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LG Ally: Get to Know Your Phone

Contributed by Rusty Perez

Setting up an Android phone for accessibility involves knowing where ports, physical controls, soft/virtual buttons, and other key features are located.

The LG Ally is a slider phone. Most of the front is taken up by the glass touchscreen. This is the part of the phone that faces the user when the device is being operated. Parallel to the upper edge of the touchscreen is a slit measuring 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. This is the telephone speaker, which rests near the user’s ear during a phone call. At the bottom of the touchscreen is a narrow row of buttons. This can serve as a quick way to orient the device as it is being pulled out of a purse or pocket.

To become familiar with the Ally’s physical features, do the following:
1. Hold the device with the touchscreen facing you and the buttons at the bottom. This is called portrait orientation.
2. Locate the hardware buttons. One of the strengths of the LG Ally is the row of four hardware buttons at the base of the touchscreen. From left to right, these buttons, placed in a slightly curved row, are Call, Home, Menu, and End/Power. They are very close together so new users may have difficulty distinguishing them.
a. The Call button opens the Phone application, and also serves to "send" a call.
b. The Home button moves focus to the Home/Launch screen (short press) and to a list of frequently used applications (long press).
c. The Menu button opens a page of application specific options, such as Call Log and Contacts when in the phone screen.
d. The End/Screen Off,/Power performs several functions. During a call, it hangs up the phone. When not in a call, a short press turns the screen on or off. A long press moves focus to the power off screen.
3. Locate soft controls. When the phone is on and the screen is unlocked, a number of virtual or soft buttons are displayed, often in columns and rows. They’re visual images on the screen, not actual buttons you can feel, but they are activated by touch and are very sensitive, often responding to fingers that are too close to the screen, regardless of whether they’ve actually touched it or not. A few of these controls are routinely used.
a. Two important controls are at the bottom corners of the phone. In the lower left-hand corner is the Back button, and in the lower right-hand corner is the Search button. When trying to activate these buttons, lightly place a finger in the corner where the desired button is located, extending toward the center. Some users have found it helpful to place stickers on the back of the phone at each button position to help locate them.
i. The back button moves focus to a previous screen (short press) or to the home screen (long press).
ii. The Search button opens an edit window for users to type (short press) or speak (long press) words and phrases to be searched for on Google and on the device itself.
b. The unlock control is a horizontal gesture performed about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the lower edge of the touchscreen. It and other variations are described below:
i. To Unlock the phone, tap the power button. The phone announces, "Screen on" and provides ringer volume information. Place your finger on the left edge of the screen about an inch (2.5 cm) away from the bottom. Slide your finger to the right, drawing a horizontal line. The phone emits a short vibration as you begin and a long vibration as you reach the right edge of the screen. The phone announces, "phone unlocked,".
ii. Swiping along that line from right to left while the screen is on and the phone is locked puts the phone in vibrate mode.
iii. The unlock gesture can also be used to answer phone calls. Do not tap the power button to answer calls.
c. The status bar is at the top of the screen. To check for new Notifications, place a finger at the top edge of the screen and slide it down toward the bottom. Once accessibility is enabled, the phone announces, "Status bar," followed by a message like, "No notifications," or "Updates available." No other status-bar information is natively available through the touchscreen to users who cannot see it.
d. The proximity sensor is in the speaker slot of the phone. When accessibility is enabled, it interrupts the speech synthesizer. Simply wave a finger over that portion of the phone to stop speech.
4. Locate other physical buttons and connection points. Slide a finger around the top, right, bottom and left panels of the phone in a clockwise direction to identify the following:
a. Along the top panel is the earphone jack.
b. Along the right panel are the SD card slot and camera buttons.
i. The SD card slot is covered. To open the slot, use a fingernail to find the small nail slit on the lower edge of the cover. Lift the cover off with your fingernail. The cover is attached on one end so it swings or pivots out of the way.
ii. The Camera button has two stages. Pressing it lightly engages the focus mode, and pressing it a little more takes the picture. You will feel these distinct levels if you practice pressing the button with the phone off.
c. Along the bottom panel are no controls.
d. Along the left panel are the volume buttons and the USB client port.
i. Pressing the upper volume control increases sound level, and pressing the lower one decreases sound level. In portrait orientation, volume-up is higher on the phone. In landscape, volume up is to the right. Keep in mind that pressing the volume control while the phone is speaking or playing music adjusts the loudness of the screen reader or media stream, but pressing the volume control while the phone is silent adjusts the loudness of the ringer.
ii. The USB connector, covered by a similar cover as the SD card, is used to connect the phone to anything else, a power source for recharging the battery or a computer host port for transferring files.
5. Explore the back of the phone. Run your finger down the back of the phone to locate the following items:
a. The camera view finder is near the top center of the phone.
b. The battery cover takes up most of the back of the phone. It starts about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) from the top and ends about .25 inches (.6 cm) from the bottom. The cover is removed to replace the battery.
c. The speaker for media and the screen reader is a small pare of slits right below the battery cover and nearest the bottom left corner under the Call button and next to the USB port. If you’re only listening to music, placing the phone face down points the speaker up for louder and clearer sound.
6. Find the physical typing keyboard by laying the phone on a table (touchscreen up and buttons to the right), then push back on the upper edge of the phone to slide the touchscreen out of the way.
a. The main area of the physical keyboard is the standard typing keyboard. It consists of 38 small squarish keys laid out in four rows. The areas at each end of the keyboard contain specialized keys. Notice that the small squarish keys are angled toward the center of the keyboard. Find the center of the keyboard and you’ll feel that the two center columns of keys (5-6, t-y, g-h, and the curved space bar) are tilted toward each other. This is a nice tactile clew. The F and J keys have small tactile nubs on their inner edges as well.
b. The left most column of angled wider keys from top to bottom is Back, Search, Alt, and Shift. The Back and Search keys serve the same purpose as those found on the screen. This search key can also be used for shortcuts. Alt and shift can be used singly and in combination to type capital letters, numbers, punctuation, and special characters such as the dollar sign.
c. The top row of keys goes from 1 to delete.
d. The second row, after the search button goes from Q to P and ends at the top left corner of the directional pad.
e. The third row after the Alt key goes from A to enter and ends at the left edge of the directional pad.
f. The bottom row starts with shift and Z and ends with comma/period. In the center of this row, between v and b is the space bar.
g. To the right of the typing keys is the directional pad (d-pad). It is a large square key with a smaller circular key in the center. The d-pad is used to arrow over the screen and activate buttons or items. Pressing on the left and right edges moves focus to left and right. Pressing on the top and bottom edges moves focus up and down. Pressing on the central button activates buttons and checks or unchecks boxes. If pressing on the center of the d-pad does not activate a control, then pressing the enter key on the typing keyboard should work.
h. Above the d-pad is a pare of buttons angled toward each other. These are the Home on the left and the Menu on the right. These buttons serve the same purpose as their counterparts on the screen.

While in use, the phone can be held vertically (in portrait orientation), with the buttons at the bottom, as when a call is being made, or it can be held horizontally (in landscape orientation), with the buttons to the right, as when the physical keyboard is being used. By default, the device is set to recognize whether it’s being used in portrait or landscape mode and adjusts the screen automatically. Blind and visually impaired users should disable Auto Rotate to prevent the screen from shifting erratically and to insure that important soft keys stay in one location.