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Topic # 243739 29-Dec-2018 13:04
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My mother's eyesight has deteriorated to the point where she is functionally blind.  She has had a cellphone for a few years which is designed for people with vision impairment - large, physical buttons, a simple, high-contrast display - but she's finding even that hard to use.  The resolution and quality of the screen is quite poor, which I think is adding to her difficulty.  So I've decided to see if I can find something better for her.


A smartphone is out of the question.  Her technical ability is very low, and even a simple smart phone is too much for her to comprehend.  I've tested this with my phone, and even with the best configuration of accessibility settings, it's beyond her.


So I'm looking for a simple (dumb) phone that is specifically designed for someone with low or no vision, and a very simple interface.  I've looked on Spark and Vodafone's websites and can't see anything that really qualifies.  I'd be happy to entertain importing something if it's a decent price and offers an improvement over her current handset.

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  Reply # 2152763 31-Dec-2018 19:47
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I'd suggest you'd have better luck getting advice from those with specific knowledge in this area, rather than the general geek population.


You could try the Blind Foundation, but ideally you'd need to find someone there with expertise in tech.


Another person that's worth asking advice from is Jonathan Mosen, who'll no doubt have knowledge of exactly what you're looking for - he's here on GZ too (calling @jmosen...).




(another) Jonathan

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  Reply # 2152769 31-Dec-2018 20:28
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The blind foundation is definitely the way to go. Stuff for blind people is very expensive though.

MIL (proper blind) has a old style phone that talks to her to tell her where she is. It's obnoxious to use sighted (because it's always talking to you but impossible to understand because she has the read speed turned WAY up), but it works really well for her.
She can text and call no worries.

You could play in store and see if a button phone has accessibility options that achieve what you need, but I don't like your chances.

You could try her on a phone with google assistant. But it probably won't do everything she needs either.

Location: Dunedin


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  Reply # 2152815 1-Jan-2019 01:58
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I’m even going to recommend an iPhone for the task however hear me out with why.

I trained my partners 92yr old grandmother how to use one - enabled restrictions to remove everything except the bare essentials (calling and SMS /iMessage) and enabled large text and high contrast so she can read it. There is also other features such as voiceover and voice dictation that may help. Well, given she’s never used a mobile in her life she is actively using the iPhone. It works incredibly well.

You can turn them into very simple phones - I know the blind foundation recommends them as smart phones but you can restrict them to the point they’re blatantly simple to use. Remove the screen lock pin, set up contacts as favourites in the phone app and just make things as stupid as you possibly can, just be prepared to teach the basics on how to use it.

They’re much more simple then Android and they age well also. You can set the text side to stupidly large sizes and even an iPhone 5S can be had for cheap which has a good display also. The only thing will be either getting her used to voice dictation or the keyboard along with using a touchscreen but it honestly isn’t difficult if she is prepared to learn.

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  Reply # 2153148 2-Jan-2019 10:55
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I'm assuming in the main your Mum wants to make and receive phone calls. Does she also want to send and receive texts?




I hope she's receiving appropriate assistance to learn new ways of doing things with limited vision. Vision is a very dominant sense, so people become highly dependent on it, even when it's deteriorating to the point that they would be better off doing things in non-visual ways. It sounds like your Mum's vision is at the point where she's better served not going through the stress and strain of trying to read the screen. The Blind Foundation can assist not just with this aspect of life, but performing a wide range of tasks non-visually. Even total blindness doesn't need to stop someone from leading a full and active life, but it does require a mindset change if you've been dependent on vision.




Regarding the specifics of the options, if your Mum is only making and receiving calls, the phone she has may be adequate. It's an industry standard for phone keypads to have a raised dot on the 5 for orientation, and this can help if she's dialling numbers manually.




If she has only a few people she calls, many of these simpler phones have speed dial functions, where you can call your 10 most important contacts by holding down the digits 1 through 0.




As has been pointed out in this thread, a smartphone with security features disabled and optimised for simple use of its personal assistant may be an option. This would mean she gives up on interacting with the phone visually, and she would talk to it and it would talk back. In your Mum's case, she may not need the smartphone functionality, which is the main reason why it is generally accepted that the iPhone is a better choice for blind people. VoiceOver is simply a superior screen reader to anything offered on Android. But I'm not sure VoiceOver would be helpful or viable for your Mum.




On that basis, I'd be inclined to recommend a low-cost Android phone with a physical button to invoke the speech recognition. In my experience, Google's speech recognition is faster and more accurate in New Zealand, and Google Assistant answers more questions accurately than Siri. So your Mum may even start to enjoy asking Google all sorts of questions.




There is another option, and that is to get a specialised smartphone for blind and low vision users. These are always Android based, have physical buttons, and excellent voice dictation. They also come with specialised apps for blind people like OCR, currency identification, etc.




The best of these at the moment can be purchased from a company called pacific Vision in Christchurch and is the Kapsys Smartvision 2.




Best of luck. 

Jonathan Mosen


Mosen Consulting, for advice on web and app accessibility

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