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A guide to Android devices for people with sight loss

An RNIB basic guide to Android phones and tablets, for blind and partially sighted users, and the best tablets for visually impaired usage.

Android can be viewed as a competitor to Apple. Unlike the iPhone or iPad which are only made by Apple, many different manufacturers produce devices running the Android operating system. They all use touch screen technology to control the device.

Most Android devices have built in accessibility through screen readers that give speech feedback and screen magnification, this means they make good phones and tablets for the visually impaired.

Products range in size from five inches to seven inches. Phones and tablets can run many applications (apps) to add functionality, RNIB offers mobile phones for the partially sighted that use Android and have additional accessibility software. These devices are some of the best mobiles phones and tablets for blind and partially sighted users.


Any Android phone or tablet needs to be set up with your personal details like email address, Wi-Fi network key, passcode or fingerprint and any data transferred from an older device. Many devices can be set up using TalkBack or magnifier even at start up.

A touch screen can seem a little daunting at first but with practice it is very usable for someone who is blind or partially sighted. By touching the screen and using finger gestures such as flicking, tapping, sliding etc. you can control your device.

How do blind and partially sighted people use Android phones?

The magnification and speech options on an Android device give the user access to a huge range of functions on the phone. For example, you can make calls, send texts, email, access web sites and lots more. In addition, you can download a range of thousands of apps to enhance your smart device's capabilities. Different apps make it easy to play radio and TV, access music, find out about transport, read documents using the built in camera, identify products and locations, identify bank notes and colours, keep in touch with friends and family, read books, manage your bank accounts and so much more.

We've put together a collection of more helpful videos that demonstrate accessibility for Android phones and show some functions you might find useful.

Watch our Android accessibility video collection

Try the TalkBack screen reader for yourself

TalkBack is a gesture-based screen reader so the way you navigate and interact with your phone changes when VoiceOver is on. To explore the screen, drag your finger over it. VoiceOver speaks the name of each item you touch.

If you want to try out TalkBack, or you help someone with sight loss, you can navigate with settings to turn TalkBack on or off.

  1. On your device, open Settings.
  2. Select Accessibility then TalkBack.
  3. Turn Use TalkBack on or off.
  4. Select OK.

Important: When TalkBack is on, to activate or select anything, use a double-tap instead of single tap. Use two fingers to drag down or navigate between screens. You'll need to know this to turn TalkBack back off again. There's more information from Google Android Accessibility Help.

Further information

More and more products are accessible out of the box and don't require the purchase or installation of extra software. You can buy the latest device and have it set up within minutes all without any assistance.

Once you master the concept of the touch screen such a device will fit seamlessly into your lifestyle.

You can buy new Android devices from under £100 up to more than £1,000 depending on specification, screen size and memory. Devices with extra accessibility functions are available from the RNIB shop.

About Hadley

Hadley are an American educational charity, whose mission is to create personalised learning opportunities that empower adults with vision loss or blindness to thrive – at home, at work and in their communities. On their website Hadley have a range of technology workshop videos that demonstrate how to use the accessibility features found on Android, Apple, Windows and smart devices. Sign up for a free account with Hadley to watch the next video in the [Listen with TalkBack] [iPhone/iPad: Low Vision Features] [Alexa] series, or watch any of the other Hadley workshop videos.

Further resources