Accessibility on Wear OS

As you create an app on Wear OS, start by following accessibility principles and guidance from our Accessibility guide for Android apps. Then ensure you app is accessible on Wear OS as well.

Wear OS apps have some additional considerations when it comes to accessibility due to the following factors:

  • Different input types on Wear OS, such as rotary input.
  • Additional UI surfaces such as tiles and complications.
  • Small screen sizes, which require different TalkBack implementations.

As with other accessibility work, make sure to thoroughly test each experience with assistive technologies such as a screen reader. This lets you experience your app from the perspective of your users and discover usability issues that you otherwise might miss. For more information, see Test your app's accessibility.

Support the user's preferred font size

In system settings, users can adjust the font size for text elements that appear in Wear OS apps. For example, on Google Pixel Watch devices, these settings are located in the Settings > Accessibility menu.

When testing your app, set the font size to different values, and make sure that your app's text content behaves as you expect. You can use techniques such as the following to make your app's text more accessible:

Enable rotary input

Most Wear OS devices contain a physical rotating side button (RSB), rotating bezel or touch bezel. This is called a rotary input. You can use the rotary input to adjust the volume of media apps, scroll content up or down, and more.

Wear OS devices are smaller than mobile devices, which presents additional challenges. Users with dexterity challenges may find accuracy on a small screen difficult. Screen reader users may also find it difficult to use two-finger interactions for scrolling. Using rotary input assists users with these challenges by providing a more convenient way to scroll rather than using the two-finger interaction.

For more information, see Rotary input.

Optimize your app for Talkback

TalkBack is Android's built-in screen reader. When TalkBack is on, users can interact with their Android-powered device without seeing the screen. Test your app to ensure that all user journeys can be navigated using screen readers such as TalkBack. For more information, see TalkBack.

TalkBack on Wear OS is similar to TalkBack on mobile with a few additional considerations, detailed in the following sections.

Use built-in components

Wear OS provides many built-in UI components that already follow accessibility best practices. For example, the PickerGroup element uses a focus coordinator object to assign focus to the correct Picker element.

Use these built-in components in your app to improve its usability for everyone.

Use content descriptions for tiles and complications

Wear OS provides different UI surfaces, such as tiles and complications.

Watch face complications display highly glanceable information from apps directly on the watch face, such as the date or weather forecasts. Tiles provide quick access to the information and actions needed to get things done. With a simple swipe from the watch face, a user can check the weather, set a timer, and more.

Similarly to Compose visual elements, you can set a contentDescription for tiles and complications. contentDescriptions define the text that Talkback uses to describe any content that does not have a textual representation. When using content descriptions for tiles and complications, keep in mind the following:

  • Avoid adding extra words to the description that don't provide user value, such as complication and tile.
  • Avoid adding words beyond the information that is displayed. For example the description of a complication is displaying the date December 13th should be December 13th without words like Day and Date.

Set the content descriptions for Tiles

Use the method setContentDescription to set the current content description for the Tile that Talkback verbalizes.

Also make sure to set the content description for any elements within the tiles, like Buttons.

Set the content descriptions for complications

There are different types of complications such as SmallImageComplication and ShortTextComplication. contentDescription is set on the Builder, for example see the SmallImageComplicationData.Builder.

Understand list behaviors

Due to the small screen size on wearable devices, TalkBack makes several assumptions about list behavior on Wear OS.

List Announcements

In other form factors, when a user is focused on a list, Talkback adds in list to its announcements so that a user understands where they are. If they navigate out of the list, Talkback adds out of list to its announcements. But on Wear OS, TalkBack assumes that there is only one list possible per UI due to the small screen size. So, it has removed support for in-list and out-of-list announcements to avoid redundant wording. Don't expect in-list and out-of-list announcements to be read out on Wear OS.

Vertical list announcing

When reading items from a vertical list, Talkback avoids reading out items that are too small or are almost off of the screen. Specifically, talkback uses the following two conditions:

  1. Elements near the top or the bottom of the screen.
  2. Elements less than 32dp in height.

Work effectively with Talkback by ensuring that items are at least 32dp in height, the first item in the list has padding from the top, and the last item has padding from the bottom.

These guidelines don't apply to horizontal lists.

Set minimum touch targets

Touch targets are the parts of the screen that respond to user input. They can extend beyond the visual bounds of an element. For example, an element such as an icon may appear to be 24dp x 24dp, but the padding surrounding it can make up the full 48 x 48 dp touch target.

Based on Android Material guidance, 48dp x 48dp is the recommended touch target size. Due to the small screen size on Wear OS, there are some situations where 40dp x 40dp is allowed.

For more information about how to implement touch targets, see Accessibility in Compose.