Modern Mobile Phones for the Visually Impaired
Over the years, a number of organizations, service societies and other associations have come forward to extend their helping hands to individuals with visual impairment. A lot of developments have come up in the process of helping these people.But the question that remains to be answered for ever and ever is “How far have these developments been effective?”
One of the problems faced by these vision impaired people is the relative lack of awareness on the latest developments and services provided by the government and other local bodies in UK.
Here, let us consider the developments made for them to access a mobile phone.
The importance and the usability of mobile phones for the visually impaired people are unexplainable. Technology has made it possible for the visually impaired to still have connection with the internet and the outside world. They can also make calls and keep in touch with their family members and friends.
People with visual impairment require lot of assistance from the outside world. Under these circumstances, mobile phones that come with large buttons and screen reading software comes to the rescue. Mobile phones are one source from where they can get loyal support in case of any emergency or danger. Some of the important numbers can be stored in different buttons depending on the model of the mobile phone. These numbers can be dialed immediately as and when required without any difficulty. Screen reading software has been developed to help these persons extensively.
Visually impaired persons are accessible to various applications such as audio player, internet, e-mails, contacts, talks and also access the calendar. Users can exchange data such as emails and other documents too. Few models also come with the Mobile Magnifier, screen magnification software developed for the visually impaired. This software enlarges and also enhances the display when the user scrolls through the screen. People who cannot use their phones while walking or traveling can be benefited from the voice command that help the person to make calls, listen to messages and also access emails just like everybody.
While some mobile phones have a raised dot over the number five to help the person navigate easily around the keypad, others have a dedicated key tone for each key and also dedicated ring tones for each number. Sometimes these keys make different kinds of sounds or tones on pressing each of them. Individual ring tones for each caller can help the the vision impaired people to distinguish between callers.
Latest and Upcoming Developments in Technology for people with vision impairment (New Ideas to make mobile phones easily accessible)
Immersion, a US-based company is developing a new technology that would help in passing physical sensations through a mobile phone. There are several factors that decide the outcome of this technology.
- Different Tones For Messages Just Like Different Ring tones for Each Contact
This technology might come up in such a way as to differentiate vibrations with respect to the callers.
The B-Touch cell phone developed by designer Zenwei You would give visually impaired users similar functionality that the iPhone has demonstrated. The B-Touch has a Braille interface instead of a glossy touchscreen. This interface allows sightless navigation through the phone features including voice recognition and speech, and simple navigation system. It has a scanner to read the text from pages and recognise objects. Although the B-Touch is a concept it has the potential to be mass produced.
KNFB Reading Technology
This technology features a Reader Mobile product line, the first ever mobile phone tool to help the visually impaired in learning. Users can take pictures by a single click of a button and then allow the mobile to identify it for them. This technology can be used to read documents, receipts, signs and any printed text forms. The details can be read loud and clear allowing the users to adjust the volume and the speed of the words.
Bluetooth Voice Controls in Mobile Phones
This feature is not just helpful to the vision impaired but to everyone using a mobile phone. On conditions where one of your hands is occupied and you will have to control your phone functions with the other hand, the voice control may be very useful.
BlueAnt’s new V1 Bluetooth Voice Control headset allows a user to control all his phone functions through voice. The device works with almost any Bluetooth mobile and hence most functions of a smart phone can be accessed by the visually impaired as well.
Adela Voice’s Start Talking is another free application that uses voice recognition software to record and send text messages without actually touching the mobile phones. Currently this application is available for Android-based mobile phones. It uses very little power and does not even require the screen to be turned on.
Talking Options in Mobile Phones
Apple’s latest iPhone model offers a built-in VoiceOver screen reader. When this application is activated, the phone is controlled using a set of gestures. Being a touch phone helps in this process. Tap any part of the screen once and the phone will tell you a brief description of the button. Double press on the button to activate it. You can slide up and down on the screen using the slider bar. There is also a voice control feature that will enable your phone to be controlled by your voice.
By far, the iPhone could be friendliest phone to the visually impaired, as it has many inbuilt features already, that can be used out of the box to help such users.
Nokia C5 comes with pre installed TALKS premium
This phone comes with pre-installed application, TALKS premium in which all aspects of the phone are read over for the user including phone book, text messages, internet and many more. The phone is designed in such a way that it will help these visually impaired to work on it easily. Features such as bumpy, tactile keys and spacious keypads are perfect examples.
TalksTM – A Premium Nuance Edition
Mobile phones that are built specially for visually impaired have speech technology also built-in it. The visually-challenged can use their mobile phones just like the normal phones. The only difference is the inclusion of voice support for every option the user chooses. Nuance TALKS Premium is supported with Symbian operating system and is capable of converting the visual content to speech. It does a lot of work for the visually impaired like
- converting contents of the display into voice
- reading out call lists in your phonebook
- reading out received messages.
- echoing key presses as you type emails or messages
- all information is read out to you like date and time, network and battery, signal strengths and other phone status.
- all other activities like browsing and multimedia services have assistance too.
- Screen magnifier and voice features to be used simultaneously to help a partially impaired person to access features.
- various other options to choose from like loudness and the speed with which numbers and texts are read, list of human voices, accents, style of reading, support for Braille displays via Bluetooth and many more.
Speaking Phones from Vodafone
Vodafone at present sells three mobile phones with in-built application supporting TALKS standard speech. This application does not have a dictionary or an option to add new words or improve pronunciation. The application is available only with Vodafone and cannot be purchased from anywhere else. At present the software is installed in models like 6680, N70 and 9300 models from the Nokia. For assistance from the Vodafone company, contact 08700 733 222.
Mobile Speak is a screen reading application that can be used on Symbian mobile phones or Windows based smartphone. This application allows you to utilize most of the functions offered by modern smartphone. There are three main options depending upon what level of usage you expect the phone to help you with. The software supports most of the European languages and other languages like Chinese and Arabic.
Wayfinder (GPS Software with Talks)
Wayfinder offers fully GPS enabled navigational services accessible with TALKS™ software and supports 15 European languages. The software is an ultimate solution to 20 million spots that includes hotels, bars, banks, theatres, shops, pubs and many more public places. You may also set your favourites for places you regularly visit.
Mobile Accessibility 2.0
This software has its own menu structure and makes the phone a lot easier to use. A powerful 16K speech synthesizer designed by the Swiss company enables all the features of the mobile to be controlled by voice commands. This is a fully functional application and is not locked with any network provider. It is adaptable with many Nokia phone models and is being designed to become more adaptable with other phones.
- Features of the Software
- SMS and MMS can be sent by voice controls to multiple recipients
- Contact lists can be administered and edited to simplify the usage of caller ID.
- simple access to call logs by a simple touch
- profile customization and alarm operation
- Setting up ring tones and message tones to your linking
- Reading out all major indicators like battery, date and time signal strength and many things you need to know.
- Calendar synchronization, calculator and agenda
- Support for languages like Italian, German, Spanish, French and English.
There are different tools that can be purchased and installed in the application apart from the basic software. Some of the most worthwhile tools include:
- Office Package like notepad, email client and sound recorder
- colour identifier
- camera program
- screen Zoomer
- Pack of games
Magnifiers for Partially Impaired People
This magnification software is very easy to use and is meant for the partially impaired people. It can zoom in an original screen size up to 16 times and is compatible with the Symbian phones.
- The display can be turned to black and white greyscale mode in order to make it easier for viewing.
- The text can be automatically scrolled across the screen.
- The software is capable of keeping the whole area of display or a selected area in full screen mode thus improving the legibility of text and graphics.
- Easy shortcut keys and strokes to conveniently alter the magnifications, see battery levels, signal strengths and other phone indicators.
- User controlled automatic scrolling text and speed.
This is another major mobile application for the visually challenged. The application is capable of memorizing your area of interests and magnifying those for you as and when you want them. A range of high contrast colour reading scheme for those who prefer and differ in colour combinations. Hot keys are available for all functions of the phone and for zooming different areas of the screen.
The software runs on comfortable colour schemes including black and white, grey high resolution, grey low resolution, inverted colours, colour high resolution and colour low resolution.
The Braille system of writing was the first digital form that was widely used by people with visual disabilities to read and write. There are two types of Braille keyboards. The most common among them is the chorded keyboard as used in the Perkins Brailler and the electronic Braille.
There are several Braille mobile phones for the vision impaired. These mobile phones have the ability to store numbers and other information with an interface to assist these paople. Various functions of the phone like attending incoming calls, outgoing call controls, text-based mapping services, play music and other simple games are vision-friendly too.
The transparent Braille keypad stickers allow one to convert their normal keypads into Braille keypads. They are easy to peel and use and fit into keys.
There are a number of other applications available for mobile phones that would help the visually impaired. These applications are also designed to suit the phone’s operating system. The GPS and the Camera functions available in mobile phones today have given way for the development of a lot of other applications that would help the visually impaired. There are several other applications being released or have been in existence for the visually impaired.
Applications that are currently available under different platforms or operating systems for the visually impaired are listed below.
Application for Android
This application is called Augmented Reality. This is an app with a “See with your Ears” concept. The vOICe (for Android) maps the live camera view to synthesised soundscapes. It offers augmented reality through sensory substitution and computer vision. Included are talking compass, talking color identifier and a talking GPS locator. The Google Goggles and the ZXing barcode scanner can be launched from the vOICe. It is activated by tapping the left or right edge of the Android phone’s screen.
WalkyTalky is an application that runs when the GPS is enabled. It is designed to help the visually impaired in finding the current location by just inputting the destination. It also updates the status bar based on the current location to the nearest street.
This program allows a visually impaired person to determine the colour of an object. All he has to do is to shoot an object and the software will determine the colour for him.
The Mobile OCR application is a powerful character-recognition software that offers solution to the visually impaired to read printed text while on the move. A user is guided through a tactile and audio feedback.
Interface for One Bus Away system
This creation provides an interface to the One Bus Away system that can be accessed by people with visual impairment and even the ones with hearing impairment. The GPS function in the application determines the nearest bus stop that makes a visually impaired man’s life easier rather than trying to read the stop number or seeking others’ help.
This application is compatible with the iOS platform. It helps a visually challenged man to shoot what is going on around him and also refer to them later. They may also show others and let them know what had happened.
The Barcode Reader application for kids is a high quality barcode reader and bar code maker that can take a picture of a barcode or a QR and translate them into product description through speech.
This application is ‘text-to-speech’ software that determines the user’s current location and talks out the approximate address (all these are done based on the Android location services). The software at present is being developed to assist other navigational aid, like for walking directions.
This application helps a person through his daily activities through visual and audio aids. It allows caretakers to monitor the user remotely with an ability to add personalized tasks like images, audio and video.
The Braille method is found to be the ultimate method of educating the visually impaired giving them an opportunity to earn and come up in life. This application provides a comprehensive method of delivering Braille instructions to these children. It is basically a fun and educational software integrating reading and writing exercise.
LinkUp – social networking application for people with visual impairment
LinkUp application can detect where the users are located and also tell them the location of their friend’s places. They (user) can also make a mark of their favourite places.
Blind is a free application for people with visual disabilities. It supports Android smartphones and has varied features such as contacts, music, mobile system settings,text messages, voice messages and more. Users can manage calls, texts, mails and music easily with this app.
Application for Blackberry
Oratio screen reader
Oratio for Blackberry smartphones is screen-reader software that helps visually impaired users to operate the Blackberry smartphone. This is a state-of the art technology. The text-to-speech application converts the visual information on screen into audible speech output. Oratio is designed to support major applications present on the Blackberry device.
Blackberry smartphones allow visually impaired user to use the phone’s SMS, MMS, instant messaging & emails. They can make and receive phone calls. They can use ring tones, speed dials, the contact list and call log. They can also schedule appointments and tasks with alarms or reminders and access phone’s settings.
Oratio has been developed by a collaborative effort between HumanWare and Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of Blackberry.
Using Oratio on Blackberry will greatly benefit the visually impaired users as they will be able to operate the device equivalent to other sighted users to a great extent.
Blackberry phone with multi-tap keyboard user interface
Multi-tap keyboard user interface works by adding auditory feedback to help the visually impaired people. Users can activate this interface by pressing a series of keys and then typing out the numbers or text that is pre-designed. User can know which key he has pressed from the audio feedback.
Application for Apple
LookTel, as the name suggests, is a suite that is planned and designed for people with visual impairment or blindness. Initially designed for the iPhone, the application will scan and recognize objects such as packaged goods, money, DVDs and CDs and many other objects. These actions will happen at once. For example the LookTel Money Reader will recognize the currency and tell you the denomination.
Application for Symbian
Mobile Phone Sat Nav (Easy Walk)
This application, designed by the Italian company, Il Village, is a GPS Satellite Navigation designed to offer greater accessibility to people with blindness. It runs on the Symbian-based phones and is tested by the Blind Union. The device is Bluetooth-capable and can serve turn-by-turn voice assistance. There are two buttons on the front. One of the buttons will automatically dial to the call centre for assistance while the other button will tell the user about his exact location.
TextScout turns your phone into a reading assistant. All you need to do is to take a snap of the text and the application will read it aloud for you.
TALKS&ZOOMS application works on the S60 Symbian 3 edition in Nokia and can read out and zoom in contents on the screen. All the details like contacts, calendar, caller ID, text messages, web, email and home screen information are read and reported to the user.
Application for Maemo
Developed for mobile platforms, the ThinkContacts application displays graphical user interface in the place of the phone’s contacts and helps a user to make phone calls to the desired numbers. The application is tested on Nokia N900 device. It acts as a bridge between the user and the software via brain waves.
Application for Windows Phone
Jaws Screen Reader
Freedom Scientific is yet another company that develops products for the visually impaired. Their JAWS, screen-reading software is well known. JAWS also provides Braille output in addition to speech. It can be tailored for individual needs and preferences by using customizable options and features.
Smart Hal by Dolphin is another application for those wanting text to speech capabilities and for those who have a Windows Mobile Smartphone. As one of the first screen readers for Windows Mobile 6 Standard, it has been translated into over 11 languages and has received widespread recognition since its introduction in 2007.
Cross Platform Technology
Few applications that are built to run on as few as two platforms or as many as all platforms are called as cross platform applications. Some of these applications are discussed below.
Focal Eyes uses computer vision and user input for camera focalization. It assists the user as to where to point the camera in accordance with the environment and goals.
Audio Tactile Graphics
This application requires a digital pen and it can add audio to images, thus increasing the access control of tactile images for the visually impaired. It can reduce cost and production time.
Voim, which means ‘seeing’ in Korean works on the basis of a smartphone concept. It features word recognition, route navigation and object identification that are transmitted as audio through the detachable Bluetooth headset or displayed as Braille on a silicon screen.
Blinput for visually impaired
Blinput system has an out facing camera which has a pair of headphones to produce audio in 3D. User needs to navigate the system’s controls by holding the hand in front of the camera and by scrolling through the audible options. Relevant information about the direction can be got by pointing fingers and using hand gestures.
There are several other apps available for visually impaired persons in the mobile phone market.
Haptic Braille Perception
The concept of Braille reading is brought about in mobile phone touch screen and with the phone’s vibration. This is called the V-Braille that can be used for reading individual characters and sentences.
Mobile phones for visually impaired persons are specially designed based on the ability or inability of the person. Voice activated call can also be set up for any number as the person desires. Mobile phones for such persons are designed carefully to suit the needs of the person while still having all the features of a modern mobile phone.
Some of the main features a person must look out for before buying a mobile phone for visually impaired are mentioned below:
- Screen Reading Software
- Voice Control
- Braille Keyboards
- Voice calling
- Screen display that is clear and large
- Back-lit keypad
- Large keys that are well spaced and raised
- Adjustable contrast for the partially blind
- Adjustable font sizes for the partially blind
- Audible profile, battery indication and tower indication
Specially Designed Phones
Although mobile phone manufacturers such as Nokia, Vodafone and Motorola have come out with advanced models for visually impaired, a model that is suitable for these persons has never been developed successfully. However, specially designed handsets are now coming in to the market to satisfy the needs of these persons.
The Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB) offer mobile phone models that are specially designed for the visually impaired people. The mobiles designed by them are easy to use as well as easy to see with necessary residual vision in them. Different kinds of mobile phones varying from basic four button speed dial device to mobile phones that have Bluetooth, internet and radio are available in the market.
The mobile phones that are available for visually impaired can be used directly, meaning that it comes with battery, earphone headset, battery charger and also with Pay As You Go SIM card. The phone allows SIM cards from any network provider to be used except for the cards from “network 3”. While quad band phones can be used all around the world, triband can be used in North America and Europe and dual band phones can be used in most of the European countries.
Some phones are designed with emergency call button that calls the person automatically in case of emergency. Up to five important numbers can be activated and on pressing the emergency button, a text message is sent automatically to each of the stored numbers and a call is made to these numbers until it is answered by someone.
Some of the models available for these persons are discussed below.
Mobile phone handsets with special design
The Emporia Life model is manufactured for partially visible users. It comes with large text, well-spaced buttons, high contrast screen and text messaging facility. Large well spaced buttons and absense of useless features are some of the added features available for the aged persons. Users with hearing impaired can be benefited from specially designed loud speaker and strong ring vibration. Other models that are available in this category are EasyUse, BigEasy 2 and Doro Handle Easy 326. The most basic model available in the market is Easy5. This mobile phone does not have screen instead has just five large number keys and two call buttons. Users can use these five keys to connect to five important telephone contacts.
Some phones are capable of producing sound and thus are called as ‘talking phones’. Owasys 22C is one such type of phone built for the visually impaired and partially sighted people. Users of this phone can make calls, type and send messages easily. It is built with tactile buttons that is well spaced for the visually impaired persons to read. The user gets female voice support as and when he does some function on the mobile phone. There is no screen, instead has tactile keypad buttons.
Mobile phones with speech software
Mobile phones that are built specially for visually impaired have speech technology also built-in to it. Users can use their mobile phones just like the normal phones except that it is supported with voice for every option the user presses. Nuance TALKS Premium is supported with Symbian operating system and is capable of converting every visual to speech.
Refer to TalksTM – A Premium Nuance Edition under “Talking Options in Mobile Phones” for more details.
Current and Upcoming Models
Some of the branded mobile phones have built-in features that can be helpful to the visually impaired. Some relevant mobile phone models are given here.
Samsung Renown U810 Mobile Phone
This mobile phone from Samsung could be helpful. The phone is dual band with both CDMA and GSM compatibility. It has a 2mp camera, stereo music, has a MircoSD card slot for expandable memory and has WAP 2.0 and XHTML to access the net. It has a Voice Recognition Dialing facility which is useful for people with sight problems.
LG Shine GD 710 Mobile Phone
This mobile phone from LG has speaker independent voice controls which could be helpful greatly. Besides this, it has 3G-enabled accessibility to email and other services. It has a 3.2 inch LCD screen, a 2MP camera, can take a 16GB MicroSD card and has MicroUSB port.
Binatone BB 200 Mobile Phone
This Binatone BB200 mobile phone is a model which combines latest mobile features with easy-to-use features and a big button dial. The advantage of this phone is the addition of talking numbers and a dedicated pre-programmable SOS button.
LG VX5500 – Cellular phone – CDMA2000 1X – folder (flip)
This clamshell designed mobile phone combines functionality with good streamlined looks. It has voice command capability for dialing. Therefore it helps users with poor vision too.
The phone is GPS enabled and has dual LCD screens. It has a VGA Camera for photos, speaker-phone, Bluetooth for hands-free device and downloadable apps. It can give 440 hours of standby time and 5 hrs of talk-time. It’s great on the move.
LG CU575 Mobile Phone
The phone is 3G capable and has lots of features including voice command facility. It comes in a clamshell type form. Other features include 1.3 camera, Video, messaging, music player and Video Share.
Samsung Smooth U350 Mobile Phone
The Samsung Smooth U350 Phone comes with voice command facility. It also has Voice Dial, Digit Dial Readout, Text Message Readout, Menu Readout and Call Alert. All these features are very useful for people with poor eyesight. It also has Bluetooth for hands-free communication devices, a VGA camera, a calendar, scheduler and dual LCD screens. It also has A-GPS receiver and social networking capability via voice, text and picture messaging, and instant messaging.
Snapfon “ez ONE” Mobile Phone for seniors or Low Vision Users
The Snapfone ezONE is a dual band GSM phone. It works on T-mobile, AT&T services and other GSM service providers. The mobile phone has a one-touch SOS button programmed to call upto 4 emergency numbers. Users are aided by the speaking keypad (optional), which announces the number dialled.
LG Lotus LX600 Mobile Phone
The LG Lotus LX600 smartphone is uniquely designed square flip phone. It has a 2MP camera/camcorder, Bluetooth, MicroSD card expansion slot, stereo music, a QWERTY keyboard and is GPS enabled. This LG phone provides an optional access to navigation for driving direction with assistance by voice and on-screen instructions. Turn by turn directions will be announced in clear voice and displayed too.
Just5 is an international provider of unique cellular phones. They are phones that are designed for emergency response, reliability and ease of use. Their range of large-button phones offers basic features for the senior market.
- Built-in emergency response function with preset numbers
- Amplified speaker volume
- Audible keypad that confirms number dialled
- A flash-light
- Slider switch to lock the keypad
- FM Radio without headphones
- SOS button to activate
The user can press the emergency SOS button to activate a siren and texts an urgent message to the preset numbers. Then it will dial them in an order predefined. When someone connects, it will switch to speaker phone.
GreatCall is the specialised service provider for Jitterbug phones. It offers a variety of innovative services and applications to help he customer stay connected, safe and healthy. A selection of handsets and plans are available.
Some of the aged peoples find it difficult to lift their phones due to arthritis and other illness.. For these elders and senior citizens, the Jitterbug is a solution. This could actually work for people with visual impairment too. With big and easy-to-read numbers the handset comes with pre-programmed numbers. Push “Yes” to call from the phone, using the phone’s phone list. There’s an operator to answer and 911 emergency calls are free.
Other Ideas for the Manufacturers
Mobile phones that are released in to the market do not satisfy the requirements of all kinds of people. Visually impaired must be able to use these devices without difficulty and this is made possible by introducing the mobile phones with voice recognition system and a screen reader to make the job easy.
Although there has been quite a lot of development in the field of mobile phones, there has always been a gap in the gadgets used by the visually impaired and the normal sighted people. When smartphones running operating systems emerged in to the market there was no difficulty in handling these phones as they could perform just like a PC. Contrarily, these phones were not accessible by the visually impaired. Hence, mobile phones were developed to include voice recognition features. Screen readers also helped these persons in using the smartphone just like a computer. Later when touchscreens were developed, the situation became even worse. Although keyboard option was given and this technology was accepted, it did not help the visually impaired much as some of the applications did not have keyboard accessibility.
Developers must be given proper information and guidance when a mobile phone for a visually impaired is developed. It is only then possible to get a complete mobile phone that can serve the visually impaired better. Screen reader manufacturers must work to develop a technology that will provide complete on screen satisfaction to these users.
Another creative technology that can help these visually impaired people is to design the keypads of the mobile phones in different shapes and sizes. For example, keys with numbers one, two and three should be shaped and sized differently so that they can be recognized by a mere touch and feel. Each of the 9 or more keys in the phone should be distinguished with their sizes and shapes.
It is always important for most of the individual to have some product knowledge before planning to buy any product. This in fact helps the person from buying a wrong product. Buyer’s guide is one such tool that gives the buyer an overall idea about the product he is about to get. Although it is difficult to get a mobile phone that fulfils all your needs, it is important to see that the device satisfies your ultimate needs. The points given below are sure to help both the user himself and also the person who plans to get one for the visually impaired. Although buyer’s guide help the buyers the most, it is always better to make hands on testing before buying the device. Now, just read on to know more before you buy a mobile phone for the visually impaired.
Not all smartphone offer the same features. Some of the features offered by a smart phone like voice assisted-GPS, voice-assisted browsing and many other features are actually very useful for the visually impaired. On the other hand there are features that these people may not be able to use. So keep this in mind when buying a smart phone for the visually challenged.
- Know your requirements before making a final decision in buying a product. Find out if you can use the mobile phone without difficulty. As already mentioned few other factors such as good colour contrast, well spaced keys and touch screen mobile phone must also be looked in to before buying a mobile phone for the visually impaired.
- Find out if you are able to use the phone’s basic features such as making calls and messaging without any problem. If you feel difficult to see the keypad, then find out if you can access the device through touch screen. These phones are helpful yet sometimes difficult to be used under sunlight because of its reflective screen.
- Battery life in a mobile phone is important for most of the visually impaired persons as it would be difficult for them to use other phones.
- Make sure that the mobile phone you have selected is within the reach of your hands, meaning that they be affordable. Mobile phone models have to be selected based on the requirement. Hence know your requirement and decide accordingly.
- Always prefer phones that allow you to view your icons as lists rather than icon menus. Your menus would be better to be viewed as list, as some partially impaired people can identify words based on their sizes. The same thing can be difficult when viewed as icons.
- Try to purchase a mobile with the best possible bright display or high contrast text. Though very expensive smartphones like the iPhone 4 may be a very good choice.
- If you are a regular user of magnifier then the size and shape of the phone does matter. If one of your hands is used for holding a magnifier, you should be able to do all other functions of the phone like texting, navigating and dialing with the other hand.
What suits you the best? A smart phone or a regular phone?
Not all smartphone offer the same features. Some of the features offered by a smart phone like voice assisted-GPS, voice-assisted browsing and many other features are actually very useful for the visually impaired. On the other hand there are features that these users may not be able to use. So keep this in mind when buying a smart phone for the visually challenged.
Consider these factors also to decide between a smart phone and a regular phone.
- Advantages of a smart phone
- Brilliant resolution and adjustable screen colour, brightness and contrast
- Talking controls, Text Readout features
- Adding separate ring tone and pictures for each of the contacts.
- Ability to add applications that are specially designed for the visually impaired.
- Disadvantages of a smart phone
- The absence of physical keyboards (in the case of a touch screen) can be very difficult.
- Touch screen phones will not have the tactile keys like that of the other ordinary phones and so one has to go by the vibration feedbacks.
- Often the menus in the phones are placed as icons rather than lists. So that makes it very difficult for the visually impaired.
Social Bodies for the Visually Impaired
The Royal National Institute of Blind People
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in the United Kingdom is a leading charity offering support, advice and information to people with sight loss. Their pioneering effort and work helps anyone with a sight problem. They provide practical and imaginative solutions to everyday challenges. They with Braille and Talking Books provide information on conditions and provide support and advice for people with various levels of blindness. The RNIB is a membership organisation, where one can make one’s voice heard and influence others. The Action for Blind People is an Associate charity, working to deliver services across England.
Share the Vision (STV)
The partnership of UK libraries and library organizations work together to promote accessibility of the library services for the visually impaired and the partially sighted. This body is known as Share the Vision (STV) and its members include public funded organization and voluntary sector.
They are as follows:
- British Library
- Calibre Audio Library
- CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals)
- Clearvision (UK postal lending library of mainstream children’s books with added Braille)
- Library and Information Services Council: Northern Ireland
- RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People)
- School Libraries Group (CILIP)
- Scottish Library and Information Council
- Society of Chief Librarians
- Society of College.
- National and University Libraries
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (England)
CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, a division of the Welsh Assembly Government.
The Cornwall Blind Association
The Cornwall blind Association is the only local charity aiming to improve the lives of the visually impaired people across the country. The website hosted by the association has a list of National Organisations involved in helping the visually impaired.
The Moorfields Eye Hospital-NHS Foundation Trust
The Moorfields Eye Hospital-NHS Foundation Trust is a very reputed institution which also has a website that has a list of organisations with similar objectives. Moorfields started in 1805, is the oldest and one of the largest centres for ophthalmic treatment, teaching and research in the world. In their website under Publications and Resources we can find under the head Useful Websites, a selection of organisations and support groups working for the visually impaired people and also support groups for specific conditions.
Insight Radio (The Radio Station of RNIB) is the first radio station for the blind or partially sighted audience. The first in Europe, the station offers nearly everything from daily newspaper, movie reviews, TV, events and job guides. There are many other programmes plus reports focussed on the visually impaired and the partially blind community.
The mobile phone is one of those devices that can truly and effectively simplify a visually challenged person’s life.
A blind man can make art if what is in his mind can be passed to another mind in some tangible form – Sol Le Witt.
As true citizens, it is our prime duty to create awareness among these visually challenged people, thus helping them come up in life. After all, they deserve to be our equals, before the eyes of God.