The Android System Settings menu allows you to control most aspects of your device—everything from establishing a new Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection, to installing a third-party onscreen keyboard, to adjusting system sounds and screen brightness. Also in the System Settings menu you will find a number of accessibility features, which we shall discuss in the following sections.

The procedure to reach the System Settings menu will differ depending on what version of Android you have on your device, but one way you can always open this menu is by invoking the Apps list, whose icon is usually found on the main home screen. There, among the list of apps currently installed on your device, you will find an app called Settings.

Near the bottom of the Settings menu list you will find the Accessibility menu. Double tap this option and the first option you will now see is TalkBack (see TalkBack Settings for more detail on these options). After the TalkBack option, you will find several Vision options. These options can help those with partial vision use their Android phone or tablet.

Pinch-to-Zoom Gestures

If you need just a bit of magnification every now and again, you can use the pinch-to-zoom gestures to enlarge text and images.

  1. On any text, map, image, or photograph, place two fingers on the screen next to each other, as though you were trying to pinch the glass.
  2. As you slowly slide your fingers apart, the portion of the screen beneath your fingers will enlarge.
  3. Stop spreading your fingers when you reach the desired magnification.
  4. When you are done, reposition your two fingers on the glass, this time fairly far apart, and pinch them together until the screen has returned to normal size.

These pinch gestures can improve the readability of your Android device screen, but they may not be enough for every situation. Happily, Google has included a number of additional Android controls and touch gestures designed to assist users with low vision.

The Android Accessibility Settings Pane

Under the Vision heading of the Android Accessibility Settings pane, you will find a number of features and options.

Full Screen Zoom

With this feature enabled, you can use several gestures to magnify and navigate your device's display.

  • One-finger triple tap: Tap the screen three times in succession with one finger to magnify the entire screen. Use the same gesture to toggle magnification off.
  • Two-finger drag: With magnification on it is likely that all of the information will no longer fit on the screen. Drag two fingers across the screen in the direction you would like to pan.
  • Two-finger pinch in or out. These gestures will increase or decrease the amount of magnification.

Large Text

This feature enlarges the size of all text. You can fine-tune the adjustment using the Android Settings Display menu, which allows you to adjust the font, and to select a text size of Minimum, Small, Medium, Large, Very Large, or Maximum. You can also adjust screen brightness in this menu.

Invert Colors

This control reverses the text and background colors of the device's display, from black text on a white background to white text on a black background.

New in Lollipop

The latest version of Android, called Lollipop, includes a pair of new features for users with low vision.

  • Color Inversion: This setting, which Google has labeled experimental, reverses the color scheme of the Android display.
  • Color Correction: This feature automatically adjusts the screen colors to make them easier to see for individuals with either red/green or blue/yellow color blindness.

You will probably find yourself using a mix of low-vision accessibility features, and the ones you use may vary depending on the way various screen content is formatted, ambient lighting, and the daily ebbs and flows of your visual acuity.