recommend using a free app instead. There are several free apps that provide excellent colour filtering options, including color screen filter and TintVision.
The Google Chrome web browser is pre-installed on most Android devices. It has a simplified view facility, which hides non-essential information on websites to make them easier to read (image 4). To use, simply tap on the menu button (the three dots to the top right of the screen) then choose 'Settings', 'Accessibility' and 'Simplified View'.