Ice Cream Sandwich Acessibility

After waiting and hoping that Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) would be a major step forward in accessibility for Android users with vision problems, I can report that Google has made a world of useful additions and changes, but there is still work to be done.

 

The new font developed just for Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) is very readable and is a welcome addition to the Android platform for those users who have difficuly seeing the screen.There are also provisions for changing the font size, which is a great improvement, although I have to take the Android team to task- folks, people have been begging for this in Android forums since Android 2.2 (Froyo)–what took so long?

 

Still, it’s a good feature and nice to have, although making the “Hugh” type a little bigger would have been nice. Also, the largest font in the Gmail app needs to be at least 1.5X larger to accomodate people with Macular Degeneration.

There are also several other useful features, such as Explore by Touch, a haptic feedback mode with a built-in voice navagator for the totally blind, that are welcome additions fo the OSGalaxy Nexus, the first ICS phone

The ICS keyboard is also a winner. Nice black keys, good feel, and easy to see and use. Although I’ve loaded 6 other keyboards from the Market, I always come back to the original.

The shining star of ICS for the visually impaired, however, is Voice Actions.Everywhere you see a keyboard in ICS, you’ll also see a little microphone on one of the botom keys. Hit this button, anrd you’ll see a larger mic take over the screen. Speak your text, and you’ll see a remarkably accurate rendition of whatever you just said appear on the screen. It’s not perfect- deep voices, accents and background noise can still trip it up- but it is so much better than before.

At the end of the day, the Android team should be proud of the level of accessibility built in to Android 4.0. They’ve made great strides, and I look forward to the next round of innovations.

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