'Testing Android Accessibility'

Chris Hofstader, who is totally blind, writes about Accessibility on a Nexus 7:

A few months ago, a friend of mine who prefers Android accessibility to that available from Apple on its iOS devices, sold me a Google Nexus/7 tablet so I could try it out and, perhaps, write an article about its accessibility. Since early October,, I’ve tried to use the Nexus/7 to perform the same tasks that I enjoy on my iPhone 5S. I can say that, while accessibility on Android is better than I expected, it is still far from being a solution I can use full time the way I can with a device from Apple or Microsoft.

The entire article is a fairly scathing indictment of Accessibility on Android.

This bit in particular caught my eye (emphasis mine):

I focus on the accessibility of the system in its out-of-the-box condition. As we’ll see, a blind person can have a better than adequate but also substandard experience on an Android device if they install a bunch of software to replace the apps and various parts of the system including the home screen. That Android is so customizable is one of its strongest points; that a blind person really cannot use the device without a lot of customizations is an outrage. To make my Nexus/7 at all usable, I had to install a third party home screen (Apex Launcher) and a whole lot of apps that, ostensibly, exports similar functionality to the inaccessible equivalents shipped by Google on the device.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Accessibility options are supposed to augment the user experience. They’re not meant (nor are they able) to fully compensate for a user’s disability, and especially not for software’s inherent design flaws. In other words, the intent of Accessibility software isn’t to act as a “fix” for user interface problems. No user, blind or normally-sighted, should have to invoke several features simply to achieve basic functionality of their devices. If that were true, then why bother using the device? At some point, the augmentation becomes domination, taking away from the purposed feel of the out-of-the-box experience. The question then becomes, Am I truly using my devices similar to everyone else? Again, Accessibility options are necessary, wonderful tools, but it’s unrealistic and shortsighted to expect them to be the be-all, end-all solution to usability issues.

In short: you want to use as few accessibility options as possible to get the richest experience.