Accessibility and technology

We look at the assistive technology that's already built into computers and mobile devices.

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Gadgets with assistive technologies can make a life-changing difference to people with disabilities. 

That's the message of this year's Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which aims to raise awareness about digital accessibility as well as accessibility in general.

We take a look at some of the assistive features that are currently available in computers and smartphones.

Tech titans embrace digital accessibility

Apple, Microsoft and Google each provide extensive support in their products for those who need assistance technologies.

They're built into the operating system (OS) and apps, and are also integrated into their computer hardware and specialised third-party tools for specific disabilities.

The big tech trio also each have dedicated sections of their website to the topic:

Clearer hearing and improved visibility

Have you ever wished you had a remote microphone for clearer hearing at a distance; or a digital magnifier that can snap pics of micro-objects and make them easily visible? 

Well, there are two options in iOS called Magnifier and Live Listen. Turn them on in Settings -> General -> Accessibility.

  • Magnifier lets you read fine print with ease or make any micro-object visible by dragging a slider to magnify the image. You can also take a steadycam-like snap that you can save and view at your leisure. Plus, you can change brightness, contrast and even colour for those with impaired eyesight. 

  • Live Listen turns your iPhone into a remote microphone that you can use to send audio to your AirPods. So you can, for example, cut through surrounding noise to hear a conversation in a noisy room or even hear someone speaking at a distance – great for student lectures or even for hearing the TV clearly without having it too loud for others in the room. 

Growing number of accessibility options

Accessibility options have always been a core value for Apple and there's surprising depth built into the operating systems of the Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and even AirPods. 

Did you know you can get your device to read an online article or an ebook to you while you rest or do another activity? Or enlarge the type on your smartphone for easier visibility? 

There's also voice-activated automation. For example, Apple's Shortcuts app lets you combine multiple actions and apps into a single command that you can invoke verbally using the Siri digital assistant.  

This year Apple has produced a new range of videos on accessibility options to coincide with GAAD, which are available on YouTube under its Apple Support channel

Apple also runs accessibility-focused sessions at its retail stores all year around, with more sessions during the week of GAAD

Assistive technologies are about removing barriers, and everybody can use the ones baked into your gadget's settings menu. Whatever make or type of device you have, dig in and have a look.

For more information on other products and services that can help people remain independent and improve quality of life, contact Independent Living Centres Australia.

CHOICE and digital accessibility

We work to make our content accessible to everyone because we want to be a voice for all consumers.

We still have some work to do to meet the level of compliance we're aiming for, but if you find anything on our website difficult to use, please tell us about your experience.

Read more about our editorial guidelines on accessibility.

CHOICE tests and reviews gadgets including personal alarms and mobile phones for seniors and kids, which can be useful for those with accessibility needs.

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