If you're finding it hard to see, hear or use your tablet, mobile or computer, there are ways to make it easier. You can change settings to make text bigger, use your voice to control your device, or connect it with a hearing aid. There are also easy-use devices and gadgets available.
What are accessibility features?
Accessibility is when something can be used by everybody no matter what their needs are.
Most smartphones, tablets and computers come with accessibility features. These let you change settings to make them easier to use if you have sight, sound or mobility needs.
Accessibility features include:
- making text bigger so it's easier to read
- changing the colours and contrast so the screen is clearer
- using your voice to control the device
- connecting the device with a hearing aid
- using a keyboard to navigate.
Even if you don't have particular needs, you may still find some features make the experience of using a smart device better.
Help with seeing the screen
If you're struggling to see the screen, there are settings you can change to make it easier to see. Depending on the smart device, you may be able to:
- make the font size bigger
- change the font style to one that's easier to read
- zoom into (magnify) the screen to make text and images bigger
- use a voice assistant – such as Alexa, Google’s assistant or Siri – so you can tell your device what to do
- use 'text-to-speech' to hear what's in a message or webpage
- change the colours and brightness – for example, by using a 'dark theme' so it's easier on your eyes
- use 'focus' or 'maximise' settings to cut down on what you see in one go
- make the mouse pointer larger or change the colour to make it easier to see.
Check that you're using a big enough screen too. A larger computer monitor (24" and above) or a larger tablet (9.5" and above) provide more screen space, so you have a bigger area to see things.
If you're blind (severely sight-impaired) or have very low vision, you could consider:
- using screen reading software – this reads text and image descriptions out loud, so you can hear what's on the page
- turning on audio description when watching TV or films online
- connecting a braille display device – this is a box with braille pins that move up and down, so you can read the text in braille.
Visit RNIB's technology hub for more information. Or AbilityNet’s My Computer My Way for help with changing visual settings.
For information on other gadgets for low vision, read Getting equipment for sight loss.
Help with hearing calls and audio
If you're finding it hard to hear calls, alerts, films or music, you could change your sound settings. For example, you could:
- increase the volume – you can usually find the volume buttons on the side of a device
- use loudspeaker for calls so the sound is louder
- adjust the volume balance between left and right speakers, or use ‘mono’ settings which sends the same sounds to both sides, so you don’t miss anything
- change the volume of the high (treble) and low (bass) sounds
- connect to a hearing aid, if your hearing aid and mobile or tablet can do this
- use specialist apps on your phone that turn speech into text, so you can read it instead
- turn on subtitles or captions
- turn on vibration or flashes for alerts
- use noise cancelling features to make background sounds quieter.
You can also set your device to do things like alert you to important sounds nearby – for example, if your doorbell or smoke alarm goes off. However you should not rely on your device to alert you.
Visit My Computer My Way for guidance on how to change audio settings.
RNID has information on using a smartphone if you're deaf.
For information on general equipment for hearing loss, visit Help with hearing loss.
Help with controlling the device
There are a few options if you're finding it hard to press buttons or use a mouse with a smartphone, tablet or computer. You could:
- set up keyboard-only control – this lets you move around your device using only the buttons on a keyboard
- use gesture controls – for example, using screen swipes or a long press to do something, or hovering over something for a certain length of time to click on it
- use voice assistants – such as Siri, Alexa or OK Google. These let you tell your device what to do
- slow down the speed of your mouse – this gives you more time to move it around
- stop the screen from rotating, so buttons and icons won't move around when you turn your device around
- set up shortcuts or use in-built ones to do certain things – for example, pressing the control/command button and the c button allows you to quickly copy something. It is also simple to copy on Android and Apple devices.
- change display settings – for example, making icons and buttons bigger so there's more space to click or tap on them.
Visit My Computer My way for how to change these control settings.
You could also consider changing your equipment. For instance, you may want to try a keyboard with bigger keys, or simpler devices like smart speakers and easy-use tablets. Learn more about different types of devices on our page, Smart technology.
Easy-use gadgets and devices
Sometimes, adjusting your phone or tablet settings doesn't help much with your needs. There's nothing wrong with this – simply that it may not be the right device for you. You could consider getting gadgets or devices that are designed to make things easier instead. This is known as assistive technology.
Assistive technology includes:
- mounts that attach to a wheelchair and let you hold and use a tablet more easily
- larger computer mice or keyboards with bigger buttons, if you have problems holding and using regular-sized mice
- easy-use tablets and smartphones – they might have more manual buttons, simpler screen displays, better touch-sensitivity or larger screens for example
- larger computer monitors.
Visit Living Made Easy for more about assistive technology. Their AskSARA website may help you work out which gadgets you could benefit from. AbilityNet also has information on smart devices designed for older people.
If you think you need more support at home, you could consider telecare or telehealth. Find out more on Technology for health and care.
Find out how to change settings on your computer, smartphone or tablet on My Computer My Way.
You can also visit RNIB’s technology hub, RNID or Scope for more information on accessible technology.
For more on accessibility features, visit the platform for your device, such as Apple, Windows or Android.