Phone features for people with disabilities

More than half of all Australians aged 65 and over live with some form of disability, and many also struggle to use a mobile phone. But today’s phones are packed with accessibility features if you just know where to look.

Apple recently announced it was adding more features to its iPhone and iPad range to help those with a disability use them more easily – Door Detection, Live Captioning and Apple Watch support for people who are unable to use the watch’s touch features.

Door Detection helps users with low or no vision identify doors around them on the street or in shops using the camera and in-built 3D laser-scanner on compatible iPhones or iPads. It can read out anything written on the door and can identify critical information about the door such as if it is open or closed, or if it needs push or pull.

Live Captioning aids the hearing-impaired by adding real-time captions to FaceTime calls and videos, while adding Apple Watch support for voice commands will let users control their watch through their phones, helping those who have a physical disability and struggle with using touchscreens.

The new features add to an already impressive suite of accessibility options for Apple products.

“Apple embeds accessibility into every aspect of our work, and we are committed to designing the best products and services for everyone,” says Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of accessibility policy and initiatives.

“We’re excited to introduce these new features, which combine innovation and creativity from teams across Apple to give users more options to use our products in ways that best suit their needs and lives.”

But Apple aren’t the only phone manufacturers designing their software and hardware with accessibility in mind.


Australia’s second-highest selling range of smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy range, have a number of options with disability in mind.

There are visibility enhancements including a magnifier, reduced screen animations, high contrast that makes it easier to read, and colour adjustment that helps with colour blindness.

Galaxy devices support hearing aids, real-time text, and TTY teletypewriters with an external keyboard. The ‘amplify ambient sound’ option helps you hear voices better by boosting up the speech in a noisy environment and sound detectors can give a vibration notification when the doorbell goes off, and the audio can be adjusted for different hearing ranges.

For dexterity and physical accessibility, you can set up ‘universal switch’, which allows you to use an external switch, screen taps, or head movements and face gestures to control the touchscreen.

You can also activate ‘interaction control’, which keeps the focus on a single app by blocking touches and activities.

There are also touch settings, which allow you to set tap duration and ignore repeated touches. For your keyboard, sticky keys, slow keys, and bounce keys help you type more accurately.


The nation’s third-highest selling phone manufacturer is Chinese group Oppo. The company’s low-cost Android line-up offers a more affordable alternative to more fashionable brands.

But the cheaper price doesn’t mean you’re getting an inferior phone, especially when it comes to accessibility.

The latest Oppos are equipped with screen readers, voice control and text-to speech output. Other visibility improvements include magnification, colour correction and a colour accessibility mode.

For the hearing-impaired there are mono audio and also subtitle options for videos, as well as high contrast text options.

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Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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