Services & Software

Google will let you navigate around your phone, hands-free

The Voice Access feature is geared toward people with certain disabilities, but anyone can use it to maneuver inside their phone via voice.

Speak a command on your Android Phone, and Google's Voice Access will comply.

Need to use your Android phone but your hands are tied up? A new voice feature from Google can help.

Voice Access, currently in beta status, allows you to move around the screen, jump to other screens and open apps through your voice. You can utter specific commands, such as "Open Chrome" or "Go home." Voice Access also places numbers next to icons and other objects on a screen. So you can say the number associated with an item to access it.

Smartphones play a vital role in helping people communicate, find information and manage their lives, all with a few taps. But people with disabilities can sometimes feel cut off from the technology designed to help us.

Voice Access is part of Google's effort to make its phones more accessible to people with disabilities that prevent them from using their hands or seeing the screen clearly. Apple has its own iPhone technology called VoiceOver, which reads whatever you tap on the screen, a helpful option for people who are blind or visually impaired.

"We recently launched Voice Access Beta, an app that allows people who have difficulty manipulating a touch screen due to paralysis, tremor, temporary injury or other reasons to control their Android devices by voice," Google said in a blog post Monday.

Those who want to try Voice Access Beta are out of luck for now. The program is apparently full. The Voice Access page says: "At this time, the testing program has enough testers and isn't accepting more users."

Google did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.

Voice Access joins other Google features designed for people with disabilities. Google Docs users can create and edit documents using their voice. Google Chromebooks include a screen reader called ChromeVox that helps people use text-to-speech software to navigate the screen. The next version of Android will offer a Vision Settings screen through which you can manage the font size, display size and other attributes.