5 Tech Tips: Optimise your smartphone to assist your RA

Blog by Geoff West

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As someone who works in marketing, my life pretty much revolves around the digital space and in recent years it’s become increasingly difficult to switch off. With my phone constantly reminding me just how much I use it, I’ve made it my mission to lower my screen time this year and that all starts with accessibility. After all, the easier it is to use your phone, the less time you need to sit there and use it – in theory!

You may be wondering, how exactly does this link to RA? Well, if like me, you’ve never delved into the accessibility settings on your phone, the lovely Georgie Barrat ran through some ways people with RA can optimise their device during a livestream last year. So, in case you missed it or my previous blog, here are the top 5.

1. Display Zoom

iOSSettings > Display & Brightness > Display Zoom
Android
– Settings > Display > Advanced > Zoom

Let’s face it, we’ve all been laying in bed checking our phones and dropped it square on our Although there was once a time where the mobile phone market was flooded with companies competing for the smallest device possible, in recent years this seems to have tipped back in favour of larger models. However, to someone with RA, this may still not be quite big enough to use the more fine motor features, such as touch screen keyboards.

A simple but effective tip is enabling the Display Zoom function. By using this you can increase the size of your keyboard and have larger gaps between the keys, allowing you to type a bit easier. This will also help negate the need to type using the ‘claw’ style grip which can be difficult on the joints.

2. Three Finger Zoom

iOS – Settings > Accessibility > Zoom
Android –
Settings > Accessibility > Zoom > Magnification

Now something that’s a little more advanced. Have you ever sat there scrolling through Facebook, only to be stumped by a tiny button or hyperlink that you simply cannot press? Well the Zoom/Magnification feature is just for you!

This feature lets you double tap with 3 fingers to zoom into whatever is on screen a bit more. This can be adjusted on the fly, by tapping then dragging up or down on the screen and returning to normal by tapping with 3 fingers once again. This little known tip can be used to not only help accessibility but also to annoywow’ your friends… switch it on, zoom into an obscure corner of their screen and watch them struggle for some cheap laughs!

3. Back Tap (iOS 14+, iPhone 8 or later only)

iOS – Settings > Accessibility > Touch > Back Tap

This tip is a fancy one, and is something I have now set up for quick access to my camera. For those who struggle with the scrolling motion or just want additional gesture functions linked to their device, Back Tap allows you to set a double or triple tap function, accessed by tapping the back of your phone. Struggle with the pincer movement to take a screenshot? Set it as a back tap function. Struggle to lock your screen with the small side buttons? Set it as a back tap function!

Unfortunately, this one is only for the Apple users reading this. If you are using an Android phone you may want to scroll down. If, however, you’re using an iPhone, you can switch this feature on, pretend you’re a magician and tap the back of your phone to go to the next tip.

4. Assistive Touch

iOS – Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch
Android –
Settings > Accessibility > Dexterity and Interaction > Assistant Menu

Following on from removing awkward hand movements, this next tip was almost essential on earlier phone generations. Hands up if you broke your ‘Home Button’ on the original iPhone 3G! Despite this, I’ve now realised what this feature was actually made for – accessibility.

Switching this feature on will bring up a small button-like menu on screen, which is visible at all times. Tapping this once will bring up a fully customisable menu and you can set it up for double-tap and long press functions, essentially removing the need to press all the physical buttons of the phone. For example, you could double-tap for a screenshot, or long press to lock your phone or activate your Apple/Android Pay for you fellow, wallet-free mavericks out there!

5. Voice Control

iOS – Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control
Android –
Requires ‘Voice Access’ app via Play Store

Finally, this tip is a controversial one. Despite what many people speculate, our devices are not always listening to us. Nevertheless, grab your tinfoil hats as this is exactly what the following feature will do! On some newer phones you can set this to only listen while you’re looking at the screen, utilising the facial recognition to check it’s you before doing so. Still, if you’re comfortable with this, switching on this feature allows your phone to be fully controlled with just your voice!

I will admit, the feature takes some getting used to and you may need to refresh yourself with the specific voice commands from time to time. But in spite of that, once you get a hang of it, you can be totally hands free!

Unlike many of these features, we think this one may need a demonstration, so take a look at Georgie’s during our RA Awareness Week livestream last year. How’s that for a segue?

Did we mention anything that has helped? Maybe we missed one of your best accessibility tips? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. If you want to watch more recorded livestreams, find them via our YouTube channel.