Introduction to accessible mobile phones and smartphones

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.

Contrary to what you might think, a smart Phone with a touch screen is completely accessible and usable by blind and partially sighted users.

Voice control, voice feedback from the screen, Braille iinput and output and magnified screens are the main ways users can interact with smart phones.

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

A brief overview of some mobile phones

Blindshell

BlindShell is a touchscreen phone which is controlled by simple touch gestures. It comes with a range of built-in and third party apps installed, including audio book players, bank note recognition, colour recognition and object recognition (through Tap Tap See). It also has message dictation to save you typing.  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.

Blindshell provides feedback through speech and four simple to use gestures.

There is a manual available to download:

iPhone

Manufactured by Apple, the iPhone is a mainstream touchscreen smartphone. The iPhone comes with a screen reader and a screen magnifier installed and can 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 latest iPhone models are the iPhone 8 series and iphone x.

The iPhone is probably the best known smart phone.

Android smartphones

There are many mainstream smartphones under different brands which run on an Android platform. They vary greatly in size, features and price. The newer versions of Android come with the Talkback screen reader and support refreshable braille displays and screen magnification.

Because there is such variation in Android smartphones available, not every Android phone will suit your needs. Many blind people report that Android phones can be quite difficult to use unless they download special accessibility apps. It’s best to seek advice so that you can work out what is best for you.

Kapsys Smart Vision 2

The Smart Vision 2 is a touch screen android device but with a traditional keypad and navigation buttons. Users can use a combination of buttons and touch screen gestures to interact with the Smart Vision 2.

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 these are either more basic than other options, or are more complex to use.

For more advice and support please contact our Helpline on:

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