Kelli Jo Isaak
(605) 877-1823

Making Your Smart Device More Accessible

Improve Your Android Device

I have done a lot of exploring ever since I got my first Android smartphone in summer of 2011 - maybe fall - I'm not 100% positive. Anyway, below are the apps I have foundd for making contacts, icons, text messages, and your keyboard bigger. There are even several applications that tell you how much time remains before your battery dies and give you instructions on how to make your Android device's battery last longer.

It is important to realize, however, that you will get the best results if you use a phone with a bigger screen. For example, the screen of my LG Power is 4.5" (that's four and a half inches) when measured diagonally. It facilitates larger text size very amazingly well.


Go SMS Pro
Go SMS Conversation List Go SMS conversation
Before you apply a theme, you should customize the font size of both outgoing (texts from you) and incoming (texts from your friend) first.
  1. Tap the Menu icon and select "Settings" from the options menu.
  2. Scroll from left to right in order to activate the Advanced Settings menu.
  3. Tap the option labeled "Appearance Settings". Unlike the other applications discussed on this page, we need to take multiple options into consideration:
    • Conversation List: a list of all the people you've ever texted. This is the first menu you see when you open Go SMS.
    • Conversation: When you tap on a person's name in the Conversation List, it will bring up each text message the two of you have ever shared. This collection is called a Conversation, or Thread.
    • Popup Window: This screen will appear as soon as you recieve a new text message.
  4. Tap the option labeled "Conv. List Customization". A preview of your conversation list will appear with several options below.

  5. I have a rule of thumb about Go SMS customization - it's a sort of extension of the KISS rule - don't mess with the background - simply change the font color and the font size.

  6. Keeping that in mind, tap on the Contact Font option.

  7. The Go Dev Team has taken a little pity on us and given us a little more than a tiny green dot to work with - this time it's a small white circle on a grey and white slider.

  8. Drag that little white circle as far as it will go on the slider. This should make the text as big as it can get.
  9. Tap the back button once to apply that setting. Your preview should reflect the change.

  10. Take a moment to think about your theme - is it mostly dark colors or light colors? If it is mostly light colors, you will want dark text; if it is mostly dark colors, you will want light colors.

  11. Now tap on the Contact Font Color option. This time, there are three sliders, each representing the RGB (red, green, blue) color model. If you want white text, drag each slider all the way to the right. If you want black text, drag each slider all the way to the left.
  12. Repeat steps 7 and 8 to change the font size and color of your Time and Message font.
  13. Before it will let you exit the Conversation List Customization menu, Go SMS will have you save your settings. Tap the "New" button because you have no other user-defined settings on your phone. When the text box appears, give your settings a simple name, like "Big", and then click "OK" or "Save". I had this set up awhile ago - I don't remember exactly what every button says.
These next steps will increase the size of the conversations themselves. I will combine them a little since you know how the Customization menus are laid out now. If you need help, you can look back at the first set of steps.
  1. When you are back in the Appearance Settings menu, tap the Conversation Customization option.
  2. Tap the menu item labeled "List Style'. Here you have a choice of either Default (speech bubble) style or List Style. Personally, I think the Default style looks a little bit cooler, but once you enlarge your conversation list they will look nearly identical.

  3. Since the background colors and images will be changed when you install a theme, I'd skip both the Background ooption, the Incoming Background Color, and the Outgoing Background Color options and change only the font options.

  4. Follow Steps 6 through 8 in the previous section to customize the Incoming Font and Incoming Color.
  5. Repeat the same steps to customize the Outgoing Font and Color.

  6. Note: Outgoing texts are bolder than outgoing texts! That should make it easier to remember who said what, shouldn't it?
  7. Repeat the process one last time to change the Date Font and Color.
  8. I personally don't worry about hyperlink colors - I don't get very many of them, but you can customize them if you want.
OK, are you starting to get the hang of it now? Changing the popup settings should be a breeze by now!
  1. If your theme came with a background image that made reading text nearly impossible, you can remove it easily by tapping the Background setting. There are two options - Image and Color.
  2. Select the Color option - that should change your background color to black, which will work if your text is white. If not, follow Step 8 from the first section to change the background color to white.

  3. That's the last hint I'll give you, though I will tell you what needs to be changed to make your popup message more readable.

  4. Change the Contact Name Font and the Contact Name Font Color.
  5. Change the Contact Phone Number Font and the Contact Phone Number Font Color.
  6. Change the Time Font and the Time Font Color.
  7. Change the Message Body Font and the Message Body Font Color.
  8. The Message Hyperlink Font Color is optional.

Go Launcher EX

Go Launcher EX
Get bigger icons with Go Launcher EX! Go Launcher makes it easy to change and rearrange your home screen whenever you want!
Like Go Keyboard, Go Launcher has many free, cool, and colorful themes you can install and play around with. Before I tell you how to apply one, however, I'd like to explain how to customize the size of the icons.
  1. Tap your phone's Menu icon. When the options menu appears, tap the icon labeled "Preferences".
  2. Tap the first option, which is labeled "Visual Settings". Swipe your fingers from left to right across the screen to activate the Icons tab.
  3. Tap the option labeled "Icon Size" and select "Custom Size" from the list of options.
  4. A scrollbar will appear. Press the little green dot that represents the current size of your icon and drag it to the far right of the line and press the OK button.
  5. If you wish to show and customize Icon Labels (they display the name of the application the icon represents), scroll from right to left until the Font tab is active.
  6. Tap the option labeled "App Name Size, select Custom Size, and drag the slider all the way to the right, as described in Step 4, and click the OK button.
That's it for the Visual Settings. Now I'll show you how to customize just how many icons can be on your screen, and how far apart they are.
  1. If you're still in Visual Settings, press the Back button - the button to the right of your Home button - once to return to the Preferences menu.
  2. Tap the Appearance Settings menu. Tap the menu labeled "Grid Size" and make sure the option "Standard (4x4)" is selected. If you have, or want to turn on icon labels, this will make them as clear as possible, though they still may overlap one another.
  3. Make sure "Show Icon Labels" and "Show Label Backgrounds" are checked.
The Dock - the black bar at the bottom that holds your Phone app, contacts app, app drawer, messaging app, and browser app (in that order) - isn't all that important, but Go Launcher extends it so that there can be 10 icons, or two rows. In the Appearance Settings menu, the dock settings are right below the "Show Label Background" option.
  1. Tap the option labeled "Dock Row" and select 1 from the list of options.
  2. Tap your Back button to apply the changes.
Now it's time for the fun part - choosing a theme!
  1. Search Google Play for a theme by entering "Go Launcher free theme" or something similar in the search bar.
  2. Browse the results until you find one you enjoy and can see well and install it.
  3. Tap the Menu icon and select "Themes" from the list of options.
  4. When the list of options appears, swipe from right to left until the tab labeled "Installed" is active.
  5. Find your theme in the list and tap the Apply button beneath it.
That's it! You have totally customized Go Launcher! Now it is pretty and easy to see!

Go Keyboard

Go Keyboard
Go Keyboard has themes that will give your keys more contrast! You can have dark text on a light background or light text on a dark background - it's your choice!
The process of setting up Go Keyboard is quite different when compared to setting up ColorNote, Go Launcher, and Go SMS, but it's just as easy.
  1. Open your App Drawer. Like your phone's Menu button, its appearance varies from one device to the next. It may also look different if you are using a Go Launcher theme.
  2. Find and tap your Settings icon. Like the App Drawer and Menu icons, its appearance varies, but it is usually represented by a gear or two.
  3. Scroll down until you find the submenu labeled "Language & Input" and tap it.
  4. Check under the "Keyboard & Input Method" heading and make sure Go Keyboard is on the list.
  5. If there is no check mark to the left of it, it's not activated. Tap the checkbox to place a checkmark inside and activate it.
  6. Above your list of installed keyboards is an option labeled "Default". Tap it and select "Go Keyboard" from the list.
It may not look so different from your default keyboard, and it can't make your keys much bigger, but you can at choose a theme that's easier to see.
  1. Search Google Play for a theme by entering "Go Keyboard free theme" or something similar in the search bar.
  2. Browse the results until you find one you enjoy and can see well and install it.
  3. Once it has been installed, follow steps 1 through 3, only instead of placing a checkmark beside Go Keyboard, you must tap on the gear icon to the right of it.
  4. Tap on the option labeled "Theme Settings", then tap "Select Theme" to go to the screen that displays all of your installed themes.
  5. Find your theme on the list and tap the icon with a blue checkmark in a black circle to apply it.

Battery HD

Battery HD
Go Power master's latest update has made its widget a little hard to read. Combine it's power saving features with the visual beauty of Battery HD to get the best of both worlds - smart battery control and easy readability. If you can't see  HD Battery's home screen widget, you can use that widget as a shortcut to a much bigger display.
Battery HD is similar to Go Power Master in that it helps you control how much power your device is using, only this application's widget is bigger and more customizable.

Setting up Battery HD is almost identical to setting up Go Power Master, though there are a few more options to consider. Read the table below to see which ones I reccommend.

From the Home Screen From Go Launcher EX
  1. Find an empty location on your Home screen.
  2. Long press on that area until you see a menu at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Tap the Widgets tab and scroll from left to right until you find one of the following:
    • Battery Compact
    • Battery Horizontal
    • Battery Vertical
  4. Long press again to drag the widget of your choice onto the Home screen.
  5. A list of options entitled "Select Widget Content" will appear. I recommend selecting the "Charge Level" option.
  6. Repeat steps 3 and 4 to add another Battery HD widget. This time, instead of selecting the "Charge Level" option, select the "Time Estimation..." submenu.
  7. Tap the "Charge Level AC" option. This will tell you how much time your device will need to be plugged in before it is fully charged.
  1. Touch the Menu button.
  2. A grid of options will appear. Tap the "Add" option.
  3. Tap the icon labeled "Widget".
  4. Scroll down the list until you find one of the following options:
    • Battery Compact
    • Battery Horizontal
    • Battery Vertical
  5. Touch the option you'd like to add.
  6. A list of options entitled "Select Widget Content" will appear. Again, I recommend selecting the "Charge Level" option.
  7. When it appears on the screen, you can drag it wherever you want.
  8. Repeat steps 3 through 7 to add a second battery HD widget using the settings described on the left.

Finally! It's time for my favorite part of setting up Android widgets - customization! If you don't like the color of your battery, you can quickly change it by following the steps below:
  1. Tap any Battery HD widget on your screen - any settings you change will be applied to all widgets on your home screen.
  2. Tap the Settings icon - the one that looks like a white gear in a black circle.
  3. Tap the Battery Color option. It is located at the top of the list.
  4. If there is a green checkmark beside "Custom Color", tap it to remove it.
  5. Look below the "Custom Color" option - there is a color wheel. Tap anywhere on the wheel to change your battery's color.
  6. When you have found a color that will make your battery stats easier to see, tap the OK button.
Remember, you can always go back and repeat the process if you find you're dissatisfied with the color you've chosen.

DW Contacts

DW Contacts
DW Contacts makes your contacts list bigger! Use this spinner to increase the font size of your Contacts list.
DW Contacts has both a free and a paid version. Many of the features listed are only available on the paid version, but changing the font size is not one of them. It iss not available for download from the Amazon Appstore, but it is available on Google Play.
  1. Touch the Menu button - its apperance varies from one device to another, but it is usually located near the Home button.
  2. A list of options should appear - tap the Settings option. It is easy to find - it is the last option on the list.
  3. Tap the option labeled "Theme Settings".
  4. Scroll down the list until you find the options labeled "Font Size (1st Line)", "Font Size (2nd Line)", and "Font Size (3rd Line)".
  5. Tap each option and change the font size to 30. You can have it bigger or smaller - it all depends on your personal preference and yes, the size of your phone's screen.
You may be asking why I had you change the font size for three items. If you have grouped some of your contacts, added an organization to their information, or entered any other miscellaneous information you wanted to remember, changing the second and third lines makes that information as easy to read as the contacts' names. It's as simple as that.


A Checklist note A plain text note
ColorNote is a simple task management application available on both the Amazon Appstore and Google Play. With it you can create two types of notes - checklists and plain text notes, both of which are demonstrated above. Follow the directions below to enlarge ColorNote's text. You can sort your notes alphabetically, by color, by date created, by date modified, and by reminder time. You can keep your notes organized by assigning a color to them. For example, my shopping list is red, my passwords list, which is also password-protected, is green, and my notes for website improvements are purple.
  1. Touch the Menu button - its apperance varies from one device to another, but it is usually located near the Home button.
  2. A list of options should appear - tap the Settings option. It is easy to find - it is the last option on the list.
  3. Once the Settings menu is open, locate the item labeled "Default Text Size", tap it, and select the "Huge" option.

Android Accessibility Features

Both Android and Apple have a guesture-based screen reader that helps you interact with whatever is on your screen. Apple is ahead of Android as far as accessibility is concerned, but it is rapidly catching up, especially if you have Android 4.2 or higher because that is when a screen magnifier is added. Android 4.1 and below do not have magnification gestures.

The Basic Settings

These settings don't have much to do with accessibility, but they are still invaluable to imoroving it. They are located in the Display section of the Settings menu.

  1. Brightness - Things are easier to see when they're brighter. Follow these steps to brighten your device's screen.
    1. Find the Settings icon on your device and touch it.
    2. Locate the Display menu item.
    3. Find the Brightness menu. A dialog box will appear with a checkbox and a slider in it. A slider is just a thin line with a circle or some other shape somewhere on top of that line. If you are using your device for the very first time, that shape would be right in the middle of that line, so your brightness would be set at 50%.
    4. If there is a check mark inside the box, tap the box to remove it. This will allow you to control your screen's brightness. If you leave the box checked, your device would dim or brighten your screen depending on the brightness or darkness of your surroundings. This can be a pain because it will make everything on your screen less clear and any text harder to read.
    5. Drag the slider to the far right of the line until you can't drag it anymore and touch the "OK" button to save your settings.
  2. Font Size - Changing this option will make your menu items and other things bigger and easier to see. Which fonts are enlarged and how much varies from one device to another. For example, the font size of your menu items might be bigger, but the font of your text messages may still be too small to see. By contrast, the size of your text messages will grow tremendously.
    1. Wnen the Brightness dialog box disappears and you can see the entire Display menu, touch the Font Size menu item.
    2. Another dialog box will appear with a list of items inside it. Select the option labeled "Huge."
    3. Touch the "OK" button to close the box. You should notice a difference right away.

Accessibility Settings

  1. TalkBack - TalkBack's guestures can be tricky to learn. I haven't mastered them all yet, but I will describe them to you the best I can.
    1. Tap the screen to select an item and have it read to you
    2. Double-tap the screen to interact with the selection (i.e. press a button, open an app, follow a link, etc.)
    3. Swipe right to move to the next item on the screen
    4. Swipe left to move to the previous item on your screen
    5. Swipe up or down to quickly scroll through lists and web pages
    What I've described above are the parts I understand most. To see the full list of gestures, visit this Android Support question.
  2. Touch Zoom
    1. Triple-tap the screen to activate Touch Zoom
    2. Drag two or more fingers to pan across the screen and see different parts of it
    3. Pinch or spread two or more fingers to increase or decrease your magnification level
    I've used these steps more than any others when I use Touch Zoom. If you would like to learn more, visit Google's support page for this feature
  3. Color Adjustment - This one is interesting; I've only encountered it in Android version 5. Once you've activated it, you can scroll through what looks like a box of M&M's or Skittles. Doing this will add a color overlay to your screen, so I'm guessing this feature is for the colorblind because you can choose a new color scheme that is easier for you to see.
  4. Invert Colors - When this switch is turned on, the background will be darkened and text and other items will be lightened, or their colors will change. The effect is similar to the Reverse themes available on the NFBI and NFB of SD sites.

Apple Accessibility

General Settings

As in the Android operating system, Apple has several features that will make small changes to your device that will improve its accessibility in a big way. These are all under the Accessibility menu, as well.

  • Larger Text - You can easily increase your device's font size using this menu. If you still find it difficult to read even the enlarged text, turn on the "Larger Accessibility Sizes" option. This will increase the maximum value of the slider and allow you to make fonts even bigger.
  • Bold Text - Turning this option on will make menu items and other text bolder and easier to read
  • Button Shapes - I don't see much of a difference when I enable this setting, but the Button Shapes settings appears to make it easier to differentiate between normal list items and items with sub items.
  • Increase Contrast - This menu item has three settings that will increase your device's contrast. Though I've been playing with them, I haven't seen much of an effect on my iPod.
    • Reduce Transparency - Reducing transparency makes text easier to read on apps or web pages with semi-transparent backgrounds.
    • Darken Colors - I have noticed a change in my blue back button when I turn this option on. Maybe it doesn't work on black, but instead makes other colors easy to see. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure.
    • Reduce White Point - Enabling this option makes bright colors appear less intense.


VoiceOver is similar to Android in its gestures, and there are fewer to get to know. It has many settings to play around with; I don't know much about them to explain them here.

  • Touch - Select the item under your finger
  • Double Tap - Activate the selected item, i.e. app, button, link, etc.
  • Flick Right - Select next item
  • Flick Left - Select previous item
  • Flick Down - Move to next item using Rotor setting
  • Flick Up - Move to previous item using Rotor setting
  • Three-Finger Flick Right - Scroll left one page
  • Three-Finger Flick Left - Scroll right one page
  • Three-Finger Flick Down - Scroll up one page
  • Three-Finger Flick Up - Scroll down one page
  • Two-Finger Flick Down - Read page starting at selected item
  • Two-Finger Flick Up - Read page starting from the top
  • Two Finger Scrub - Escape from current content
  • Rotate Clockwise - Select next rotor setting
  • Rotate Counterclockwise - Select previous rotor setting
  • Pinch Close - Unselect text
  • Pinch Open - Select text


Zoom is very easy to use. Here are the steps to activate, increase magnification, and navigate your screen.

  • Activate Zoom - Double tap with three fingers
  • Increase Magnification - Double-tap with three fingers and drag up to increase magnification
  • Decrease Magnification - Double-tap with three fingers and drag down to decrease magnification
  • Navigation - Drag with three fingers to pan around your screen
  • Zoom Context Menu - Triple tap with three fingers to show the context menu

Note: I find it easier to decrease the magnification than using the double tap with theee fingers and drag method.

Invert Colors

Activating this option makes backgrounds dark, text light, and changes the background colors of switches.


Grayscale removes all color from the device, making it easier for the colorblind to use.