Though the smartphone market is relatively mature (some might even say stagnant), there's been a notable lack of progress on accessibility. The simple fact is that not everyone can easily manipulate a smartphone or tablet's touchscreen, and there aren't a lot of cheap or free ways to make it easier. That's no doubt why, even in a low-profile beta, Google's voice command navigation app Voice Access climbed to more than a million downloads on the Play Store over the past two years. The app was also exceedingly popular on APK Mirror, where the original release was downloaded 1.5 million times. Now, the blockbuster accessibility tool has finally left beta with its latest update to 3.0, which also adds improvements to its integration with Google Assistant.
Voice Access offers users a full suite of voice command options: navigation, screen interaction, and text editing/dictation. For instance, you can say "Go to Gmail," then ask the app to open an email by saying one of the numbers that dots the screen — whichever is closest to the email you'd like to open, generally. In the screenshots shown above, it's 12. Then you can ask the tool to "Scroll forward," and it will ask which part of the screen you'd like to scroll (in this example, 8). Once you're finished reading the email, you can say "Go back," or "Go home."
In the newest version, users can say "Ok Google" to start Voice Access, which melds Google Assistant and Voice Access together in an extremely intuitive way. Additionally, users can say Assistant voice commands like "Set a timer" without being kicked out of Voice Access. Along with some minor bug fixes, UI updates, and a broader set of commands, these changes make for a very unobtrusive, smooth experience. In fact, I'd wager many people without disabilities will also be interested in using this app; it makes one-handed use an absolute breeze. That's generally the case with accessible tech — not only is it a necessity for people with disabilities, it makes things better for all of us. There's literally no reason not to invest in it further. Here's hoping that Google keeps up the good work.
Google has officially announced Voice Access, clarifying that the app is now available globally but only supports English commands, with more languages coming in the future.
- Voice Access