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Finally I got my hands on a Samsung smartphone and tried out the accessibility provided with Talkback on an Android 4.2.2. I want to give a short overview what is already working and what not. Fortunately, I cannot (and don't want!) compare the accessibility to the other big mobile operating system which has currently accessibility features.

The telephone I'm using is a Samsung Galaxy S+. The good thing about this model is that it has (in contrary to the Samsung Galaxy S) regardless of the age a relatively fast CPU (1.4 GHZ). Since the Android on this telephone was too old and it didn't get updates, I decided to flash it with CyanogenMod with the help of a friend of mine.

After the screen reader Talkback was enabled, the usual start screen was presented to me. The next step was to get used to “Explore By Touch”. It clearly needs some time to get used to the gestures, especially when your used to navigate rapidly with a keyboard. I soon discovered that the six horizontal icons at the bottom of the start screen were not announced by Talkback. Since the phone vibrates when sliding over an icon, one can use those icons nonetheless.\ In general, the user interface runs smoothly on this phone, even though it is already a bit out-of-date.

Everything from choosing applications to run, writing SMS, making a call, using the Google Playstore to install new applications works great. The android keyboard needs clearly some time to get used to, but this is more a touch vs. keyboard issue.

The first application I've added was eSpeak, since I cannot stand “natural sounding” speech synthesizers. In my opinion they cannot speak fast and accurate. eSpeak was a good choice there, since it is free as in freedom, can speak really fast and is not resource-hungry. One has to note that the on-board applications from android are not the best in regard of accessibility. Specifically, the mail client and the browser were inaccessible. There are anyway better solutions out there, one should take those. For me K-9-Mail works great, it even has PGP support and advanced IMAP configuration settings! The browser of my choice is firefox, since I don't trust Chrome in general.\ Further more VLC, StreamServe and a file explorer from RythmSoft are handy too. The only non-free application here is the file manager.

While there are already a lot of acccccessibility features, there are also quite obvious down sides. One is that navigation in edit views is not really possible. You can delete characters, but you can't go back one word and so on. However Firefox can do this since version 24. Furthermore edit fields with multiple lines are not readable line by line. As far as I understand, the eyes-free keyboard (also from the Playstore) aims to work around those limitations, but I haven't yet get used to it, because it hinders me interacting efficiently with my phone.

Furthermore there is no really good accessible text editor or eBook reader out there. The first one lacks support due to the fact that multiline edit views are not accessible, the latter has just not been “invented”. Firefox does a great job with “Explore By Touch”, so the same would be basically possible with an eBook reader. The best you'll find are eBook reader which start reading (with their own speech capability) with a gesture and stop reading when you tap on the screen. Sufficient scrolling is impossible. I will read my texts in Firefox, there are enough possibilities to generate HTML.\ A DAISY player free of charge is also not available, which is also one would like to have.

Conclusion\ There has been much done about accessibility in Android and I have switched over to android full-time. There are just a few portions on the system (at least on mine) which are non-free and this is also a pleasing fact. There is a lot of mumbling from the users of the other big phone OS with accessibility. Some of those users of this system argue that Android would be really unusable. That might be true for specific use cases, but in general, Android is much more open and much more configurable/flexible and hence can fit requirements. Accessibility is there, one just needs to want it!