Which mobile phones and smartphones are accessible?

There are a number of accessible mobile phones on the market, ranging from advanced smartphones costing hundreds of pounds, to simple handsets that can only make calls and send text messages.

What is a smartphone?

A smartphone is a mobile phone which can perform many of the functions of a computer.

It has internet access, an operating system that runs apps and typically has a touchscreen interface. Most smartphones will also play music and movies, come with an in-built camera which can take pictures or record video, and provide GPS navigation.  Smartphones are completely accessible and usable by blind and partially sighted users, as they often have built in voice control and magnification abilities.

Smart phones are increasingly replacing many of the tasks a user would achieve with a computer.

A brief overview of some mobile phones

Blindshell and Blindshell 2

BlindShell is a touchscreen phone, controlled by simple speech and touch gestures. Features include calling, messages, voice recorder, calendar, book reader, librivox, bookshare, email, MP3 player, colour recognition, banknote recognition, magnifying glass, calculator and settings.  It also gives you access to third party apps including whats app, facebook, taptapsee and browser.  You can ask Blindshell to dial a number, dial a contact, send a text/email, ask the time and find out about the weather plus much more.

More information can be found in the Blindshell user guide:

iPhone

The iPhone is a touchscreen smartphone that comes with a screen reader and a screen magnifier installed.  It can also support certain braille displays.

Newer models of the iPhone have a feature called Siri which acts as a voice-activated personal assistant in your pocket. You can ask questions like “What’s the weather like in Manchester today?” and it will provide the answer.  You can also ask it to schedule appointments, and to send texts and emails.

The iPhone is probably the best known smart phone.

Android smartphones

There are many smartphones by different brands which run using the Android platform. They vary greatly in size, features and price. The newer versions of Android come with a built in Talkback screen reader and screen magnification, some also support refreshable braille displays.

Many blind people report that Android phones can be quite difficult to use unless they download special accessibility apps. You should seek further advice to help you work out which is best for you.

Other mobile phones and smartphones

There are many other types and brands of phone which don’t fall into the categories already mentioned. Some of the latest models have accessibility features such as in-built screen readers, but tend to be more basic or complex to use than those mentioned above.

  • Nuance TALKS&ZOOMS, Mobile Speak and Mobile Magnifier
  • Simple Nokia handsets 
  • Windows Phone 8 (Windows Phone 8 has magnification but no voice over currently)
  • Kapsys Smart Vision 2

Further information can be found on our beginner's guide to mobiles and smart phones web pages.

You can also contact our Helpline:

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