Smartphones and tablets

Smartphones and tablets are handheld touchscreen devices that can make it easier to access the internet. You can download computer programs, called apps, which can help with a lot of daily tasks, for example:

  • booking GP appointments
  • doing your shopping online
  • making video calls with friends and family
  • reading books in accessible formats, such as audiobooks or e-books with easy-read fonts
  • setting reminders, for example, to take medication
  • getting news updates and weather forecasts
  • finding information and much more.

Many smartphones and tablets also come with a virtual assistant that can be voice activated. This means you can tell them what to do simply by speaking to them. It can be a useful feature if you find it difficult to see things on your screen, or if you find a touchscreen hard to use. It can also be useful in an emergency, because you can tell it to call someone if you can't make it to the phone.

Most of the rest of the technology on this page requires a smartphone or tablet, and an internet connection to use.

Wearable technology

Wearable smart technology includes devices such as smart watches and fitness trackers. Both work when connected wirelessly to a smartphone through an internet connection.

A fitness tracker can help you monitor your overall fitness, including counting your steps, measuring your heart rate, and seeing how well you're sleeping.

Smart watches can do a lot of the things your smartphone can do, including making and receiving calls and texts. Some apps can monitor your wellbeing and remind you when to take medication.

One benefit of wearable devices is that they can be harder to lose, since you wear them. Some models can also be voice activated.

Smart speakers

Smart speakers are usually voice activated, so you use them with voice commands. You can ask them to do a lot of the things your smartphone can do, such as:

  • calling and texting people
  • setting reminders
  • playing music
  • ordering things from the internet.

You can connect smart speakers to other smart technology, such as smart home devices, so you can control lots of other things using your voice. If you need help and can't reach your phone, you can call out to your smart speaker to contact someone for you.

Smart home technology

A lot of the things in your home can be connected to the internet and made 'smart' – you might hear this called the ‘internet of things’. Having smart home devices can make it easier to control things like your heating, TV, oven, water, lights and even your vacuum cleaner.

To make your things smart, you can either buy adapters that plug into existing equipment if it’s compatible or upgrade to a newer model that has smart technology built in. Once you have these, they can be connected to the internet and you can control them with a smartphone, tablet or speaker.

How to get smart technology

Large technology and electronics shops will likely sell most of the products listed here. It's important to shop around, as prices can differ, and the precise details of what each device can do will differ between models.

Assistive and inclusive technology

Assistive and inclusive technology is designed with the needs of people with vision, hearing or mobility impairments in mind. It covers a wide range of devices that can make everyday tasks easier, for example:

  • mounts that attach to a wheelchair and let you hold and use a tablet more easily
  • larger computer mice with bigger buttons if you have problems holding and using regular-sized mice
  • smartphones that allow you to adjust the contrast, brightness and magnification settings of the screen easily
  • larger computer monitors.

The Disabled Living Foundation have factsheets and a helpline if you want more information. You can also try their AskSARA website to help you find out which devices you could benefit from, or Living made easy to see which models they recommend.

Staying safe on smart devices

Smart technology has many benefits, but it’s important to set up devices securely and keep yourself and your information protected. This includes:

  • setting strong passwords on your devices, apps and wireless internet network
  • checking the terms and conditions before you agree - Terms of Service; Didn't Read rate the terms and conditions of different companies using a traffic light system to make them easier to understand
  • checking the privacy settings of your devices and apps. You can usually change the permissions to control the information you share
  • keeping devices and apps updated with the latest security updates. You may be able to turn on auto-updates to help with this.

See our page Staying safe online for more information. The National Cyber Security Centre has advice on using smart devices securely at home.

Next steps

AbilityNet's My Computer My Way tool can help you to adapt your device to suit your needs. Visit Digital Unite for online guides to using smartphones and tablets.

For advice on assistive and inclusive technology, visit Disabled Living Foundation. Scope has information on trying assistive technology before you buy it.

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