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Google included accessibility features for vision-impaired users in Android Wear 5.1.1

Thu, 05/28/2015 - 10:57 -- geeta.nair

Casey Burkhardt, Senior Software Engineer at Google in the Accessibility team revealed today that some of these features arrived in the latest Android Wear update.

The Android Wear 5.1.1 update, which is still rolling out to watches, includes three new features to help vision-impaired users interact with their screens. We knew from the launch information that Google has included the ability to adjust text size globally on Android Wear devices – you can set it to small, medium or large – but the newest update allows you to invoke colour inversion and screen magnification.

Google is a company that embraces accessiblity – it’s baked into their DNA according to Eve Andersson, ‎Manager, Accessibility Engineering at Google. There is an impressive array of products that Google both produces and supports with features to make the products useble by vision – or otherwise – impaired users, from web products through ChromeOS, Hangouts and Android. It’s great to see this same inclusive attitude spread to the wearables market.

The accessibility options are available in the settings menu in Android Wear, allowing vision-impaired users to adopt the Android Wear platform. At least, two of them were available on Jason’s G Watch R – text size and magnification – while the colour inversion might rely on another setting.

Screen magnification can be activated through the Settings > Accessibility menu. When it’s on, a triple-tap on the screen zooms in and activates an orange border on the screen. You can use the watch as normal, swiping up/down and swiping cards away to the right, and you can use two fingers to pan around the zoomed-in screen.

The G Watch R had some issues panning around the edges of the display — which is of course, round — on the watch’s round screen. Zooming and panning on a square Android Wear watch might work a little better than on a round one, something to consider for vision-impaired users.


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