While Google Assistant is a pretty good way to give commands and get answers from your smartphone, there are still times when you have to actually touch your phone to use it. But if you have a motor disability, you will need something more. Voice Access was introduced by Google a couple of years ago and was eventually updated to a more “supercharged” version with the rollout of Android 11. Now it will also become available for devices running on older Android versions, even as it’s still in beta mode.
If you’re not familiar with Voice Access, it’s a feature that gives the user almost full control of a smartphone just by using voice commands. And while it is primarily built for people with motor disabilities like ALS, arthritis, spinal cord injuries, etc, it can also be useful for those who are temporarily unable to use their hands to navigate their phone. Previously, you could use this with numbers on your screen that you will have to say aloud but the updated version is now more intuitive and natural.
Google has now used machine learning as well as a refreshed interface to make Voice Access better. You can now use natural language to navigate your phone. For example, instead of saying “Open YouTube”, “Tap search” and “type kittens”, you can now just say “Open YouTube and search for kittens”. You can do the same in most of the apps that are installed on your phone instead of the previous version where you needed to say commands like “tap 1”, “scroll down on 5”, etc.
Once the updated version of Voice Access is installed on your phone, you can set it up to activate whenever you want to use your phone. Or you can also just use Google Assistant to activate it by saying, “Hey Google, Voice Access” and you can already start using voice commands to open apps, play videos, search for things and have it read out loud to you, read and answer emails, etc.
If you don’t have the feature yet, you can download Voice Access from the Google Play Store but to experience this new, updated version, you have to join the Beta program first. The new version will also now be available for smartphones running on Android 6.0 and above.